Griffin: ‘Churchill would have been a BNP member’
Six protestors arrested before BNP leader appears on ‘ultra leftist’ BBC Question Time
The leader of the BNP, Britain's ultra-right anti-immigration party, delivered what was expected of him in his much-vaunted debut on Question Time last night. Under hostile questioning from the studio audience, he said Islam was not compatible with life in Britain, denounced the BBC as "ultra leftist", suggested Winston Churchill would have been a member of the BNP were he alive today, and refered to homosexuals as "really creepy".
Six protestors were arrested and three policemen injured in protests outside Television Centre Under before Griffin took his opportunity to describe white Britons as the "indigenous" population who faced "genocide". We are the Aborigines here, he said.
He admitted having shared a platform with David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and defended the KKK's leaders he met as "non-violent", despite the Klan's many lynchings and other racist attacks across America's Southern states.
However, asked about the deaths of millions of Jews at the hands of the Nazis, he would only say: "I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial."
Griffin was seated on the Question Time panel between the host, David Dimbleby, and the black American playwright Bonnie Greer. The other panelists were Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, Baroness Warsi, the Tory spokesman on community cohesion, and Chris Huhne, the Lib Dems' home affairs spokesman.
Commentators described Griffin variously as an "empty vessel" (Max Hastings) and a "kook" (David Aaronovitch) and appear evenly split on whether giving the BNP the oxygen of publicity was a good or bad thing.
If there was one "positive" to come out of the controversial programme, several wrote, it was that Griffin's appearance might force the major political parties to address the issue of immigration and attempt to win back supporters who have drifted in frustration to the BNP.
Two MPs, Labour's Frank Field and the Tory Nicholas Soames, who co-chair the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, wrote in the Daily Telegraph before last night's programme: "In the next 20 years, the population of the UK will rise from 61 million to 70 million and then go on rising. The bulk of that growth will be due to immigration...
"A fight-back against the BNP will only begin when the party leaders give a full pledge that our population will not breach the 65 million barrier. That would then set in train a whole series of restrictions that Balanced Migration believes crucial if our country is to regain some sense of cohesion and identity."
Max Hastings, reviewing the show for the Daily Mail, wrote: "Any party which seeks to regain popular faith in government, to drive the BNP back over the edge where it belongs, must address the huge, shamefully neglected issue of Britain's soaring population and open borders."
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Tom Sutcliffe, the Independent: "If you want a crude bottom line on victory and defeat you'd have to say that the principle of free speech had just about managed to stay upright while Mr Griffin had retired wounded."
John Kampfner, the Guardian: 'The programme exposed Griffin for what he is: a smartly-dressed and uncharismatic thug. [It] also cast conventional politicians in a largely favourable light which they have not enjoyed for many a month... An uncomfortable public service was performed."
Matthew Paris, the Times: "When Lady Warsi challenged him [Jack Straw] to acknowledge public fears over immigration ('there are some things politicians just have to be honest about') she had the better of him. It was of course easier for Lady Warsi as an Asian, to make this argument without fear of being called racist; but she exploited the advantage elegantly and with intelligence."
Peter Hain, the Guardian: "My argument was never about censoring or banning the BNP as BBC bosses have disingenuously maintained. It was always about handing them a badge of legitimacy and respectability by lining up Nick Griffin - who has a conviction for inciting racial hatred - alongside democratic party figures as is if he and his party were just another one of them. Those who supported the BBC just don't get it. In Griffin's words they [the BNP] have hit the 'big time', achieved the lift off they craved."
Max Hastings, Daily Mail: "By giving Nick Griffin a platform, it [Question Time] showed what an empty vessel he is. He spent the programme half-excusing, half-denying almost everything he is known to have said about other races... He says that his party's immigration policy 'is supported by 84 per cent of the British people', but was visibly stumped by the black audience member who said: 'You're committed to a white Britain. Where do you want me to go?'" ·
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