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Question Time and the BNP

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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson | 09:14 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

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The decision to invite Nick Griffin, the British National party leader onto tonight's edition of Question Time is obviously an editorial judgement - and one for which the BBC and I will certainly be called to account. But it is not a decision like the running order for this morning's Today programme or the line-up of stars on this season's Strictly Come Dancing.

Those who argue that the BBC is right to feature BNP politicians occasionally on the air but is nonetheless wrong to have invited them onto Question Time fail to understand not just the programme itself but the reality of what the BBC's central principle of political impartiality means in practice.

Question Time is an opportunity for the British public to put questions to politicians of every ideological hue. Politicians from the UK's biggest parties appear most frequently, but from time to time, representatives from parties with many fewer supporters, from the Scottish Socialists, and Respect to the Green party, also take their seats on the stage. Question Time is the most prominent programme of its kind on British TV and we carefully study the support gained in elections by each of the parties, large and small, before deciding who to invite and how frequently they should appear.

It is a straightforward matter of fact that, with some 6% of the vote and the election of two MEPs in this spring's European elections and with some success in local elections as well, the BNP has demonstrated a level of support which would normally lead to an occasional invitation to join the panel on Question Time. It is for that reason, not for some misguided desire to be controversial, but for that reason alone  that the invitation has been extended.

For the BBC to say to the BNP (or indeed to any political party), 'yes, you've met the objective criteria for appearing on Question Time, but we have decided that in your case it would be more appropriate if you didn't, but instead appeared on Newsnight or Panorama,' would be for us to deny them parity with other parties, presumably on the basis of our own, or somebody else's qualitative political judgement about the BNP.

That isn't impartiality, it is its opposite. It would be contrary to our obligations under the BBC's Charter and contrary, I believe, to the British public's expectations of us. It would be wrong.

Does that mean that we believe the BNP should not be challenged? Of course not. They should be challenged as tenaciously and as searchingly as any other political party  and I believe they are when they appear on the BBC. From news coverage to hard-hitting, and indeed award-winning, investigative journalism, we have probed both the BNP's stated policies and some of the views of the party's leaders and supporters which are expressed only behind closed doors.

But Question Time is the public's chance to challenge the politicians - that is why it is so important that they should sometimes be able to hear and interrogate politicians from the relative fringes as well as from the mainstream.

Political parties of course have the right to be treated fairly and evenhandedly by the BBC. But the central right we are upholding in this decision is the public's right to hear the full range of political perspectives, to hear other members of the public putting those perspectives to the test, and then to form their own conclusions. Excluding any party with demonstrable popular support from taking part in the programme would be to curtail this public right.

The case against inviting the BNP to appear on Question Time is a case for censorship  the case, in other words, that (in the opinion of those who make it) the BNP's policies are so abhorrent and so liable to sow hatred and division that they should be excluded from this form of public discourse altogether.

Democratic societies sometimes do decide that some parties and organisations are beyond the pale. As a result, they proscribe them and/or ban them from the airwaves. The UK government took exactly this step with specific parties and organisations in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

Many of course would argue that proscription and censorship can be counter-productive and that it is usually better to engage and challenge extreme views than to try to eliminate them through suppression. My point is simply that the drastic steps of proscription and censorship can only be taken by government and parliament. Though we argued against it, the BBC abided by the Northern Ireland broadcasting ban in the 1980s and, if the BNP were proscribed, the BBC would abide by that decision too and the BNP would not appear on Question Time.

But that hasn't happened and, until such time as it does, it is unreasonable and inconsistent to take the position that a party like the BNP is acceptable enough for the public to vote for, but not acceptable enough to appear on democratic platforms like Question Time. If there is a case for censorship, it should be debated and decided in Parliament. Political censorship cannot be outsourced to the BBC or anyone else.

At the heart of public service broadcasting is the idea of public space  of programmes and services which are available to all and within which people can encounter not just ideas and attitudes which accord with their own, but ones which are utterly different from theirs and with which they may profoundly disagree. As the present debate about Question Time demonstrates, maintaining this space is sometimes difficult and controversial. It is also essential, if we really want the public to engage in the democratic debate about the great issues of the day.

