I was one of those not happy about the notion of seeing BNP leader Nick Griffin on the BBC’s flagship Question Time but knowing that it was something that had to be done in order to face up to a growing trend towards the extreme-right in this country.  My principle concern was that Griffin would be given a soft option, an apathetic audience with relatively soft questions and toothless politicians. Whilst I do not believe my worst fears were realised I have nonetheless some serious concerns regarding how the debate and Griffin himself were handled.

During the first question on whether the BNP should be allowed to adopt Churchill as one of their own, Jack Straw was afforded nearly five minutes, unheard of certainly in my experience of the program.  Straw used the time to give the usual speech about tolerance and fighting the war against fascism etc etc.  it came across, at least to me as pretty easy pickings really, there was little of genuine interest or personal stamp on it.  It was the same sort of asinine bollocks that condensed down to its minimal is the “I’m not a racist but…”

Griffin himself declared that Churchill would have found the BNP his natural home as fighting against its own foreign invasion.  Bonnie Greer pointed out that of course having an American mother with Mowhawk ethnicity meant that Churchill might not even have been allowed in the party but Griffin was undeterred.  Churchill he said spent much of his early political career fighting mass immigration and warning of the dangers of Islam.  Churchill has very much enjoyed the same sort of approach to criticism as immigration does now, I found it interesting that none of the panel mentioned that Churchill in his early political life was an ardent eugenicist and advocated the sterilisation of the mentally ill in a Home Office paper he tabled in 1911.

According to the 2001 census the population of Britain still consists of 92% of people who classify themselves as white, according to the CIA factbook 77% of the United Kingdom as a whole are English with a further 15% made up by Scottish, Welsh and Irish.  Griffin’s stated view to return to a Britain that is 99% White British is therefore clearly incitement to ethnic cleansing.  Bearing in mind London accounts for a huge amount of the modern immigrant population with, according to The Guardian an estimated 30% or 2.2 million claiming in 2005 to have been born outside the UK that leaves very little to spread around the rest of the country.

However according to Griffin 84% of the total population support the BNP’s policy on immigration.  Hang on, run that by me again – 84%, which represents 50 million people in the United Kingdom as a whole, or if you like, the entire White English population and then some.  Griffin further asserts that two thirds of the immigrant population support the policy too.  Is this an example of them pulling the rope up behind them?  We will never know for when asked where this statistic had come from Griffin could not come up with an answer.  Which is code for, I made it up and hoped I could just float it out there without justification.

Griffin’s true colours do occasionally show, he is simply not slick enough to keep himself entirely behind the mask.  Interesting though that whilst he chooses to identify the “indigenous” Britons as those who arrived 17000 years ago he chooses to say that “Britain must remain a fundamentally British and Christian country.”  Interesting because for nearly 16000 of those years Britain was not a Christian country at all.  Clearly Griffin is happy to pick and choose what he likes and offer a very subjective revisionist view of history.  This was shown up by Bonnie Greer again who criticised the lack of mention of the Romans in the BNP’s take on British history, not merely for the fact that they were foreign invaders (not that the Celts or the tribes who came before them were really any different since much of Britain had only become inhabitable after the end of the Ice Age.  People did not suddenly come out of cryogenic suspension on the land they had to come from abroad.

It was also quite evident that Griffin is not a lover of homosexual men, he claims to be speaking for many people when he says the sight of two men kissing makes him feel deeply uncomfortable.  I wonder if he finds two women kissing equally unpleasant.  None of the politicians on the panel made a particularly big play against this point either.

The program, in general, was in a way reminiscent of George Galloway in Big Brother, a man who claimed to be in it for the ideals and yet shown to be quite clearly out of their depth due to the arrogance of their own self-belief.  Griffin wrought his hands and tried to smarm and obfuscate the direct questions wherever he could.  It was compere David Dimbleby though who brought up many of the cogent points that showed Griffin up for the rank amateur he really is.  “If you look at the things I’m quoted to have said…” Griffin protested, to which Dimbleby asked immediately which quotes had been attributed to him that were not true.  “Too many to mention” Griffin replied.  This was not however a BNP broadcast, or a short radio interview, or standing outside court being questioned by journalists, this was a serious political program compared by a presenter of considerable experience.  Dimbleby did not let Griffin off the hook and queried if Griffin had therefore never denied the holocaust.  Griffin’s answer spoke volumes for its lack of substance.  “I’ve not got a conviction for holocaust denial.”

I think all but the most rabid fascist party supporters knew quite clearly what this meant.

Suffice to say I believe the only two people who came out of the affair with any dignity were Bonnie Greer and David Dimbleby.  What worries me very much about such an event is that there still seems to be this naive consensus amongst the neo-liberals and neo-conservatives that no-one really supports the BNP they’re just doing it out of protest.  As such they drastically underestimate the lack of education about serious issues of our time and by refusing to engage on proper policy debates and publicly shoot down the odious characters of the far-right they allow a continued perception that these people are somehow swashbuckling political mavericks who say what everyone is thinking but no mainstream politician dares say.  This has happened before on numerous occasions and is generally a clear road to fuel fascism in society at large and at the very least an acquiescence of policies that one might expect educated people to be appalled by.  The three politicians on the QT panel were considered to be relative heavyweights at yet their arguments were sufficiently dilute as to almost be tacit acquiescence.  They have for too long hidden behind the notion that there is no place for extremism whilst the political hegemony has become more and more right-wing, such that some things considered mainstream now would in days gone by have been seen as very much on the path to fundamentalism.

In truth Griffin came across for what he was, an arrogant man with fascist-leanings who is not especially erudite but has been ostracised and vilified to the point of having become practically a living martyr and regarded as a dangerous intellectual only amongst his party cronies, themselves perhaps the lowest common denominator of cerebral evolution.  I expect to hear him come out and say Enoch Powell was right in his “rivers of blood” speech but I do not expect to hear people allow him to get away with that unchallenged.  When are the rivers of blood coming?  There are now enough immigrants in Britain that would have made Powell’s eyes pop out but there is still no rivers of blood.  Tension, yes, there is plenty of that, caused in no small part by the polarisation of communities into immigrant and non-immigrant by the right-wing anti-immigration agenda.

What Griffin is not is out of touch, and herein lies the chilling postscript of the piece for he has, like the failed Austrian painter he would so dearly love to imitate, managed to exploit public malaise and disenfranchisement and stir up division and hatred against easy target sections of the populations.  Those even more disenfranchised than the “indigenous.”  He has used the classic tactics of inaccurate hyperbole and erroneous statistics and the mainstream politicians have consistently allowed him and his party to dictate the agenda due to their own failure, or inability, to address the central issues on the table.  Make no mistake this is not the end of the story and if we are to avoid the examples of Germany and Italy of the 1930s a great deal of work is to be done.

Song Of The Day ~ Fleetwood Mac – Dragonfly

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