If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Nick Griffin and Fascism

I've been watching the slow-motion car crash that is the lead-in to tonight's Question Time on the BBC. For once, I think the BBC have got it exactly right, and I applaud them for their stance in the face of some hypocritical, but very loud and nasty, criticism.

The BNP are a legal party, with representatives elected through due process by the British electorate. It is not, therefore, up to the BBC to refuse them a fair hearing on the grounds that some people don't like what they have to say. So the BBC are absolutely correct to allow Nasty Nick his place on QT.

As others have pointed out, it is up to governments to proscribe organisations, not broadcasters. (I wouldn't necessarily agree with that either, but at least it would be democratic.)

Let me make perfectly clear that I do not support the BNP, and would never vote for them if they ever fielded a candidate in my constituency. I do not support their Old Labour economics, which are reminiscent of Eric Heffer and Arthur Scargill on mind-altering drugs. I do not support their racist membership policy, and nor do I wish to see the all-white Britain that they have publicly campaigned for. Anyone who judges another person solely by the colour of their skin is stupid. Having heard some of them speak on TV after the Euro elections, I don't believe that they have the depth or intelligence to be meaningful or worthy representatives of the people. I am not impressed by the gangs of besuited skinheads that they seem to surround themselves with at every appearance. So I am in no way a BNP supporter, and would like to see them defeated and voted out of the small number of positions of power that they hold.

But ... I am an even greater believer in democracy and freedom of speech. Never mind that old 'defend to the death your right to say it' stuff. Freedom of speech is the only way that we, as a nation, can debate the things we want to debate, make decisions that we want to be the right ones, and discern poisonous hatred from genuine freedom of opinion.

So, I think the decision to allow Griffin to appear on QT is the right one. I have a belief in the innate tolerance and good sense of the British people - of all colours. I believe that the simple act of allowing the BNP onto a mainstream TV programme will not suddenly have half the population voting for racism. I believe that we are still one of the least racist nations on Earth, and that if people hear the views of Griffin from his own mouth, challenged by some stiff debate from the other panellists, they will reject what they hear.

So why does the BNP attract the support (growing all the time, apparently) that they do? It is because, mixed in with all the nasty stuff, some of their public utterances strike a chord in the public mind, especially amongst the white working classes that Labour used to see as its core vote. They are calling for an end to uncontrolled immigration. They are saying that the British identity is being eroded. They are saying we don't want multiculturalism. They are saying we want our country back - from the workshy, from the scroungers, from their bien-pensant left-wing rulers, and from the people who come here from other countries with no other purpose but to milk our generous benefits system. The fact is that there are a large number - a very large number - who agree with this, and not only in the traditional working classes.

Labour are to blame for this. At one time, the traditional working-class voter could be sure that Labour would promote his or her interests and fight their corner - whether it was against the evil factory-owning classes or the Johnny foreigners. But New Labour, by embracing political correctness, managerialism and the global left-liberal mindset, have abandoned them. First the traditional British voter found that no-one was speaking for him or her. Then they were told that they were wrong for feeling the way they do. By their own people. No wonder they are turning to the BNP. Many are no doubt holding their noses as they do so, but they are voting these people into power, and it will only get worse.

Labour can turn it around. They can drop all the Nanny State stuff. They can play a tight game on immigration. They can empower the Police to catch criminals, rather than shuffle paper and targets. They can return discipline to schools. They can take some effective action against yob culture. They can insist that people integrate, rather than segregate. They can start playing fair with people, so that someone who publicly advocates murder is not treated differently if he is of one religion rather than another. They can start allowing people to have their own opinions on social issues, even if they are old-fashioned. They can start talking as if they were proud to be British, rather than ashamed. The BNP vote would vanish like dew on a sunny morning. And the Conservatives would have a real problem.

I can remember all this 'no-platform' stuff from my University days in the 70s. "No Platform For Racists!" All it meant was that visiting speakers were people who agreed with the President of the Students' Union. Not exactly the cut and thrust of sparkling public debate, in which the ideas, ideals and ideologies of the next generation were forged. Just yet more boring lefties saying how everything was Thatcher's fault.

