The BBC have, without doubt, handed Nick Griffin and the BNP a potential PR coup by allowing him to appear on Question Time. It is very likely that Griffin will be working desperately hard to avoid belching racist bile, especially as the programme surrounds him – in the interests of the BBC’s “central principle of impartiality” – with Jack Straw (Jewish ancestry and, appropriately, Labour’s Justice secretary), Lady Warsi (Muslim Conservative peer), the critic Bonnie Greer (African American) and token Lib Dem Chris Huhne.
Griffin’s PR nous comes hard earned – the BNP’s Director of Publicity, Mark Collett, has had his share of run-ins with the television, having been caught on camera during Channel 4’s Young, Nazi, and Proud documentary in 2002 declaring his admiration for Adolf Hitler and calling homosexuals “AIDS monkeys” on Russell Brand’s Re:Brand show in the same year. Collett is highly unlikely to want Griffin to fall into the same trap, despite the strong likelihood that he will be mercilessly provoked.
So should we allow a thug in a well-cut suit on the TV to attempt to seduce the masses? Is Griffin likely to raise his status to that of statesman in the circumstances? Prohibition would, I suspect, be more likely to fan the flames of disaffection among voters – who have much to be disaffected about at the moment, hence the 6% who voted BNP in the European elections – and the last thing most people, let alone most politicians, want is to allow them more chances to snare votes.
The hope, then, is that Griffin will succumb to anger and show his dark side, which has been slathered in nice suits and careful spin for the last few years. Gordon Brown has gone on record this morning to say that: “it will be a good opportunity to expose what [the BNP] are about”. Russell Brand has said it with more style in The Sun. According to Brand it will help to let the BNP “gurgle up their chuckle-brained hate-broth” on Question Time. “The right thinking people of the Earth are on relatively safe ground when it comes to the ‘war of words’ with televised bigots,” he adds.
A few years ago Griffin told a meeting of the American Friends of the BNP (which included the then leader of the Ku Klux Klan) that: “Once we’re in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, ‘yes, every last [immigrant] must go’. But if you hold that out as your sole aim to start with, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.”
With this in mind, I think that Michael Corleone’s advice in The Godfather Part 2 – “Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer” – is the best bet. Let’s keep Griffin and his hateful, hate-full party close and hope that they deliver a horse’s head to their own bed, making it clear just how appalling their views, which they keep simmering under the veneer of careful PR, really are.