x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

BBC provides a platform for racism

Following the television appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, a political organisation widely viewed in Britain as racist, a YouGov opinion poll taken for The Daily Telegraph indicated that more than 22 per cent of voters would seriously consider supporting the party in future elections. The poll indicated a broad level of sympathy for views expressed by the BNP even among voters who would not support the party itself.

Following the television appearance of the leader of the British National Party, a political organisation widely viewed in Britain as a driving force of racial hatred, a YouGov opinion poll taken for The Daily Telegraph indicated that more than 22 per cent of voters would seriously consider supporting the party in future elections. The National noted: "this week, after two high-profile TV programmes, both on the state-funded BBC, the country could be forgiven for wondering if racism had been revitalised. Or, possibly, that it never really went away. "On Thursday, the political debate programme Question Time included on its discussion panel Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, an extreme right-wing group. The BNP is widely seen as racist and Mr Griffin has a criminal conviction for inciting racial hatred. "The BBC was attacked for allowing him on the programme but its response was simple: Mr Griffin had won the right to a place because he and another BNP candidate were elected as British representatives to the European Parliament in June. "It was this mandate four months ago that gave Mr Griffin a platform. However, because those elections are generally disregarded in the UK, the BNP's success had been widely overlooked." The YouGov poll was taken shortly after Mr Griffin's appearance on the BBC and indicated a broad level of sympathy for views expressed by the BNP even among voters who would not support the party itself. The Daily Telegraph said: "The survey found that 22 per cent of voters would 'seriously consider' voting for the BNP in a future local, general or European election. This included four per cent who said they would 'definitely' consider voting for the party, three per cent who would 'probably' consider it, and 15 per cent who said they were 'possible' BNP voters. "Two-thirds said they would not consider voting for the party 'under any circumstances' with the rest unsure. "Mr Griffin's performance, during which he was challenged about his views on the Holocaust, immigration, Islam and homosexuality, has divided the political establishment. Some senior figures criticised the BBC for inviting him on to the programme. "David Lammy, the Higher Education Minister and one of the first black men to serve in a British government, gave warning of a potential rise in racist and anti-Semitic attacks, saying he was 'very worried about the days which will follow'. "More than half of those questioned said they agreed with the BNP, or thought that it 'had a point' in wishing to 'speak up for the interests of the indigenous, white British people ... which successive governments have done far too little to protect.' "This included 43 per cent who said that, while they shared some of its concerns, they had 'no sympathy for the party itself'." If Mr Griffin's TV appearance in front of a London studio audience had provided him with a boost in the polls, it certainly did not elevate his position in the eyes of either the media or the political establishment. The Guardian reported on Friday: "Nick Griffin said today he was the victim of a 'lynch mob' audience drawn from a city that had been 'ethnically cleansed' and was 'no longer British'. "The BNP leader's comments prompted Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, to say that there was 'no place here' for Griffin or his party as he urged Londoners to reject his 'extremist and offensive views'. "Fellow Question Time panelist Bonnie Greer admitted today she had to restrain herself from slapping Griffin last night, before adding she was glad she hadn't because he was 'totally trounced' on the show. "Griffin vowed to lodge a complaint at the 'unfair' way the Question Time programme was produced, despite the BNP's claims that his appearance sparked the 'biggest single recruitment night in the party's history'. "Griffin claims he was treated unfairly by the panel and audience and complained that the show, held at BBC Television Centre in London, was broadcast from a city which had changed beyond all recognition because of what he called uncontrolled immigration." In an interview with The Times shortly before his BBC appearance, Mr Griffin was asked about a number of the causes for his notoriety. "His conviction in 1998 for inciting racial hatred was, he says, a 'thought crime' Orwellian in its nature. Other BNP leaders who have criminal records were also, in his view, victims of a 'corrupt legal system or corrupt lying policeman'. "What about Tony Lecomber, one of his main lieutenants during the 'modernisation' of the BNP, who was convicted of attacking a Jewish man and possessing bomb-making equipment? 'He was jailed for having an overgrown firework,' says Mr Griffin, who appears to have an intimate knowledge of the cases against all his colleagues. 'There was no evidence at all he was going to use it against anyone.' "He adds: 'You shouldn't be saying that we're a party of criminals. You should say we're a party that includes people who have gone to prison for their principles.' "Such defiance sits uneasily with his oft-stated demand for 'law and order', but Mr Griffin suggests that the criminal records of party members are a reflection of its efforts to re-engage the working class in politics. He claims that they often have convictions for football hooliganism or benefit fraud. "It is notable, however, how swiftly he seeks refuge behind his lawyer's advice and the legal system when asked whether he is willing to stand by past statements that the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust never happened. 'I simply can't discuss it - not allowed. I can't even say what I used to believe and why I've changed it - without the risk of being indicted in France.'" As for the BNP's claim that it represents "indigenous" Britons, as The Times points out, the British Isles has never had an indigenous human population, in the sense of people who evolved here. "Every member of Homo sapiens who has ever lived in Britain has been either an immigrant, or the descendent of immigrants. The very first ones, the genetic evidence suggests, came here from an ancestral home in northern Spain or the Basque country."

pwoodward@thenational.ae