Talking the BNP down

Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, is among the guests on BBC Question Time on Thursday. The idea was mooted in early September, some time after they won two seats in the Euro-election. They were already represented on a number of local councils and the London Assembly.

I’m looking forward to it. The BNP deserves to be heard. More importantly, it deserves to be challenged. Around the table with him, along with David Dimbleby, will be Jack Straw, Baroness Warsi, Chris Huhne and Bonnie Greer.

Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary, has many years experience facing down the BNP in his Blackburn constituency. Baroness Warsi, a muslim, is the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action. She is on record as saying she understands the concerns which draw some people to the the BNP. It’s her job to answer those concerns on behalf of the Conservatives. Those concerns need to be addressed, not ignored. Who better than Mr Straw, Baroness Warsi and the great British public to take on this challenge! Here are some questions they might consider putting.

The BNP is controversial for obvious reasons. It has its supporters, but its detractors are widespread. Its constitution is overtly racist and offensively nationalistic, allowing only “indigenous Caucasian” Britons to join. In court last week, Mr Griffin has agreed to use “all reasonable endeavours” to revise this. He has no option, and it’s for that reason alone that his party will probably agree to it.

Some of the BNP’s detractors appear perpetually apoplectic. They’ll throw eggs, break car windows or urge the BBC not to broadcast their infantile views.

I disagree with this approach. Too much of what the BNP apparently stands for is revealed through the words of others. In fairness, we ought to hear from them. Not because they have something interesting to say, but because they have received significant democratic endorsement. It didn’t work when Prime Minister Thatcher tried to gag Sinn Fein. Gagging the BNP won’t work either. And throwing eggs at Nick Griffin reduces the level of discourse to somewhere far beneath student politics.

I really appreciated the recent Radio 1 Newsbeat interview with Nick Griffin. That too was controversial, but I found it enlightening. I write as a relatively politically-aware news journalist, someone who wouldn’t normally rely on Newsbeat for my political education, preferring Sunday AM, Nick Robinson’s blog or Adam Boulton for this. But Newsbeat exposed Mr Griffin and I was pleased to hear it. I have no doubt some listeners will have liked what they heard and so be it. We are all entitled to our views. But the judgements we all make ought to be well-grounded.

The BNP is not just about racism. Or immigration. Or repatriation. It is about many things. Some of what they they say has a kernal of sense. But more of what they say is nonsense. And they can be effectively argued down without going anywhere near the race issue.

It is not for mainstream politicians to collude against those whose views most of us find abhorrent. That is the job of the voters and we must be armed as effectively as possible to make the right judgement at the ballot box. Otherwise, what is democracy for?

Nick Griffin is an intelligent man. Under his leadership, his party has made leaps and bounds. But what he and his party stand for is appalling. They are fascist and extreme (though not so clearly aligned to the right as is commonly perceived). We should not use the tools of fascism to close down the debate. Let’s rise above that, listen to them and let them be damned by their own words.


9 thoughts on “Talking the BNP down

  1. (David wanted me to get the ball rolling on this one, so….)

    This is well written and is a valid arguement, but still completely wrong. Access is currency if you lead a party that is essentially a microcosm of a dictatorship. Griffin has a boiling mass of loonies underneath him that he needs to stay on top of to stay in charge, this will help him do it and move forward.

    Anyone can challenge him on whatever issue on Question Time and unless he sets fire to himself by accident his supporters will be happy, so it won’t make any difference. After all Griffin himself said: “control of a council means nothing, control of the streets is everything.” They don’t have to win an election to be catapulted into power, they just need a toe hold, and again, this will help. Griffin isn’t an idiot and he knows German history, nobody much was bothered by Hitler especially amongst the middle classes until all of a sudden they were in power.
    It’s so long since politics in mainland Britain was about life and death that we’ve forgotten what it’s face looks like. You win wars against extremism by agonisingly incremental battles. BBC senior management has let this one go to the enemies of the state without a fight. They simply think that they “knows best” but they don’t because they haven’t listened to anyone who disagrees with them with an open mind. The BNP literally wants to murder most of the people you work with DW, it’s that serious, I shit you not.

  2. Very good piece Dave. I agree they need to be heard but I’m really hoping that it will be as an eye opener to many people across the country to just how dangerous these people are. Having said that there will be a vast swathe of different people watching and I bet the BNP will be hoping to swing the people sitting on the fence.