(This article appeared in today's Guardian)

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Whereby I am no supporter of the BNP, far from it, or what it stands for, I will applaud the BBC for making this stance, for the exact reasons they give.
    The BNP, though nothing like the mainstream parties, is, after all, a political party in British and European politics, with duly elected members of both, and as such, without being a proscribed organisation by the government, should be permitted to engage as all other such parties are entitled to. To deny that would be to ascribe to exactly what some abhor in the BNP itself.

  • Comment number 2.

    Congratulations to the BBC for standing up to Peter Hain and his ilk. I am no supporter of the BNP and anything they stand for, but we live in a democracy where they have stood in elections and been legitmately voted in. If we sign up for democracy, we sign up for the results it brings and in this case it means 2 BNP MEPs. As such, they should be allowed to come on QT in the same way UKIP are allowed on.

    Well done for the courage of your convictions in allowing this to happen.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    I feel that although people may instinctively feel that the BNP stands FOR prejudice and racial discrimination, this is not so. In actual fact they stand AGAINST racial discrimination of the British native resident. They stand FOR the Britsh reident who feels undermined by an increasing sensetivity to accusations of racial prejudice which resulted in a Swindon schoolboy being beaten up by an Asian gang who left him with brain injury because the school felt powerless to instal discipline against this demographic group.The BNP have attracted support from across the political board for theses reasons. A tougher stance on general immigration from our government would protect the British citizen and make the BNP redundant.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think it is right for the BNP to appear on Questiontime. Whilst the majority of the sensible British public are appalled by what they stand for we do live in a democracy. If they are a legitimate party (and they do have two MEPs) then they also deserve the right to be heard. The worst thing that could happen tonite is for Griffin to be shouted over and not allowed to express his parties views. If he is allowed to speak all will come clear about his appalling party and policies. He is an intellectual lightweight and will be unable to defend the views of his party. So let him speak and then see how few people will want anything to do with his views and politics. I'll be on the sofa watching it tonite as I believe will millions of other people.

  • Comment number 6.

    @Caroappel: Does the BNP stand against racial discrimination of all British residents, no matter what their skin colour or ethnicity is? If not, you need to ask yourself why. What, exactly, is the definition of "British native resident"? And from what would a "tougher stance on general immigration" actually protect 'the British citizen' from?

  • Comment number 7.

    I applaud Mark Thompson's decision. My appreciation of democracy and free speech is greater than my (very high level of) disgust of the BNP.

    If we silence BNP leaders who - whether we like it or not - were democratically elected, we are only giving them fuel to say things like, 'Mainstream Britain doesn't care about the average white British person, they don't want to listen to you, you don't have a voice.' We would only be proving the BNP right which is the last thing I want to do. Silencing them is utterly counterproductive and will make the BNP stronger. At least if you let Griffin speak on Question Time, there's the chance he will make a fool of himself.

    As a foreigner and part of an ethnic group that some BNP members dislike, if I went up against Nick Griffin I would want to try my hardest to prove him wrong. I would respond to his rhetoric with evidence that his hate-fueled speech is inaccurate. We can only prove him wrong by engaging in debate. Shoving the BNP under a blanket is not going to make the party go away.

    In democracy, you have to take the good with the bad. Think for a moment of how you would feel if the person you elected was not given the same rights as all other elected officials of his or her ranking. You'd feel angry, you'd feel disenfranchised, you'd feel like nobody cared about your opinion. Well, BNP members are not monsters from outer space, they're your neighbours, they're people in the shop and on the street who have the same rights as you do to be represented. We cannot just believe in free speech only for those people who agree with us.

  • Comment number 8.

    I find it ironic that the people going to protest are going to protest against fascism when by attempting to silence a candidate the public voted for they are guilty of just that.

    If the political parties continue to try and tell the british public what they should or should not think and we continue down this crisis route we are already in, the BNP will be gathering a lot more votes

  • Comment number 9.

    The classic Voltaire quote "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" seems appropriate.

