Nick Griffin on Question Time: What they’re saying
What the columnists & commentators are saying about Thursday night’s edition of the BBC show
When Nick Griffin, leader of the British far-right, appears on BBC’s Question Time this Thursday, his presence on the panel will mark a significant step on the BNP's journey into the political mainstream.
The show will be presented by David Dimbleby, and Griffin will appear alongside Justice Minister Jack Straw, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Huhne, black playwright Bonnie Greer and Baroness Warsi, the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, who was born in Yorkshire to Pakistani parents.
With protests expected outside the BBC's headquarters on the day of the show, the invitation to Griffin has been a controversial one. Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, has suggested that, as the BNP's whites-only membership criteria means that they are currently an unlawful organization, the BBC could face legal action over allowing him to appear on Question Time.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYINGNick Cohen, the Observer: "The difficulties are particularly acute for Question Time. I speak from experience when I say that outsiders – journalists, comedians, celebrity dons – have it easiest. We can engage in a little rabble-rousing, while politicians know that the Westminster press will accuse them of a "gaffe" if they accidentally deviate from the party line. Griffin…will be composed. He may be surprisingly popular because /Question Time/ cannot just be about racism, antisemitism and links between rhetoric and violence. As a regular panellist put it: "Suppose there is a question on the transport system, and Griffin says 'congestion in our cities is a disgrace that needs to be tackled now', the other panellists can only nod in agreement. They cannot condemn him as a dangerous lunatic."
George Pitcher, Daily Telegraph: "We must wait until Thursday night, but if it is true, as has been reported, that the BBC is planning to lard the audience with Holocaust survivors to challenge Griffin, this will further suggest that it is playing to the gallery. Reality TV might be what the BBC now does best, but to reduce the Shoah to a kind of Oprah Winfrey topic would be truly nauseating. All that would be missing are rolling strips along the screen with 'I lost my entire family to the Nazis'. We should examine the BBC's motives as well as the BNP's on Friday morning."
Catherine Bennett, the Observer: "It is hard to understand why the panel for this particular Question Time is one that might have been picked by Cambridge-educated Griffin himself, had he wanted to illustrate his party's prime narrative: working class victimhood at the hands of an out-of-touch, liberal elite. Almost the best that can be said of any of the panellists is they are not Ben Bradshaw. Jack Straw, for all his anti-burqa credentials, should have been replaced by someone who has acknowledged the legitimate concerns of the white working class: Jon Cruddas."
Martin Ivens, Sunday Times: "The sky won’t fall on Thursday. Griffin may be a better speaker than his bombastic predecessor, John Tyndall, but he lacks the charisma of his European counterparts. The Austrian neo-Nazi Jörg Haider really did look the part of the handsome Hollywood Nazi, radiating a dangerous dynamism. Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French National Front could draw on his service as a former paratrooper to bolster his patriotic credentials. The anti-southern, anti-immigrant Northern League in Italy has support among university academics as well as the middle classes. That can hardly be said of the BNP. Exposure to the full glare of publicity shows the shallowness of the party's talent and its bizarre policies."
Steve Richards, the Independent: "The audience is the main character on Question Time, bigger than any panellist when issues are highly charged. The audience at the height of the Westminster expenses affair defined the entire crisis. Its anger was almost physical. If some members had been given stones to hurl at the fearful panel they would have thrown them. When Mr Griffin appears parts of the audience will also be angry. If he is as clever as he normally is he will be calm and appear the reasonable martyr as his opponents jeer loudly." ·
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