    Check this out, I felt like some sort of deviant logging on here and it made me feel physically ill:

    It’s a scary prospect letting anyone with such views anywhere near the Parliamentary machinery. The article itself is bad enough but the comments below it are pretty much the rantings of the…..well I don’t know what they are.

    The recommended reading mentioned in the article: “The Immigration Invasion: How Third World Immigration is Destroying the First World and What Must be Done to Stop It”. what the f….

    This book was written by Arthur Kemp who is mananger of the BNP’s commercial wing misguidedly called Excalibur. Here you can buy replica VCs…..?? Together with the BNPs using Battle of Britain imagery in campaigns it shows a complete lack of understanding of ‘British’ history and it’s no wonder veterans and Generals are miffed.

    Excalibur – King Arthur’s sword. Now, one theory for the myth of King Arthur is that it possibly evolved from the historical reference to a 5th Century ‘warlord’ who won a series of battles against the Anglo-Saxons who were ‘migrating’ rather rapidly into the island.

    Spitfire – indeed a great British plane that held the Luftwaffe at bay during that summer, a Lutfwaffe under the control of a Fascist state. The RAF were fighting to defend freedom, that much is true, but it was against fascism, the very thing that the BNP is advocating. Are they totally unaware of the Polish and Czechslovakian pilots that fought along the British pilots. Admittedly these were no doubt of Caucasian original so were fit for service…

    Now that is is confirmed that the Griffin appearance on Question Time is definitely going ahead I can hardly wait; I have not, however, got a countdown ticking away like the BNP have on their website.

  3. It’s a difficult one. Realpolitik would demand that we shut them out somehow. Their “let’s sound reasonable” strategy is one to be wary of. I suspect the more people learn about them, the more distasteful they will appear (to most of us). But no doubt they’ll attract more votes from some as they gain exposure. The BNP have learned lessons from the 1930s and will use this to their advantage. But voters have also learned lessons from the 1930s, and I don’t think we will let that happen in this generation…

  4. So, the day after the event, how did you think it went?

    There was an article in the Spectator yesterday saying that some social scientists at Manchester have done research and found that areas with high BNP support have a high percentage of Pakistani residents, but the same is not true for areas with Indian or Black percentages – which implies the anti-Muslim message is the one that’s getting them votes.

    The article points out that some “traditional Labour” supporters live in areas where a particular image of Islam is being portrayed by certain Muslims from Pakistan, which gives all of Islam a bad representation to these people, hence their support for the BNP. So (the article says), as well as tackling white fascists, the government should also look to tackle community problems caused by radical Islamist groups here in the UK, as one seems to imply the other.

    I’ll see if I can dig out the article. But I think it’s a good thing to get the BNP talking as we then realise how stupid their ideas are – apart from their immegration policy, they want full conscription for teenagers, and to abolish income tax and instead use a high VAT rate to raise the money…

  5. I watched it with interest last night and clearly the views of Nick Griffin were exposed. I however have been disappointed with what I see as biased media coverage – such as headlines that he defends Ku Kux Klan and finds gays creepy which were taken out of context. He said that the faction of the Ku Kux Klan that the chap he knew was almost totally non-violent, went on to say he disagreed with them and that they were an ghastly organisation – hardly defending them.
    About gays, he didn’t say they were creepr, but he said that seeing two males kissing in public was creepy and that homosexual teachngs in primary school he didn’t agree with, but added he didn’t agree with sex education in primary schools.
    He also said he had no problem with minorities staying in the country.
    However…he was clearly a man of racist views, he smiled and laughed too much about things that were serious and his comments about keeping Britain indiginous and Christian are clearly misconceived. However, I think the main parties failure to tackle some issues did come to the forefront and I thought Jack Straw would struggle to articulate his way out of a primary school debate.

  6. The BBC was both right and wrong. The right idea – a forum in which BNP policy might be questioned, wrong place, the flagship political show.

    It made him an equal to mainstream politicians, even though he was useless at seizing any opportunity. Yes it showed him as a political lightweaight with racist ideas, but it did so whilst he was sitting as an equal with a government minister and frontbenchers.

    I blog about my discomfort at

    Grace and peace

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