    By censoring a legitimate political party, the BBC would be not only placing restrictions on freedom of speech, but fuelling the BNP's argument that the voice of those they represent has been drowned out by the left wing.

    Good article Mark. A political lightweight maybe, let's hope for a sensible debate and that Nick Griffin is allowed to place foot in mouth free from heckling.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done to the BBC, as I do agree that the BBC should be impartial in all its dealings. However it appears that the fact that the BBC refused to broadcast a charity appeal by some of the leading charities during the Gaza Crisis earlier in the year, was in itself an act of impartiality, given the perception that it considered the sensitivities of the Israeli government even though they were independently deemed by the UN to have carried out war crimes in Gaza. I therefore, believe that the right to broadcast the views of the BNP who are openly anti- Muslim, does serve as a contradiction to the BBC's pledge to be impartial in all cases. It would be good for the BBC to reflect its stance as the Muslim population may feel that their views are not always heard.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to endorse most of the comments above - I find the views of the BNP & their ilk appalling but making free speech conditional upon 'accceptability' (& let's just ask ourselves who should be defining that) we may as well throw the entire concept of a liberal democracy aside.

    ...and we can always look forward to Griffin making a public gaffe over the recent spat with the military!

  • Comment number 12.

    On that basis, the BBC would be prepared to invite Abu Hamza on to Question Time to advocate jihad against the West if he set up an extremist Islamic party and got enough support.

    Would BBC let Islamic extremist parties to also incite hate the way BNP do? BBC should be sued if violent attacks against muslims rise.

    We should not allow any extremist group or party to disturb the peace between different race and religions. This bit the BBC fails to understand and I question the motives of those making the decisions within the BBC.

  • Comment number 13.

    I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

    -- Voltaire

  • Comment number 14.

    Based on your argument above, surely the BBC would be happy to air Hitler's views to the nation in the 1930s. After all he was democratically elected?

  • Comment number 15.

    I am under the impression that the BBC's role is primarily to report news and information of interest to the public. It also provides a platform for people to comment and respond in a balanced and fair way.

    It is up to the individual to decide what to do with that information and how they can respond to the comment, it is not up to the BBC to tell people what is 'right or wrong' and for that matter not up to a government to tell us whose opinion we are allowed to listen to.

    This is where I see the problem lying, in that successive governments with an authoritarian attitude promoting the politics of fear is tying itself up in a knot of it's own making. Whilst using fear and shock tactics to install oppressive and intrusive legislation under the guise of protecting us from 'evil terrorists' or 'unacceptable' views, this is an act of terror in itself and plays into the hands of extremists from all spectrums of political thinking.

    For the Government to attempt to badger and bully the BBC with veiled threats (this week it was legal action, no doubt next week Peter Hain will play the License Fee card!) is just typical of the authoritarian left's (and right's) attempt at mass control. The Conservatives have history of using the same tactic themselves.

    I fee that this incident not only gives the general public the opportunity to see what the BNP is truly about under their alleged liberalist veil of free speech but also how our own Government have similar wishes to use mass hysteria to get their own way and mould public opinion into accepting controlling and unnecessary legislation.

    The BBC should be congratulated in it's decision to claim the rights to chose suitable panellists for open debate and I trust it has engineered a superb selection for this evenings show.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well done BBC, you've grown some balls at last! Its about time the ordinary bloke(or woman) in the street has someone to speak on thier behalf, because let me tell you this, non of the mainstream politicians speak for us, there are many many of us who have grave concerns about immigration and its effects on our country,what alot of these freeloaders (politicians) seem to forget is the ordinary working Brit have been forced to live in this so called " wonderfully diverse " culture, we're the ones in the real world living this appalling experiment, which I have to say has gone drastically wrong, whilst the the liberal lefties' dare try and tell us what fools we'd be to vote for these "appalling racist thugs " (yawn) well get over it you lot, you had your turn and by GOD what a mess YOU made of it !
    one more thing, whats that saying from the bible ? he who is without sin may cast the first stone ? hhhhmmm need I say more ?

  • Comment number 17.

