Interviewing the BNP
There is something very ritualistic about interviewing the British National Party on the BBC. We go through the same editorial debate every time, we do the interview, we get complaints. Our experience on Broadcasting House this weekend was no exception (listen to it here).
There is a body of opinion that says we should never interview the BNP. We should never give it the 'oxygen of publicity'. I profoundly disagree. It is a legitimate political party with a degree of political support. The debate we have is about whether the editorial grounds for doing an interview are strong enough, about how much coverage we should do, and about how the sequence should be constructed and the interview conducted.
This weekend the editorial grounds for doing it were strong. There was the establishment of a far-right caucus in European Parliament, demonstrations outside the English National Ballet, and as Labour MP John Cruddas conceded in the piece, a BNP emboldened by a sense that the debate about multi-culturalism in the UK has shifted. The fact that in the collective memory of the programme no one could remember ever having done a BNP interview meant we were not in danger of giving it more attention that it deserves.
The other issue to consider was how to do the interview. There are different schools of thought on this. Personally I think rigorous but polite, evidence-based, dissection is far more effective than putting on a cloak of indignation and just hectoring a lot on the assumption that everyone agrees with you.
For further debate about this kind of issue have a look here.