Nick Griffin is the greatest orator since Pericles. He has gravitas such as we have not witnessed since Winston Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech. His rapier wit makes Oscar Wilde sound like John Prescott. He has the encyclopaedic knowledge of a Paul Johnson; the courage of Charles Upham VC and bar; the loveability of Stephen Fry; the dramatic power of Fiona Shaw in some exceptionally moving new play about a lesbian who is slowly tortured to death by homophobic society…
Actually not – though you wouldn’t guess it from the general, angst-ridden debate about who best should be fielded against the BNP leader on tonight’s Question Time.
Nick Cohen has the details:
By this weekend, nervy producers were hitting the phones as they began to realise the 1,001 ways the show could go wrong. One minute, they booked Douglas Murray. He runs the Centre for Social Cohesion, which examines neo-Nazi, Islamist and other extremism in Britain. But he is also from the right, and so, the BBC reasoned, could tell the audience that it was possible to worry about immigration without being compelled to vote BNP. Murray was more than ready to take Griffin on, but the next minute the BBC called back with second thoughts. If he were to say anything in favour of immigration controls, Griffin would look like he was the voice of consensus. As confused call followed confused call, Murray formed the impression the BBC did not know what to do.
Nor do the political parties. Originally, the Conservatives put up Michael Gove, one of their best debaters. Then they decided that, as a British Asian, Lady Warsi would be the ideal face of progressive conservatism and a living rebuttal of BNP prejudice. So she would, had she not run a nasty campaign against the sitting Labour MP in Dewsbury in the 2005 election. In white areas, she declared that she would campaign “for British identity and British citizens” and fight the menace of mass immigration. In Muslim areas, the flag appeared in leaflets in a blood-spattered montage of Tony Blair and George Bush and troops in Iraq, while underneath it she played to religious homophobia by claiming that Labour was allowing children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.
Jack Straw is a more formidable politician, but as a series of leaks to the Observer in 2006 showed, he spent a part of his time as foreign secretary trying to “engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation that, in its origins and policies towards women, Jews and gays, is not so different from the BNP. So assiduous did Straw’s attempts at “engagement” become, the British ambassador to Egypt warned him he was engaging for the sake of engagement, and that there was no prospect of Britain being able “to influence the Islamists’ agenda”.
Me, I think the whole panel is pretty low-grade and that this particular edition wouldn’t even be worth watching if it weren’t for the Griffin factor. Bonnie Greer is too palpably nice and reasonable; Baroness Warsi’s talent is overrated beyond measure; Jack Straw (see Cohen above) is a dhimmi; and Chris Huhne – Chris Who?
At least Griffin’s likely to say something interesting, which is, after all, the point of Question Time is it not? It’s about entertainment. Gladiator sport. It’s not – though it’s amazing how many media commentators appear to think otherwise – the official occasion on which all the main parties gather together to make it quite clear how much they abhor racism. Duh! We knew that already. Now tell us what you think about immigration and Islamism. Otherwise Nick Griffin’s going to win more votes still.