Live blogging the BNP on Question Time
A few preliminaries, as I get the telly warmed up. I do not approve of bans on the BNP: I am against legalistic solutions to political problems, especially if they have the side effect of making the BNP seem like the victims of some politically correct liberal elite. However, I don't see why the BBC felt obliged to do this. I used to firmly hold to the doctrine of no platform, but the contemporary situation is so far removed from the old days of the NF that it doesn't apply in the same way any more. So, my hope is that Griffin fluffs it, and does the BNP more damage than harm, or that his fellow guests manage to outperform him enough that he comes across poorly. I can't imagine bland non-entity Chris Huhne shining that brightly; Bonnie Greer is always eloquent but frequently inarticulate; I don't have much time for Jack Straw, so I find myself in the unusual position of pinning my hopes on a Muslim Tory peer, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.
10.40: Actually, I've already turned out wrong. Jack Straw is doing a really good job on the issue of Winston Churchill and World War II. Britain would not have won WWII without the help of people like the Pakistani and Indian soliders who are buried in France. (Interestingly, Straw follows some of David Aaronovitch's advice.) [He could also have mentioned Polish soldiers...]
10.45: And Chris Huhne is also doing a good job on the same topic.
10.51: Hmm. Griffin finally gets to speak, and attempts to deflect attention away from the revelations that Griffin is a Holocaust-denying Hitler-lover by saying that the real fascists hate him because the BNP is the only real pro-Israel party. Just goes to show (note to Stephen Pollard) that not all friends of Israel are friends of the Jews.
10.52: Then Griffin shoots himself in the foot by saying that David Duke leads a non-violent part of the KKK...
11.00: Sayeeda Warsi takes a while to warm up, but does a good job of de-demonising Islam.
11.05: A question about whether the BNP's success can be attributed to Labour's immigration policy. This is Jack Straw's chance to defend immigration as a positive value... and he blames immigration on Enoch Powell as a Tory minister. A point lost.
11.06: Says a few positive things about immigrants, but makes sure to balance that by saying how tough Labour is on people getting in.
11.10: Warsi rightly says that poverty and deprivation is the key driver, not immigration, positioning herself to the left of Straw. She also rightly says that BNP voters are not necessarily racist, and that they deserve respect and to be listened to.
11:14: Huhne joins the bandwagon, seeks to show that the Lib Dems are even tougher on immigration, and particularly targets the scourge of Eastern Europeans. This sort of talk feeds the BNP; it doesn't harm it.
11:20: Warsi says there is no such thing as a "bogus" asylum seeker: asylum seeker is a legal term. This is the first time I've heard a mainstream politician say this. Extra Bob point for Warsi.
11:22: A black questioner pushes the anti-immigration agenda forward and accuses Straw of pandering to the left. (Not pandering hard enough for me.) Dimbleby quotes a disgraceful Frank Field article which you can read here. [As George Eaton says, "By painting a wholly negative picture of immigration, Field and Soames do not challenge the BNP's agenda, they pander to it."]
11:40: All over, and quite a damp squib. I'm sure I could have found something better to do with my time...
Bonus links: Nick Cohen, Nothing British, The real Nick Griffin, Griffin's contortions, Nine questions for the BNP, mainstream fascism, how can the left deal with the BNP.
Bonus bonus link: Gary Younge. Key bit:
New Labour marginalised the white working class, assuming they had nowhere else to go, only to find some of them rush into the arms of the far right.... New Labour extinguished all hope of class solidarity and singularly failed to provide principled anti-racist alternatives, leaving a significant section of the white working class to seek cheap refuge in racism and xenophobia. In their identity they see not the potential for resistance against corruption and injustice, but only a grievance. They don't trust government and don't see any alternatives. The coming election simply provides the choice between two parties that share the intent to slash public spending, after the gift of billions to bankers.
There has always been more to the BNP than racism and always been more to racism than the BNP, which is merely the most vile electoral expression of our degraded racial discourse and political sclerosis. Under such circumstances setting Straw – and the rest of the political class – against Griffin is simply putting the cause against the symptom without any suggestion of an antidote.