    The BBC are wrong to allow the BNP
    Newsnight is an entertainment programme and should not be treated like a Party Political Broadcast.
    Members of the panel should be invited to join the programme because the BBC believes in/ values the contibution they might make.
    Surely this cannot include the BNP?

  • Comment number 18.

    We do not understand why not inviting the BNP can in any way be regarded as 'Silencing' them

  • Comment number 19.

    I believe in the right to free speech, I believe that Nick Griffin is entitled to the same rights as any other political party leader. I can say i do not support his party or his views but as he will be on t.v. which is partly paid for by my license fee I will be watching if I do not like what I see i have the option to turn off or turn over. It has been said that other politicians should not share a platform with the BNP however it should be said that the best way to challenge the bigotry that is spread by this party is to drag them out of the shadows and allow the public to question them, the programme is after all called "question time".

  • Comment number 20.

    As an immigrant to another country from England and with a foreign wife, I naturally find the BNP utterly repugnant. They stand for prejudice, inequality and the denial of rights. However, to deny them the opportunity to present their views on a political debate forum such as Question Time would simply make the BBC guilty of a similar stance. If the BBC wish to be seen as impartial they cannot deny any party the opportunity to air their views. As a political party with elected MEPs, the BNP must be allowed their time at the lectern, however warped and ignorant their views may be. My personal hope is that Nick Griffin will discover that he is hopelessly out of his depth and will suffer political and intellectual humiliation at the hands of the other more astute guests. This appearance, if handled correctly, could even send the BNP scuttling into hiding under the nearest rock for the foreseeable future. My message to the other guests on Question Time tonight would be this: show no mercy.

  • Comment number 21.

    On 15th Oct, the BNP conceded to the request that it change its commission made in court by the Equality and Human Rights. The court case is adjourned until January 2010. Should they be considered a legal party until they've done so? On an amended constitution posted on their website in September this year, the BNP stated that it "is wholly opposed to any form of racial integration between British and non-European peoples".

    I agree with UKMuslims, below, that while Nick Griffin should be allowed on to Question Time, Mark Thompson should be prompted him to rethink his claim of impartiality vis a vis the charity appeals in aid of Gazans following Operation Cast Lead. The UN have announced that the Israeli military contravened the 4th Geneva Convention, and have also said that there were atrocities perpertrated by both sides. Any fear of partiality could be dismissed by reference to extensive UN investigations.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think it's good to have this discussion and i value each and everyone of your views but I believe that this is the point! You are free to debate your view.

    Like many other people on here who don't support the BNP or believe that they have the capability of running a country it is their given right to express their opinion and after all it is your right to question them.

    I would be happy to debate some of their ridiculous views and policies and I should imagine that the rest of the country would like to also.

  • Comment number 23.

    The BNP are a load of hotair they'd let down this country just like the majority of governments have.This fight for the everyday white person sounds like archaic tosh to me.Let Griffin have his moment maybe it will encourage more people to vote and stop these no marks gaining seats.

  • Comment number 24.

    Only one question for Mr. Mark Thompson, are you a BNP memeber?

  • Comment number 25.

    Very amusing I make valid points and you delete me.Good ole auntie beeb.

  • Comment number 26.


    Quote:

    " If there is a case for censorship, it should be debated and decided in Parliament. Political censorship cannot be outsourced to the BBC or anyone else" - Mark Thompson


    Mr Mark Thompson, that's quite contradication to BBC rule, because many comments on this page have been censored by you.

  • Comment number 27.

    Mr. Mark Thompson:

    I am in complete agreement with you and the Corporation over
    the decision of inviting The Leader of BNP to Question Time...Since,
    I have been following this story from when it started with the introduction by Ric Bailey...

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 28.

    Hail freedom of speech, but to provide Nick Griffin with an opportunity to air his views on Question Time is to acknowledge he actually has a point of view worth considering. BNP is not a party representative of the British public and should, therefore, not be allowed to make a pulpit of the national TV paid for by us all.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's the lack of consistency from the BBC that is the most worrying aspect. The corporation didn't think twice about banning the Gaza Charity Appeal, yet now claims censorship is a matter for the govt. Cannot think how Mark Thompson can escape accusations of hypocrisy. When these issues are lined up against each other and it's obvious he's taken two diametrically opposed decisions.

