I've got a lot of time for the BBC. Auntie Beeb gets a lot of stick from all sorts of quarters, but by playing the impartiality card last night on Question Time, the broadcaster showed how the power of free speech was a force to expose the hypocrisy of bigots.
Nasty Nick Griffin, the oleaginous leader of the vile and odious race-based British National Party took his place on the panel of the venerable political Q&A. The show has been attacked today for:
a) allowing Griffin his hour in the zeitgeist; and
b) focusing all but one of the questions on his party and beliefs
Hundreds of people protested about Griffin being allowed on the programme, but I'm glad he got to sit there, slightly sweaty and with the mild panic of a man who's realised he's naked in a room full of strangers. To deny Griffin the chance to be questioned by the voting public would have been shameful. If we stop a right wing politician, do we then do the same to the left? Where do you draw the line...and wouldn't that line get ever closer to the centre?
No, I was glad to see Griffin exposed for the petty, small-minded, narcissistic, racist, outdated and outmoded individual he is. He fared badly. Bonnie Greer ran rings around him. The politicians of the three main parties should have too, but were too busy being on message and party-politicking to kick at the easy targets Griffin provided. Oh for a Tony Benn or a Michael Heseltine to focus in their laser-guided barbs. Griffin would have been mince-meat.
Huhne did ok for the liberals, the Conservative speaker was an obvious choice but not a strong one, and Straw for Labour was weak, muddled and dissembling.
Within minutes, Griffin was toast - but burnt far more harshly by the audience than by his fellow panelists. However, Griffin was made to look a fourth-rate politician by a second rate crop of political opponents.
As for the questions, well those who say they were too BNP-biased miss the point of the programme. I was in the audience for QT when it last came to Oxford - and an almost equally obnoxious 'politician' George Galloway was on the platform. We were all asked to submit a question beforehand and the producers chose the best to pitch at the panel. The questions reflect the mood, and subject choice of the audience. Speaking to someone at QT producers Mentorn today he acknowledged that all but a very few of the questions submitted last night were aimed at Griffin. QT is a case where the audience decides the direction the programme will go.
Griffin earned his place through his party's performance at the European Elections. It was nothing more than a protest vote in an election that very few in the UK felt mattered to them. The BNP's success will not be repeated at the UK elections in 2010. He may feel that all publicity is good publicity, but last night's exposure has made many more people aware of who Griffin really is and what he stands for. I'm with the guy who said he'd like to give loathsome Nick a one-way ticket to the South Pole.