Oh really? I wouldn’t have guessed this from tonight’s performance:
“I am not a not Nazi and never have been. I am the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain’s Nazis. They loathe me because I have brought the British National Party from being, frankly, an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists”
And so most of the country falls off its collective chair in hysterics. We just don’t believe you, Nick. Particularly not when you make additionally silly comments like this:
“I regard the BBC as part of a thoroughly unpleasant, ultra-leftist establishment which, as we have seen here tonight, doesn’t even want the English to be recognised as an existing people”
Oh, yeah, all that and those highly deniable KKK links, Nicky boy…
My god, that was car-crash TV. Nick Griffin’s debut (and hopefully final) appearance on Question Time was one of the most evasive, offensive, incompetent and downright funny televisual performances of all time. And not in a so-bad-it’s-good way. For a start, the man is clearly not as intelligent as he thinks he is; he’s incapable of giving a direct answer to a direct question – and is in no way good enough an orator to have the charismatic authority he thinks he has, although he has the necessary sense of self-delusion, as evidenced by his comments to the media afterwards:
“It was very much as expected. It will polarise normal opinion. People who have always been against the BNP will say that I couldn’t answer some things. But a huge swath of British people will remember some of the things I said and say to themselves they’ve never heard anyone on Question Time say that before and millions of people will think that man speaks what I feel. I think people will see the extraordinary hostility shown to me from the people representing the three old parties. It’s still a matter of the main political parties being against the outsider and that is what it is about”
And I could have sworn he was trying to flirt with Bonnie Greer, despite his obvious nervousness and inarticulacy (she, by the way, was brilliant, definitely the best of a half-hearted panel – polite and friendly, yet utterly prepared to put Griffin in his place when necessary). Let’s put it this way: he isn’t the only one to have noticed that he “couldn’t answer some things”. When accused of being a Holocaust denier, he got all vague and evasive, half-explaining that European law prevented him from saying anything, which bizarrely meant that:
“I cannot explain why I used to say those things any more than I can tell you why I’ve changed my mind.”
Has someone got a superinjunction out on him or something?
Politically, Question Time only confirmed what most have us have long known about the BNP – they have no policies of note, and they’re a bunch of racist, homophobic bigots. Jaw hit floor when, as part of a response to a question about the recent Daily Mail article on Stephen Gately, Griffin started ranting about how he thinks that:
“A lot of people find the sight of two men kissing in public a bit creepy. I understand that homosexuals don’t understand that, but that is how a lot of us feel. A lot of Christians feel that way. I took a party that said that homosexuality should be outlawed, militant homosexuals don’t have the right to teach it”
I mean, how do you respond to that sort of hate speech? Because that’s what it is. Can you engage with that sort of hatred? Do you ignore it? Debate with it? Try to shut it up?
And that’s the thing. Much as I agree with and, to an extent, support the aims of the anti-fascist protesters who gathered outside BBC Television Centre yesterday, in that Nick Griffin is a revolting, bigoted little fascist bully-boy, and that the whole process could quite plausibly be seen as a cynical ratings chaser by Auntie Beeb, it is more complex than that.
In fact, I feel very strongly that he should indeed have been given this opportunity to make a complete arse out of himself on the BBC, politics as entertainment or not.
Rightly or wrongly, this country prides itself on having certain values – values that are at diametric opposites to those of Nick Griffin and the BNP. And, as I have written before, possibly the most important of these values is the right to free speech. However, this means free speech for everyone, whether they share your viewpoints and politics or not.
Which means I have the right to despise the BNP and say so, as do you and everyone else – and Nick Griffin, unpleasant thought though it is, also has the right to get publically aggrieved by being
“relentlessly attacked and demonised”
in the run-up to the programme (why was he surprised by this?) and to speak his mind; the rambling, lurid, inarticulate and deeply unappealing contents of which were well on display during tonight’s programme. But that’s the paradox of free speech for you.
So when it came to Nick Griffin, vile though his politics are, it was theoretically right to allow him on Question Time, although it will be interesting to see what (if any) effect his appearance will have on BNP membership numbers and future election results. Had he been a more interesting, articulate and less bigoted speaker, allowing him airtime could have been a very dangerous move, but he proved himself to be exactly what he is widely thought to be, and managed to make even more of a complete idiot of himself in the process.