  • Comment number 30.

    While I myself am not a fan of the BNP or its policies for that matter, I am frankly shocked and upset that so many people are angry to the point of protest because a member of a political party is appearing on question time.

    Shouldn't all political parties be entitled to a voice? If not then I must be mistaken in thinking that we live in a free and democratic society and I am truly sorry for all our sakes.

    People have the intelligence to listen to any person and decide if they agree with their point of view or not. For those who think one should be banned from voicing an opinion probably have much more in common with the party they so venomously denounce. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the BBC for respecting the democratic law of this country.

  • Comment number 31.

    We acknowledge BNP's right to be on question time but he has nothing we want to listen to so we will not tuning in. The positive coming out of all of this is seeing the crowds outside the BBC. The BNP may have a right to be on question time but we have a right to show how abhorrent we think their policies are. And our combined voice will be much louder than Nick Griffin's tonight.

  • Comment number 32.

    I wish people would stop quoting what Voltaire didn't say!

    As WikiQuotes puts it: "Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire's beliefs on freedom of thought and expression."

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm glad to see that the majority view on this blog is that the BNP are indeed a bunch of racists, but that their view should be heard.

    When I listened to Peter Hain earlier this evening, I was struck by his incredible arrogance and complacency. One million people voted for the BNP. It's about time that mainstream politicians recognised this, got of their high horses and argued it out with the BNP on policies, not on hollow rhetoric. It's not up to Peter Hain or even the law courts to judge whether a political party is legitimate. They were legitimised by the many people (idiots in my opinion) that voted for them. Mr. Hain's job is to put his views, win the debate and get the BNP back on the fringe where they belong.

  • Comment number 34.

    When Griffin becomes 'fuerher' of the British nation, there won't be any questions at all about who can and can't appear on Question Time- he has already told his supporters that no other views will be aired once he's running things-
    Its dangerous naievity to think you can extend to outright Nazi's and fascists all the rights of the democracy that they plan to destroy- and by using those same rights to accomplish it.
    This is Britain not Weimar Germany, and Griffin 's probably not his beloved Hitler- though Hitler was regarded by many in the establishment as a mad buffoon before he conned his way into power. But why would we take the risk ? Don't we now have the warning from history ?

  • Comment number 35.

    Funny how people in the UK can turn anything into an anti-Israel comment, eh, UKMuslims & Dudlow? The difference is that the BNP is a political party that British people elected to the European Parliament, and Israel v Gaza is a war between two foreign countries in which there is no clear 'right' or 'wrong' unless you are already biased.

  • Comment number 36.

    Mr.Thompson:

    Does that mean that we believe the BNP should not be challenged?
    I hope that the presenter of the BBC Programme challenges the BNP opinions and his comments to the fullest extent with the respect given towards the other guests on the show...

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 37.

    Denying a point of view from Democracy is pretty Fascist. Perhaps those protesters should go canvas for their political party of choice, if they even vote at all.

    The more people attack them, the more the people who vote for them feel isolated. Maybe if politicians offer alternatives and solutions than simply laying into each other.

    I don't vote, because all their policies lack credibility, if BNP get in and do everything they say, I'll be surprised.

  • Comment number 38.

    I wasn't worried about the rise of the BNP before tonight. Having watched Question Time, I am now.

    Why? Because the performance of the panellists was absolutely woeful. They had a golden opportunity to take Nick Griffin on over his policies and all they did was queue up to see who could be the most righteously indignant. Nothing that any of the politicians said tonight has not been said many times before and yet the BNPs share of the vote has grown. The people who are voting for the BNP know they are racist - that is self-evident. Repeating the fact over and over again is manifestly failing to impact their rise.

    The only conclusion you can draw is that their voters don'r care that they are racist. Or at least, they care less about that fact than about the fact that they have no jobs, poor housing, failing education etc. The BNP seize on these concerns - valid concerns - and blame it on the easy scapegoat of immigration. In their view, if you stop immigration, the jobs will reappear and housing will get better etc.

