Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sorry, Jack.

My apologies to Jack Straw. I wasn't sure he was up to the job of taking on Griffin. After what I've seen so far, he's done a fine job in putting the intellectual boot into Nick - although his answers on immigration drifted somewhat. Top marks to Chris Huhne and Sayeeda Warsi for equally strong performances. Bonnie Greer has so far managed to put up with sitting next to Griffin, with the disdain just dripping from her - particularly when Griffin claimed that he only associated with a leader of a non-violent KKK group - but some of her comments were the most withering of the night.

Is there a man more 'misquoted' than poor old Nick Griffin? Some gems from tonight:

"Skin colour is irrelevant"

"David Duke was a leader of a totally non-violent Ku Klux Klan"

"I'm not a Nazi and never have been"

"The BBC is part of an ultra-leftist establishment"

Nick is not coming out of this very well at all. Even Dimbleby is armed with embarrassing quotes and Griffin simply isn't able to get away with spouting his well-planned lies without being challenged. He was unconvincing and shifty, with forced laughter as he was repeatedly skewered by the other members of the panel and the vast majority of the audience. He may feel that he leads a victimised racial group, but he can be in no doubt that he is part of a minority.

I have been on the fence over whether Griffin should be challenged in this way or not - whether other parties should share a platform with him. I understand the UAF view that publicising the BNP has a documented influence on racist attacks and I also understand that this seems to equate their platform of racial thuggery with the legitimate platforms of the other parties.

The problem for me is that some people have already levelled that playing field in their own minds - that's why there are BNP councillors and now two MEPs. People feel that they can vote BNP. We can't tackle that by ignoring them - they are an unpleasant reality. The only way that democratic politicians should deal with him and his ilk is engaging on the issues and taking them on. We have to have faith in our respective platforms - regardless of political colour - and stand firm against these nutjobs. Perhaps I'm just an idealistic liberal (note the small 'l') at heart, but democratic politicians have to take on these people with the the tools of democracy - reasoned argument to challenge their prejudices and lies.

I respect those who think otherwise - I understand the positions of Peter Hain, John Hemming and Salma Yaqoob, who have all called for tonight's programme to be stopped. In truth, I don't know if I'm right, but I do know that decades of ignoring the extremists hasn't stopped them winning elections. I also don't think that we silence the nutters by removing from them 'the oxygen of publicity' - censorship has a habit of being self-defeating.

My experience in taking on the BNP at the grassroots level - getting under the smooth veneer of Griffin - is that they flourish where there is nobody to vocalise local issues in opposition to the dominant local party. Wherever you have political dominance by one party, there must be opposition by another legitimate political party to provide an alternative voice - I've seen that myself in my own ward.

In the end, perhaps we need to have faith in the fundamental decency of the majority of the British electorate. The racists will always vote for a far-right party - they have nowhere else to go, but the BNP rely on the disgruntled vote. Tell these people that giving a protest vote to the BNP is just encouraging a band of thugs, liars and racists. Offer these people a real alternative - a party that listens, understands and explains in language not dependent upon blaming another race or culture and those voters will not support the BNP.

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