Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts on Question Time with Nick Griffin et al

I've tried not to read any of the other commentaries before writing a few notes on what I thought of question time. I think this is one of those occasions where your view on events can become very coloured by the spin someone else puts on it.

Here are a few points:

  • This was lynch mob Question Time. All the questions where aimed at Nick Griffin, and the chair didn't even try to have a normal debate. Some of the questions were good - I especially liked the man who asked where do you expect me to go and live.
  • Clearly the key panellists and chairman went in armed with their killer facts that their researchers were sure Griffin couldn't answer. That's all well and good, but in many ways very dry.
  • On balance Jack Straw had a good night. His voice was quivering at the start and his set point speech at the beginning was a bit cheesy, but in general he did well - except for the attempt to smear the right of centre by accusing the BNP of being right wing and the old Labour tactic to close down all debate of invoking their smears about Enoch Powell. ( It worth remembering that Labour's refusal to allow debate on immigration - and indeed to control it - has lead to the BNP rise in the first place, and mostly from their voters ).
  • Baroness Warsi did okay. She was most impressive savaging Jack Straw however.
  • Chris Huhne just continues to give the impression that he's a bit of a thug himself.
  • Bonnie Greer was very much in charge and seemed to hold a strange sort of authority over Griffin, that I'm sure he will hate himself for. She put her point across very effectively, though I didn't like the US knee jerk response on the KKK which moved to close debate rather than tackle and defeat a point.
  • Nick Griffin hardly got a word in. The Audience was over overwhelmingly hostile, as was the panel and the chairman.
  • The no platform and fascist anti-free speech mob will be feeling just a little silly this morning. This was no BNP triumph and many people will have been reminded of why we despise the BNP. So you leftie thugs it turns out free speech and democracy can be trusted - I hope you've learnt your lesson.
But, but but ....

We didn't learn much. It certainly wasn't fair - if any other party leader had been treated in the way Griffin was their would be uproar this morning ( as a thought experiment put the leader of the Green party in his place and see if it makes sense ).

Also I doubt it has had any impact on the BNPs supporters. The West London audience aren't BNP supporting anyway. They will have seen a monstering by people who never answered the questions that the BNP provides answers for them on*. The story of the establishment all being untied against us will be perpetuated ( I'd like to call it a myth, but quite frankly after last night I can't ).

This was an exercise in exercising democracy and free speech against the forces of oppression ( lead for Labour by Peter Hain ). It has shown Home Office funding for some of the more violent protest groups. But we have learnt little.

Certainly their was no attempt to engage the BNP on policy - or more correctly for question time to allow the BNP to put its policies for issues for comparison against the policies of other parties and commentators. And that's what needs to happen.

So it will all have to be done again, because that's what's needed to take support away from the BNP.

What did you think ? I'm off to read some of the other comments in the blogsphere and press.

* With the exception of immigration, which Baroness Warsi was especially good on.

Update: Here's the question I'm left with. Why did 943,598 people vote BNP at the Euro elections ? Peronally I think you'll find few of them see themselves as racist ( and if they are why vote BNP at only these elections and not the previous ones ).

We - the mainstream parties - need to properly engage with these people and understand the message they are sending by voting for a party that many of them would probably admit is odious.

A few Labour MP's have understood there's an issue - John Cruddas, Margaret Hodge, Frank Field come to mind. But all we get from all three main parities is generalisations and often a flat denial that peoples experiences are genuine or valid. This is a very dangerous situation to leave to fester.

Further Update:

Apparently Question Time got 7.8million viewers last night - three times the usual number. It shows the interests and perhaps concern in the general public. ( Even a few die hard leftie no-platformers were tuned in - yes Tom I mean you ).


PaulO said...

I agree, it was not the Question Time I am used to. It was 'get Nick Griffin' night. I don't support the BNP but I certainly don't despise them. They have a right to develop policies along with the rest of the parties, unfortunately they have not, until now, been allowed to 'play' with their peers.

If they want to be a credible party they will have to alter some of their policies, some of which are downright ridiculous. Some however, are attractive to the electorate and they will continue to gain support until other parties take notice of what the majority want.

Techno Mystic said...

It was an hour of my life I'll never get back.

abraham_269 said...

I absolutely agree with the points made. I must say that in spite of the overwhelming opposition that was against Nick, I felt he could have done better. He went into this knowing that he would be battered given that this is a very strong multi-cultural area that is heavily anti-fascist and with a panel that loathes the BNP.

Things he should have explained better: He said things in the past that are racist. Perhaps he could explain why he changed his mind about the holocaust. Perhaps he could explain why his view of the Muslims has gone from fellow alliance member to ought right hostility. Who are these indigenous British people he speaks of? Furthermore, in what way are foreigners actually a threat to Britain?

I hate to say this, but if a man like him ever becomes Prime Minister, this sort of criticism would take place on a daily basis. You really have to plan. Furthermore if this is attack Nick Griffin night, give him a chance to speak. Once he has spoken then you pick apart what he has said.

ContraTory said...

Providing Griffin a platform so that his beliefs could be examined, found wanting then demolished was a good idea, but the Question Time format was not appropriate. The consequence has proved so predictable.

JPT said...

The opposition to the BNP have come across as bullies.
That's the lasting impression...