    The truth (in my view) is that these people have no jobs because they lack the skills that employers need and they lack the motivation or the means to get those skills. So employers find better qualified staff from overseas. Immigration isn't the CAUSE of their unemployment. It is the RESULT of a failure to provide people with the skills that our economy needs.

    The job of the government (and communities) is to support these people to help them get them the right skills and make them feel like they have a stake in the rest of society.

    No-one on the Question Time panel challenged Nick Griffin to explain how his policies were going to help the people who have voted for them. No-one pointed out that his policies are flawed. No-one offered any credible alternative policy that could give hope to a disenfranchised, alienated, BNP voters. They were all more interested in getting their round of applause from the audience, totally missing the point that the Question Time audience are not the people voting for the BNP.

    I'm depressed to say that I thought Nick Griffin put up the best attempts at a coherent argument tonight - I disagree with all his proposed solutions, but he was the only one that even attempted to address the concerns of the people that are voting for him. The only other possible exception was David Dimbleby, and he was supposed to be neutral! I think tonight will have entrenched the BNPs support and probably even added to it.

    And the blame doesn't lie with the BBC. It lies with the people on the panel who had a chance to crucify him but chose to waste it in a shallow and short-sighted attempt to boost their own images.

  • Comment number 39.

    "The BBC is obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and operating within the law with due impartiality"
    The BNP is not operating within the law. It's membership criteria were found, a few days ago, to be unlawful under the Race Relations Act 1976. Je t'accuse,Mark Thompson, of an offence under the aforementioned statute.

  • Comment number 40.

    I do not class myself as a racist; however this really appears to be a motivated political circus challenged by the mainstream parties who feel threatened by a party that may actually represent a growing percentage of the British people. Thinking back to 1970’s, I would not have believed that our Government would have given Shin Fein a power sharing position in Stormont. An organisation which at the time were considered by the UK political forum as terrorists, extremists and supporters of sectarian violence, which in other words equate to religious prejudice and racism. It is always entertaining when you look back on all of this with the experience of time.
    I am all in favour of debate, but this seemed to be a complete collaborated attack on a legitimate party who has been voted in by the British people, simply because it goes against political correctness. In many respects Nick made some very simple points, the indigenous population of New Zealand are the Maori; the indigenous population of Australia are the Aborigines. I fail to see why stating that from an indigenous perspective in the UK over say the last three to five hundred years that it is racist to state that we are in the main a mixture of white Anglo Saxon, Normans and many other European countries who have ultimately invaded the UK over this period of time. To state that the white man is indigenous to Australia would be an outcry.
    Also the panel and the audience appears to be totally setup in order to try and discredit and prevent any sensible discussion of the BNP’s general policy or attitude to current economic / social issues. Where were the UKIP in the line up or even more interesting, how come they are having the guy from Strictly Come Dancing on the show next week. Interesting there was also no national geographic spread of the population asked to represent the UK population for this show, just those affluent people from the local area around London. It is easy to see why Scotland settled for devolution given this type of narrow national representation from the main stream political machine.
    What is also really worrying is that this interview with the BMP is not the end of it. Checkout the TV after this programme and we have further debates, programmes, chat shows to simply re-enforce the main-stream view away from the BMP. Just by coincidence I am sure, Panorama seem to be doing a programme all about racial hate crimes, you start to think that the BBC has an agenda here.
    As I said, I am not racist, but there seems to be a massive concerted effort to be-little and crush a small area of the UK which has seen our country change from the British Empire to what it is today in less then 100 years. A country which was leading the industrial revolution and had so much power and wealth has no become a shadow of its former self, I do not blame anyone but the government for this and by this there is not distinguish between parties. I sit here now listening to the mass propaganda against the BNP on BBC1, programme after programme about how racist our country is, all designed to coincide with Question Time. They are also covering the program with sign for those who are deaf, unfortunately they are not doing the same with SAW III on the other side. No other independent channel has any interest in Question Time, only those of the BBC or the BNP debate. Although I am not racist, I am sat here dinking a glass of wine, but all media is hitting me from all directions, BBC and BBC Radio, all re-enforcing how racist we are, how the BNP is in fact evil, how the British people are all racist.
    The more I sit here listening to all what is going on, BBC TV, BBC Radio, Internet media streams, all being projected over four monitors in my room, one interview with the BNP and all this data streaming over the internet, airwaves and other media, I am starting to wonder whether I am being programmed towards racial acceptance and that the BNP, like when Neo realises that real life exists outside the matrix, I am being shown by the BNP what the UK may be like in the future if we continue to let political correctness go mad and continue to forget all that we as a country once were.
    For all you out there who have been sucked into this circus, please do not hate me as I have had a few glasses of wine now and maybe unfortunately have witnesses the true power of television, media and internet on how to move the population of this country against anything that is not considered politically correct by the mainstream parties and population. Welcome to media manipulation.

