Question Time, BBC1

by | Oct 23, 2009 | All, Reviews

“The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly doing a racist, fascist party the biggest favour in its grubby history,” said Welsh Secretary Peter Hain shortly beforehand.

The BBC shouldn’t be ashamed. Leaving aside for the moment its obligation to represent all parties who receive a certain amount of democratic support, the BBC’s invite exposed Nick Griffin as a clueless buffoon who might wish to wield a ‘rod of iron’ in some imagined Utopian governance of the United Kingdom but as soon as his views and opinions are exposed to wider scrutiny they oxidise and crumble.

Perhaps the most damaging consequence of his appearance was to obliterate very last atom of intellectual debate from the forum.

The meerkat has charmed the nation since Meerkats United more than a decade ago, and is doing so once again through some silly adverts; but Meerkat Manor paints a far more brutal picture of the communal mammal. They enforce selective breeding, despise outsiders and practise oppression within the clan. All attributes common to the BNP; except the meerkats have an excuse for their cruel behaviour – they are animals.

Griffin was eager to propagate the notion that ‘British’ should mean the peoples who settled in these green and pleasant lands thousands of years ago. An absurd philosophy dismissed by the erudite Bonnie Greer – who soon seemed almost bored of continually disproving his bigotry – and appropriate only in that the BNP’s philosophy may have been common then in regulating a primitive, violent tribe but in a civilised world of rational thought and tolerance such values are a rancid anachronism.

It was the primitive intellectualism espoused by Griffin that made him appear like a nasty Big Brother contestant, despised from all corners of a wrathful audience while muttering facile, self-serving platitudes. All the rest of the politicians had to do was line up to put the boot in time after time; it was too easy. While not regular viewers of Question Time, we can’t recall the last occasion on which a minister was able to receive a rapturous ovation from the audience of the kind Jack Straw enjoyed, and like the other politicians, enjoyed perhaps too much. So much so, the show was reduced to a procession of people – guests and audience – queuing up to give Griffin an unrelenting tongue lashing; verbally assaulting him with regard to his crass manipulation of that part of the brain that still succumbs to animal instincts, but at no point themselves elevating their debate above such a base level. It soon became quite boring.

Maybe it was something that needed to be said to bury the myth of the BNP as a credible political alternative, but in doing so it stripped away all insight and illumination as nothing said during the course of the discussion hadn’t been said a thousand times before, just not to Nick Griffin’s face.

Griffin himself was hopeless; each of his past misdemeanours were either misquotes or the folly of youth. Jack Straw began by comparing between the BNP and the Nazis. While allusions in ideology are valid, aligning Griffin with Adolf Hitler is absurd. He is bereft of the maniacal charisma that can induce a previously sane population to a policy of extermination based on a ‘deviant’ faith; the most Griffin could inspire would be some witless, misspelt graffiti on the side of a mosque.

Griffin’s risible tactics were to portray himself as some sort of vanguard of decency, defending the rights of British people while leaving the rest of the world to carry on with its iniquitous ways. He even tried to curry favour by claiming some dubious noble plaudits for supporting the Israelis during the recent conflict with Hamas.

But in the BNP’s warped credo, Hamas are among the “indigenous” population and the Israelis are the same sort of migrants he wishes to bar from the UK. A stance made even more bizarre by the Jewish migration to Israel after the Holocaust – the veracity of which Griffin has doubted in the past (although now he says he believes it, mumbling something about intercepted radio messages rather than witnessing the death factories of Treblinka and Auschwitz).

The predominance of Griffin marginalised the remainder of the debate. On the subject of immigration, Jack Straw soon discovered that his popularity honeymoon was over as he obfuscated and fumbled around as he failed to elucidate the government’s policy on migration. The Tories, represented by Baroness Warsi wheeled out the ‘this government has failed’ cliché while failing to detail their own solution; and Chris Huhne of the LibDems did what the LibDems always do– blame both of the main parties for any catastrophe while hoping that nobody notices during such a period Daffy Duck had as much chance of forming a government as them.

And it was this collective impotence that it was suggested was to blame for the rise in popularity of the BNP. A popularity that sadly won’t be diminished – the hope is to arrest the swell – as they will probably attribute Griffin’s ideological disintegration to the bias of the “ultra-left” BBC, just as he did in a late furious outburst as he comprehended his abject expulsion from the arena of rational debate.

The perception of the BBC as some sort of corrupt liberal monolith inhibiting the mending of ‘broken Britain’ is a view shared by the right-wing media, and that’s not the only common ideology they share with the BNP; overlapping on such things as immigration and homosexuality. And part of the bilious ire directed towards the BBC for allowing Griffin to appear seemed to be in part that he might become the diseased figurehead for the immigration question; inextricably associating persecuting migrants as the reason for all the bad things happening in the country with the wider dogma of the BNP.

This perhaps explains why it is the conservative media who have ejaculated the most vitriol on to Griffin; to ensure there is no blurring of the margins between tabloid bigotry and the more overt racism of the BNP. The happy consequence for them of this campaign to further demonise Griffin, as if he needed it, was that the other barrel could be trained on the BBC to imply that Griffin’s appearance on Question Time was a nominal endorsement of the BNP rather than that the BBC was obliged to in order to maintain political neutrality.

If the BBC had acceded to the baleful bleating and revoked Griffin’s invitation, it could no longer claim to be politically neutral providing ammunition to conservative propaganda that the BBC is, as Griffin protested, an “ultra-left” organisation.

Far from condemning the BBC, it should be congratulated. From the protests outside the BBC to the incandescent rage quivering throughout the audience it was clear that the vision of the BNP’s future is to imagine a boot (or shoe, moccasin or sandal) stamping on Nick Griffin’s face forever.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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