22 October will see the BNP Fuhrer, Nick Griffin, pop up on Question Time for the first time and Labour are putting Jack Straw up against him.
I'm in two minds over this. On the one hand, we've had a policy for a while of refusing to share a platform with the BNP as there is no point in giving them the oxygen of publicity. The logic goes that the BNP can only win as a result of this appearance - the detail of the argument doesn't matter to their supporters and fellow travellers. This marks their entry to the mainstream and by agreeing to debate with them, we only help them.
The counter to that is that the BNP have councillors, they now have two elected MEPs and that means that they can no longer be written off as cranks and nutcases. While it is true that Griffin and Brons only won because the Labour vote stayed at home, the fact remains that they are no elected members. Ignoring them, marginalising them only confirms their status as victims and makes them more intriguing to the voter, curious as to why this party is being ignored. It also feeds their own story of the 'Old Gang' of the three other parties working to keep this 'voice of the people' out and we know how much the BNP like playing up their victimhood.
Frazer Nelson has some interesting thoughts on this, following his appearance this week. I'm disappointed that we've put Straw up for this, as I don't think he'll be as effective as someone like Jon Cruddas. We need someone who understands the BNP on the ground and can connect with their audience to put a different point of view across to them. Jack Straw is unquestionably a big hitter, but he'll need to be very direct and tackle the issues without simply relying on calling Griffin and his party members racist thugs. Cruddas would have a different and, I think, a better approach - more of a streetfighter than Straw's patrician.
Nelson suggests David Davies from the Tories, which would be a good foil for Cruddas, as both are on the fringes of the front bench, but neither currently have a senior role, so it wouldn't look like Griffin was worth a cabinet-level opponent. If we are going to have Straw, then let's have Hague from the Tories, as he's a fine, highly intelligent and witty debater.
As for the Lib Dems, can I suggest Vince Cable or Charles Kennedy? Both are competent, respected and popular. All that then leaves is a fifth seat for the non-party speaker. Shami Chakrabarti would be an interesting choice, as she is reasoned, extremely bright and capable of fighting her own corner.
It could be a very interesting programme.