  • Comment number 41.

    What a terrible discussion about a serious topic. If you believe that this chatter could stop the BNP, then you are wrong.

  • Comment number 42.

    theblacklabrador wrote:
    "And the blame doesn't lie with the BBC. It lies with the people on the panel who had a chance to crucify him but chose to waste it in a shallow and short-sighted attempt to boost their own images."

    But had the panellists taken the option of (in your words) "crucifying" him, wouldn't that only have led to complaints that all that they had done was to bully Griffin? You simply cannot please everyone.

    As a side-issue: I wonder if anyone has done any genealogical research in order to discover how "indigenous" Griffin actually is.

    Not that the term is particularly useful when applied to people, given that in all likelihood humans originated in south-west Africa (and thus only Angolans and Namibians might have any chance whatsoever of being "indigenous"); I'm merely curious to determine the magnitude of his hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 43.

    Mr Thompson, would you have invited a member of the Nazi party, or a member of the KKK? Or the SS? Because that is what the BNP are. A racist in a suit with weaselly language is still a racist. It is a disgrace that you gave a racist thug a platform to spout his vile opinions. And no amount of weaselly words from yourself or the BBC press office can avoid that fact. By twisting yourself up in knots about 'fairness' and 'representation' you have only made the corporation look like fools.

    and will people please stop dribbling on about 'indigenous' and about how it somehow qualifies someone to live somewhere more than another person. All such boundaries - like our national boundaries - are false contructs, and it's purely another excuse to trot out racist terms. Stop it.

  • Comment number 44.

    Mr Griffin was treated fairly by Mr Dimbleby. David stepped in many times to let Nick be heard, try to control the audience and remained fair throughout.
    If Mr Griffin had been denied a place on the panel he would still be complaining about bias.

    Bonnie Greer, the only non-polical part member on the panel was a shining beckon of light for all, as she remained impartial, made valid comments and arguments and all whilst sitting next to someone who wishes she didn't exist.

    I quite happily admit my bias: I can't stand Mr Griffin, the BNP or any kind of bigotry. However, I am a fair minded person and would certainly point out any wrong-doing by the BBC, as when the BBC becomes impartial the bigoted have something to feel good about.

    As I have seen glaring examples of bias from other networks and newstations, such as Fox News, I am very proud that our own broadcasters are fair, impartial and un-biased.

    Well done BBC, keep it up x

  • Comment number 45.

    Whilst I am pleased that the BNP were, rightly, allowed to air their views by the BBC, I certainly feel that there was a huge amount of bias against Nick Griffin on Question Time and that this was entirely unfair.
    I passionately detest the BNP and everything that it claims to stand for. What Nick Griffin said last night as not endeared him to me in any way, and I will never find myself supporting him. However, Question Time last night was an excuse for a political programme. The contributors and host turned it into a farce, and I was hugely disappointed. Mr Griffin has likened the situation to a "lynch mob" and rightly so. Had QT remained with its normal format, Griffin would have been shown to be a political lightweight and people might have seen his true colours. Sadly I think that last night's show will only have increased his popularity. The other panellists performed shockingly badly and the host was entirely uncapable of controlling the debate and remaining impartial. Bonnie Greer was the only person able to rationalise and provide sensible comments. It is very sad that the show deteriorated into such a mess, and even more sad that the Corporation seems to believe that the public believe every word they say about their supposed "impartiality". We do not, and this view only serves to create a greater sense of dissatisfaction around the BBC.

