I’m deeply ashamed that the BBC’s Question Time has given a platform to the BNP’s Nick Griffin, a fascist thug with serious form, a holocaust denier and a convicted racist masquerading as a democratic politician. Is that why we pay, under pain of imprisonment, a TV tax out of money which is already taxed? Tonight the BBC lost any moral justification for a licence fee.
I have no problem with debating with the BNP and don’t underestimate the common sense of the British people. Indeed history shows they have an adversion to extremism. However I am deeply uncomfortable with that debate being on a publicly funded broadcaster in a context where the BNP are treated as being equivalent to mainstream political parties.
London MPs today led a furious backlash against the BBC for inviting the BNP onto Question Time. Diane Abbott accused the Corporation of “accepting that violent fascism is somehow part of the political mainstream”. The Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said it was a “chilling idea” for black, Asian and Jewish communities that the far-Right party could be treated in such a manner. Five other London MPs have launched a Commons campaign condemning the BBC. Pop stars, writers and union members also joined the public outcry.
Jerry Dammers, founder of The Specials, attacked the BBC as naive. His words were echoed by the former children’s laureate Michael Rosen who said people had a right not to hear the BNP. They were speaking at an emergency public rally held by Unite Against Fascism in central London. Mr Dammers said: “The BNP are hiding their true identity as Nazis and fascists and the BBC are allowing themselves to be used for that purpose.”
Kawsar Zaman, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “It’s a really sad day for the BBC; it’s a sad day in my opinion for this country.” They spoke out as BBC director general Mark Thompson defended the decision to have BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time. He said that the Corporation had a “central principle of impartiality” which it would only override if the Government demanded a broadcasting ban as Margaret Thatcher did in the Eighties for Sinn Fein. “The case against inviting the BNP to appear on Question Time is a case for censorship,” he said. He denied that the decision was based in any way on a wish to appear controversial.
Concerns are only likely to be fuelled by the delight of the BNP at the platform it is being given. “Thank you Auntie,” said Mr Griffin in an interview with The Times.
Not in my name.