The British National Party on Question Time

Those in the United Kingdom know that there is a particularly unpleasant political party called the British National Party. Now virtually all political parties have a degree of ugliness and lack of charm, but to my mind the BNP are not just ugly and charmless, but are wrong, very wrong. It is claimed the BNP is made up of people that are thugs, totalitarians and racists; however, the BNP is a political party who has managed to get a few councillors elected and who won two seats in the European Parliament.

How is it, you may ask, that a tolerant nation like the United Kingdom has people who will vote for thugs, totalitarians and racists?

For some years the established parties have threatened or blackmailed the people of the United Kingdom with the bogeyman of the BNP. “If you don’t vote for us you’ll let the BNP in” is what they say. I suspect that many voters do not like the blackmail implicit in this and that may well be why the BNP managed to get many of the votes they received in recent elections.

Because of minor electoral success the leader of the BNP, Mr Griffin, was invited to appear on “Question Time” with other politicians and cerebral celebrities. I watched the programme expecting to see Mr Griffin explain his policies and the other people on the question time panel debate the policies and argue against them. Testing politicians by dissecting their policies in public debate is the best was to expose vice, weaknesses, inconsistencies and folly.

Mr Griffin explained his party’s policies thoroughly. I did not agree with them. I thought it would be easy to expose the policies as wrong, illogical and vicious. I was shocked to see the other politicians on the panel not really bother to debate with Mr Griffin or argue against his policies but spend most of their air time making what appeared to be pre rehearsed speeches and statements about what Mr Griffin may have done or said some years ago.

A great deal of time was wasted with statements about Mr Griffin’s past defalcations, most of which Mr Griffin denied. It was as though the politicians on the panel were trying to establish their own credentials by blackening Mr Griffin as much as they could. While Mr Griffin explained his policies the other parties’ representatives failed to explain why Mr Griffin was wrong, and failed to admit that in some respects they might have been pursuing the wrong policies. They preferred to concentrate on attacking Mr Griffin personally.

To her credit, the cerebral celebrity – Bonnie Greer actually concentrated on the argument, not on attacking Mr Griffin.

It is easy, but not legitimate, to demonise your opponent rather than to argue against his ideas. It is easy but not legitimate to argue against ideas that your opponent does not espouse, while claiming that he does espouse them. These sophistries do not win the war of ideas.

After Question Time YouGov carried out a poll and reported that 22% of those polled would “seriously consider” voting for Mr Griffin’s party. Peter Hain claims that Question Time, viewed by eight million people, simply gave Mr Griffin and the BNP “the gift on the century”. It seems to follow from that that Mr Hain has a very low opinion of the electorate, in that it seems he thinks that if we are exposed to extreme ideas we poor souls are too stupid to reject them.

I think that the poll is the result of that fact that on Question Time none of the politicians actually bothered to dissect or argue against Mr Griffin’s ideas, but simply attacked Mr Griffin personally. The electorate might think that the other parties were simply avoiding a debate that they might lose. In doing so in the minds of some people Mr Griffin won the ideas argument on Question Time.

It is important to win the war of ideas, whether you are fighting for a better economic future or fighting for the environment or fighting against racial prejudice or totalitarianism. You win the war of ideas by logical argument, not by personal attacks. It was perfectly within the abilities of the politicians on Question Time to win the ideas argument against Mr Griffin. They chose not to attempt so to do.

16 Responses

  1. Robert, A topical connection is that Nick Griffin who is Pro-Nuclear and on the European Environment Committee has been refused entry to Sellafield with the reason given that he would be a security threat. This would have been an interesting topic for him to be asked about on BBC question time.

    BBC News : Sellafield turns away BNP leader :

    What do you think of that then ? I am against Nuclear Power as an energy solution for the UK and well nuclear is dangerous and they wouldn’t want the scenes outside the BBC to be repeated outside Sellafield would they ? When MPs or MEPs or Local Government have extreme views or opinions then they are a security threat anywhere near Nuclear power which is dangerous enough already. So I would include the current government on the list of those banned from visiting Sellafield because they have taken the UK into a war against Afghanistan and Iraq.

    • I understand that Sellafield don’t want to go to the expense of hiring extra crowd control to deal with demonstrations. I can’t see that Mr Griffin would provoke any particular security risk in this respect. If we adopted this line then no famous politician would walk around or go to places where they can come in contact with ordinary people. hang on, I can’t recall seeing Mr Brown on the bus this morning or Mr Cameron on the underground! It is not good to insulate politicians from meeting the people. Whenever I go to a meeting at which a minister speaks the pattern is that he or she speaks first and leaves quick, for another engagement, so that the minister does not have to field any awkward questions! It is as though the audience are only there to listen, not to talk back!


  2. … But David cameron uses the London Underground Sometimes) ! There are photos to prove it !

    So I guess its unfair to say MPs and MEPs don’t use public transport. Even Cherrie Booth QC the wife of former Prime Minister Blair, uses public transport, she once used the train as I recall being in the news because she inadvertantly forgot to purchase a ticket because she was in a rush !

  3. Perhaps you should consider the following. . . . . .

    BNP (Black National Party)
    The BNP (Black National Party) has been created to expedite the work of the Race Equality Secret Service (RESS).

    The BNP (Black National Party) gets stronger as THE BNP gets weaker.

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