  • Comment number 46.

    I was initially supportive of the decision to invite Nick Griffin onto Question Time, recognizing the importance of free speech, and believing that if he was given enough rope he would hang himself. Not to invite him would, I thought, have made a martyr of him.
    In the event, I felt distinctly uncomfortable as I watched the programme. I wondered if the onslaught from audience and fellow-panellists alike would bring him a degree of sympathy even from those who abhor his racist views. I hate to say I agree with Griffin on anything at all, but he has a point when he says it was not a 'normal' Question Time. That, in the end, is what was wrong: it did not follow the usual format of allowing a broad range of subjects for debate, but instead focused on just one panellist's views, which somehow distorted and debased the programme. A racist bigot has thus been able not only to manipulate the BBC, but to claim sympathy which he otherwise would never deserve.

  • Comment number 47.

    I watched the show, I suppose I'm apolitical but I did think it was a bit of a witch hunt and don't think you stuck to your own views :-

    "Political parties of course have the right to be treated fairly and evenhandedly by the BBC."

    Not inviting him to the show may have made him a martyr but stoning him on-the-air wasn't much better and probably helped his cause.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm not a BMP supporter, a regular watcher of Question time, or felt the need to complain bfore, but I tuned in on Thurday to see what this BMP rise was all about.

    See some hard hitting political debate.

    What I saw was some sort of gaged debate which turned into a "mauling" of the BNP.

    I'd just like to say I was dissapointed!

    A sad day for the BBC.

  • Comment number 50.

    Thanks for the response to this very important issue. It’s been a remarkable week on which to launch the blog! You may also want to have a look at some of the many other conversations that have been taking place across bbc.co.uk.

    Prior to the actual broadcast both Ric Bailey and Rod McKenzie of Newsbeat had posted on the issue. Meanwhile PM was doing its best to gauge the public’s mood as the deadline approached.

    By the morning of the broadcast, we naturally wanted to know your verdict, which is what the 5 Live team asked. Meanwhile Nick Robinson, a man who’d reported on the demonstration the night before, gave his own viewpoint. Mark Easton focused on one very particular aspect of the debate: Jack Straw’s language. And if we were in any doubt that the debate had galvanised the whole of the UK, we had comments posted from both Northern Ireland and Scotland.

    Finally, Gavin Allen gives a robust appraisal of the media’s reaction to the programme on the BBC Editor’s blog. It appears that we may be talking about the issues raised for some time to come!

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    Having watched the Question Time under discussion I think you did the BNP in general and Mr Griffin in particular no favours as he clearly was not up to the task of defending the (in my opinion) indefensible.
    On the general question of access and free speech: the opinions that have to be protected by free speech are those nasty reviled opinions not the ones that everyone agrees with. To take a policy of proclaiming free speech for only those 'acceptable' opinions is no free speech at all. That was my long winded way of saying "Well done!"

  • Comment number 55.

    The other politicians, especially Jack Straw were more racist than the BNP leader. It is just their racism is more acceptable because it is hidden. Note how jack straw TWICE says he understand people being concerned about an increase in immigration in his constituency, ie asian immigration- yet he himself is a son of jewish immigrants.
    Politicians play the race card (and other group infighting) to keep us BUSY fighting with one another, and not pay attention to their undemocratic way of running and ruining the country with their bankers buddies who they actually serve rather than us ordinary people. Hence immigration (through instigation of wars)is designed to provide a pool of workers so that big business don't feel obliged to provide better employment pay & conditions to the British people (of any colour). Those people (including David Griffin) who fight over immigration are the useful idiots for these manipulative politicians and their big business buddies, and the BBC being on their side willingly plays its part while claiming to be a public institution. Educate yourself; there is plenty material on the internet, and refuse being the useful idiot.

 

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