Guys - no-platforming doesn't work. It makes debate dull and predictable, and it gives the other side of the argument the veneer of mystery and the glamour of the forbidden. It makes those who advocate it feel warm inside, but all its other effects are undesirable.

Now the UAF lot, who are organising all these protests, want to keep certain points of view off the state media, and silence certain politicians whose views they disagree with. They say they are against fascism, and yet every fascist movement in history has started by stifling dissent and demonising those it didn't like.

How many times have I told you? Don't (smack) hit (smack) your sister !

The BNP should be defeated - at the ballot box, by people who have heard what the BNP stands for, have seen them debate their policies, and don't like what they see. There is no other way.


Well, no riots, no murder 'n' mayhem, only some pretty strong chairpersonning from the Dimble and what appeared to be an audience composed entirely of Guardian readers.

Scores on the doors:

Bonnie Greer: 3/10, good humoured, drawly but mainly irrelevant
Chris Huhne: 5/10, loud and shrill, still blaming the 'two main parties' for everything
Baroness Warsi: 9/10, the star of the show, for me - clear, coherent, sensible, sincere
Jack Straw: 3/10, Labour politician, evasive and sly, almost lost it in several places
Nick Griffin: 1/10, sweaty, trembling, nervous smirks and giggles, like a dog in a Korean restaurant.

The main thing was that the others didn't gang up on Griffin (well, not much) and therefore make him look like an underdog or martyr. He was not convincing, and seemed overawed by the occasion. Even the most rabid white-power fanatic couldn't look on his performance tonight and say "here is the man to lead Britian into the future". He shook, he twitched, he twisted and turned and denied he had ever said it. And even when he did get going on the things he wanted to say, he failed to light the fires. The bit where he appeared to say that he had said racist things only to bring the Ku Klux Klan on board and make them more moderate was a hoot.

Griffin, 0
BBC, 2
Democracy, 10.


  1. Haven't watched it yet, but I did record it for later, just out of curiosity.

    I have to agree with much of what has been said above. The BNP's current appeal is largely because a) they have a certain populist appeal with some of their less ridiculous views on immigration and b) they have an underdog image that constantly shouting them down merely perpetuates.

    Regarding the immigration argument - well, I believe it should and must be a topic for mainstream discussion. It is not reasonable to brand anyone with concerns about multiculturalism, overloading of local services or even simple overcrowding of this island as a racist, closet or otherwise. It is even less reasonable to simply tell people they are wrong, there is nothing to be worried about and that migrants are a huge net benefit to the country. Were that true, it would be a subject for legitimate debate, possibly even a point of pride for the government. Patently, it is not, and therefore there are elements that must need addressing. What they genuinely may be - even if they are only changes in perception of the issue - can only be established once the subject is off the taboo list.

    As for the underdog thing, let them speak. I've never yet heard or read an interview with any BNP spokesperson that wasn't shallow, one-dimensional and obviously without sufficient credibility to establish any real political presence. And those are at the articulate end of the party membership. No danger, I suspect, of people ever taking them very seriously.

    I disagree that Labour can turn it around, though. I can't see anyone on their benches with a shred of credibility, or the respectability to convince people there was a real change afoot. They've been in power too long, lied too often and achieved too little to start promising anything very believable. They know it, too. And if ever there was a party that needed to spend some time in opposition, relearning what it is they're supposed to be doing, this is it.

    Anyway, well done Auntie, for standing up for principles and democracy in the face of some fairly fierce opposition. That, I think, is an important standpoint to have taken.

  2. It was a bit of a disappointment, all in all. The other panellists did gang up on Griffin, but not outrageously so, and he didn't collapse as some thought he might. I'm pretty sure he did himself and his cause some damage last night, but it wasn't the car crash that it might have been.

    I agree with you about Labour. When I said they could turn it round, I was just speculating that if they made the commitment to reverse all the authoritarian, patronising, illiberal nonsense of the past 12 years, they could just give the Tories a fight - and a fright. It won't happen. About the only thing that could do it for them now would be to enthrone Barack Obama as party leader. And even then it would be close.


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