QT – Is the criticism justified?

I found Question Time fascinating on Thursday evening, but slightly dissatisfying for reasons I’m still thinking through.

I stand by my view that the BBC made the right decision to include Nick Griffin. But it’s taken a lot of criticism for the format of the show, starting with Mr Griffin himself. Read the editor’s defence here. I doubt very much that the audience was hand-picked to look a bit ‘ethnic’ or to give Griffin a hard time, but I do have some sympathy with other criticisms.

I believe the issues debated should have been wider than immigration, race and the BNP itself (+five mins on Stephen Gately). What about the postal strike? It’s a idea that’s explored further by an old friend of mine on Doobs’ Musings. Of course there are times when one issue attracts attention more than others, and QT needs to reflect that, but I don’t believe the time to do that is when one of the panellists IS the story. It had the effect of drawing the focus to him (unfairly) and denying him the opportunity to discuss anything other than media stereotypes about the BNP (also unfairly). The other panellists and the audience could easily have tied the man in knots on all sorts of issues and I’d like to have seen more of that.

I enjoyed the baying audience, and in that respect, Griffin got everything he deserved. But I believe David Dimbleby should have given the man more space to explain his points. Griffin is clearly a racist. There is enough evidence from both the distant and recent past to make that clear. But some of his points were dismissed as racist without proper exploration. That made him look bullied and it was unnecessary. The BNP’s policies are stuff and nonsense across the board: political claptrap. That’s what needs to be exposed. The racism is obvious, but the thinking it leads to is simply stupid and that’s what could have been exposed better.

What he has to say about the indigenous British population wouldn’t stand the scrutiny of a gnat. But rather than actually demonstrate that scrutiny, it was again dismissed as racist and that let the viewers down. Channel 4’s FactCheck scrutiny after the event is very worthwhile.

I barely mentioned Bonnie Greer in my earlier post. But I thought she was outstanding. Her lightness of touch cut straight through Griffin several times. He thought she was flirting with him and kept laughing inappropriately (just to show how well he gets on with a black woman?)

Jack Straw was weaker than I thought. He let himself down on the question about whether government policy had led to more BNP support. His tactic was to explain/defend the policy. Now the policy may well be defensible, but the avoidance of the question was all too obvious and frankly unnecessary. The main parties’ approach to immigration has cost them support in certain areas. And that has benefited the BNP. That may be an acceptable price to pay for the right policy or it may not be, but Mr Straw ignored that distinction to his cost.

Sam Coates of The Times ranked the key players and gave Griffin 7/10. Equal to Jack Straw and certainly more than I’d have given either of them. The BNP makes much of this on its website. I don’t agree with Mr Coates on much of what he says, but his views are interesting and certainly worth a read.

Listening to Nick Griffin is unpalatable, but he is an MEP, he is entitled to his opinions, voters are entitled to vote for him and those who didn’t are entitled to hear from him. It was right to hear from him on Question Time, but it could have been done better.


4 thoughts on “QT – Is the criticism justified?

  1. Jack Straw seemed to waffle through some of his arguments and I agree he looked weak. Baroness Warsi obviously has (or has had) some intolerant views on Civil Partnerships herself (Dimbleby mentioned these and she glossed over it), it seemed unfair that she wasn’t grilled more on this. I also agree with what you say about Bonnie Greer, she was very good – her superior knowledge of history meant that she could outfox Nick Griffin on most of his views in a non-political way and it made great viewing. Despite this there was some support for some of Nick Griffin’s (less offensive)views in the audience and this seems to have gone unnoticed. Some of the what the BNP say obviously resonates with the electorate and the mainstream political parties need to address this, at the moment they seem to be in denial.

    • Good points Jamie. Especially about the electorate’s concerns. I think it’s something the main parties are – gradually – starting to get. Especially those under greatest pressure. Jon Cruddas (of Dagenham) is a good example of a mainstream MP trying to address the concerns of BNP voters without crossing the line into fascism!

  2. Nice piece David. I agree with you that the other panellists missed the opportunity to truly take Griffin apart, however I was really disappointed with the mob mentality on display; I don’t believe any person should ‘bay’ at another. We also need to be careful of making the mistake that intellectuals are far too prone to, ie that of assuming that everyone is as clever as they are. To treat Griffin’s opinions (particularly when he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to properly expound on them) with such contemptuous disregard will I fear have made many of his supporters simply dig in deeper. Much of his grassroots will miss the more subtle nuances entirely and see simply an attack on the person and not the policies – and by association themselves. Bonnie Greer did well at times but I feel her ‘light touch’ was one such instance of playing primarily to her intellectual peers and not to the people whose minds we might all have liked to have changed. To be equipped with such a vast armoury of facts that could have been fired at the nonsensical racial premises that Griffin uses to brainwash ‘indigenous’ English into believing they’re a breed apart and not to engage him in a way that allowed her to blow them all out of the water was, I thought, the rarest of opportunities gone to waste. Like you, I was left with the feeling of a great opportunity lost. When all was said and done I fear Griffin’s supporters will in their own minds have seen that what he preaches to them is true; that the UK is run by a bunch of intellectual snobs who think they’re too good to even be in the same room as ‘indigenous’ English people.

  3. Pingback: Extraordinary Influence « World of Wad

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