I was an advocate for allowing Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time. The principle of freedom of speech is important, and exposing the arguments of people like Griffin allow them to be rebutted. Afterwards I definitely feel that was the correct view.
The run up to recording handed a significant amount of credibility to the BNP, the protests descended to the same level as the BNP are accused of and validated their position. Stifling debate is never healthy, it fuels the feeling that something valid is being suppressed.
So the show itself: one star, one bumbling clown one fair political performance and two mediocre. Unfortunately the show turned into a critique of the BNP, not an opportunity to showcase BNP policies. That was a pity, it hands Griffin some opportunities to claim that he was stifled and it reinfirces the view that the next election should only be about race and immigration.
In general it was effective in exposing the BNP, although I’m sure that the party will communicate it in a positive way. A main point for me was whether this will help in communicating with their target demographic, and undermine support to the BNP. Was the target demographic watching or did the whole circus merely reinforce our own various prejudices for an against the party?
Griffin was extremely weak, visibly uncomfortable throughout and with an inappropriate, pretty incongruous, smile despite being undermined by both panel and audience. His increasingly desperate self justifications indicated a man knowing he was on the defensive.
Bonnie Greer was outstanding, hitting such a note of condescension that I had visions of Griffin patted on the head and scolded. Her illustrations of how weak his understanding of genetics and history were calm, measured and cutting.
Jack Straw started badly with a scripted ranting diatribe, but later came into his own. Baroness Warsi had her moments but was well off message on a number of points. Chris Huhne was a serious disappointment, he may as well not have been there.
What we did get was plenty of illustration of how intellectually weak the BNP position is. One wonders who Griffin believes has been “here” for 17000 years and must assume that he doesn’t realise that the Anglo-Saxon is a result of population movements across the North Sea. That said, I hope he was paying attention to the history lesson that he got, indicating that he was claiming to be a Neanderthal.
There were valid audience questions about the failure of the political establishment to encompass those now dissatisfied enough to elect the BNP, but none of the three politicians grasped that particular nettle.
On balance offering Griffin a platform was a good thing, he got roundly hammered. But the main parties need to really exploit the opportunity coming out of this.
I’m not confident that they can.