The BNP is no normal party, yet by inviting it on to Question Time, the BBC runs the risk of normalising it
A week today Nick Griffin will go on Question Time – and the British National party will be handed a gift. A racist organisation with a fascist pedigree that rightfully belongs under a stone will be awarded a starring role on the BBC's flagship political programme. The corporation should not be allowing this mob such a spotlight.
Just to be clear, the BNP deserves scrutiny. As John Stuart Mill argued, no opinion, however false, should be stifled, not least because the truth is made all the clearer for "collision with error". And BNP claims are indeed full of errors: just ask the police who have complained about the party's leaflets blaming the Lancashire heroin trade on Muslims, and falsely accusing three asylum seekers in Derbyshire of raping a woman. Dangerous lies such as these must be confronted head-on, perhaps in a Panorama or File on 4. Mr Griffin's policy of treating Islam as a "cancer" that should be removed from Europe by "chemotherapy" merits a forensic interview with a Paxman or a Humphrys, in a context that emphasises the BNP's place outside the mainstream.
But Question Time does not do forensic. It is a TV hustings, where politicians showcase their views to a studio audience. The programme may not be the ping pong that some claim, but it does have a rapid turnover of questions and high slogan quotient. David Dimbleby is an excellent moderator, but he does not play the role of an interviewer. By placing Nick Griffin on a panel with established politicians, Question Time will not expose this extremist but lend him a spurious legitimacy. Over an hour, to a national audience of 3 million or so, the BNP will have its best-ever platform for its poisonous politics. Few politicians do plausible sloganeering as well as Nick Griffin; few racists are as dangerously slick as this Cambridge graduate. Nestled between a cabinet minister and an opposition frontbencher, the BNP leader will seem an ordinary politician; for one glorious evening his extremist organisation will be accorded the status of just another party, perfectly deserving of a cross on a ballot paper.
Jack Straw and the other panellists will surely try to demolish Mr Griffin, and the 'audience may boo and hiss. But as TV producers know, image always trumps content. The BNP's two MEPs and its council seats make it – and the conditions that gave rise to it – more worthy of media attention than ever, as the BBC claims. But no other party has a criminal convict for a leader, National Front thugs in its senior ranks and such vile anti-democratic views. The BNP is no normal party – yet by inviting it on to Question Time, the BBC runs the risk of normalising it.
Source: The Guardian