BNP plays race card with attack on Question Time rivals

Bonnie Greer described as 'black history fabricator' and Jack Straw branded 'slimy'

The BBC has come under renewed pressure over its decision to invite the leader of the British National Party (BNP) to take part in BBC1's Question Time after the far-right party attacked non-white members of the panel.

Anti-fascist groups said last night that the corporation should rethink the inclusion of Nick Griffin in Thursday's broadcast after "racially-termed" insults were made against his fellow panellists Baroness Warsi, the shadow communities minister, and the black playwright Bonnie Greer.

Its attack on Lady Warsi, the last panellist to be announced for the programme, was posted on the party's website. "True to her Yorkshire roots [sic], she likes to call a spade a spade or a shovel even," the profile states, adding that, "the Baroness is 'bursting with ideas on how to bring together communities,' but curiously she doesn't tell us what those ideas are. My guess is she's planning coffee and (halal) cake mornings at the Markasi mosque in Savile Town" [in her home town of Dewsbury].

The party had earlier published a similar profile of Ms Greer, accusing her of being a "black history fabricator" after she made a radio programme called In Search of the Black Madonna. "What does Bonnie Greer have to do to get on to Question Time?" the BNP website asked. "Answer: Fabricate black history and be paid for it ... The reality is that none of the 'black Madonnas' of medieval Europe even remotely resemble, in facial features, black people." It also described Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary who will be appearing for the Government, as "slimy".

The anti-fascist group Searchlight said that the BBC should reconsider its position. "The BNP uses racial language, describing Bonnie Greer as a black history fabricator and smearing Sayeeda Warsi," said a spokesman. "Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the decision to invite the BNP on to Question Time in the first place, it is another thing to start abusing fellow guests in racial terms. Surely the BBC cannot ignore this."

A spokesman for the BBC said: "It is not for us to comment on content on the BNP's website."

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, yesterday stood by the corporation's decision to invite Mr Griffin on to the programme. He rejected concerns raised by Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, that the BBC could be acting unlawfully by allowing the BNP to take part. A letter from Mr Hain had suggested that the BNP's current constitution, banning black, Asian and Jewish members, meant that it was in breach of the Race Relations Act.

"According to the advice we have received, the BNP is not prevented from continuing to operate on a day-to-day basis and its elected representatives continue to sit on councils and in the European Parliament," Mr Thompson wrote in reply to Mr Hain. "It remains the BBC's obligation to scrutinise and hold to account all elected representatives and to do so with due impartiality. We are also advised that if there were to be any election tomorrow, the BNP would still be able to field candidates."

Mr Straw is to appear on the programme despite the concerns of Mr Hain and the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, who refused to take part. Downing Street said the decision to invite the BNP was one for the BBC. A No 10 spokesman added that Mr Straw's decision to take part was "not a problem".

Concerns over the inclusion of Mr Griffin are growing within the Labour Party, however. Jon Cruddas, a Labour backbencher who has never shared a platform with the BNP, said that the corporation should not have used Question Time to give the party publicity.

"While they have to give them a platform, the question is what platform," Mr Cruddas said. "Question Time is precisely the wrong format for them to use, because it lends itself to sound-bite populism. There are four other panellists and the format avoids scrutiny and in-depth dissection of people's positions. They could still have acknowledged the fact that BNP voters pay for their licence fee by giving Nick Griffin 45 minutes with John Humphrys or Andrew Neil."

Should Griffin be allowed on? The debate rages ...

Refusing the BNP a platform has stopped working: Ed Husain, Co-founder of the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation

A no-platform policy for the BNP has failed. Fifty councillors across Britain, two MPs in Brussels and one GLA member show that the "no-platform" consensus of Britain's political class is outdated. That's not to say it was wrong – it was right for its time and helped to make the BNP moderate its views.

But what now? Griffin has cut his teeth in northern cities and specialised in launching semantic attacks on Muslim communities to which very few Westminster politicians can respond with similar audacity, oomph, and conviction. How many know the difference between a Sunni and a Shia Muslim? What will Jack Straw say when Griffin launches a tirade against communal separatism in Straw's constituency, Blackburn?

Do our politicians have the courage to talk about immigration, class, Europe with the candour of Griffin? I doubt it.

Combined with the broadcast media's hunger for sensationalism, Nick Griffin has this Thursday's debate game, set and match. If all goes well, Griffin's real opposition is not Straw or Chris Huhne, but Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who can, and should, ask in all candour: "What's un-British about me, Griffin?" All power to Sayeeda. Tories, watch and learn.



The BNP are racist and laughable – but still get away with it: Douglas Murray, Author and the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion

Nick Griffin represents a fascist party which can now claim to speak for almost a million voters. This shows, among other things, that the Unite Against Fascism style of left-wing anti-BNP tactics has failed. On Thursday night UAF will hold a demo outside the BBC while the fascist Griffin sits inside on the panel.

We have to rethink the way in which we critique the BNP. Their ideas divide into the laughable and the racist. Thursday should provide an opportunity to show this, but I suspect it won't.

Politicians on the panel will spend their time running to the opposite end of the see-saw to Griffin. The only way to take the BNP apart is to explain that there are legitimate reasons for people in the UK to be worried about immigration and the future of our country but that Griffin is a racist and exactly the wrong person to deal with that.

Our government and opposition – epitomised by fellow panellists, Jack Straw and Sayeeda Warsi – have spent years cosying up to Islamic fascists. Now they have the chance to meet the nativist variety this has given succour to. I only wish they knew how to destroy what they have helped create.

The BNP succeed because MPs ignore awkward issues: Roger Scruton, Philosopher and broadcaster

Questions of the greatest concern to ordinary voters in our country are either swept aside by politicians of the mainstream parties or ruled out as undiscussable. Immigration, and the cost of it; the European Union and its effect on our way of life; the nation and its identity; and so on.

When the mainstream parties refuse to discuss issues of common concern, and when prominent people are intimidated into dissociating themselves from anyone who nevertheless does so, new political parties will emerge, which make those issues central to their identity.

The élites then close ranks, to prevent those new parties from obtaining a public voice or a shared platform. Are the people well served by this?

Should we not be making sure that the BNP has a voice in politics, so that the main political parties are compelled, at last, to come into the open concerning matters which are of the greatest concern to the people? Of course, it may be that the BNP is advocating illegal, subversive or unconstitutional measures: in which case it should be silenced by law, and not by censorship.

Nobody, so far as I know, has suggested that this is so. The "no platform" approach is therefore essentially anti-democratic, and deeply insulting to the many British subjects who would like the questions raised by the BNP to be publicly discussed by the only people – the politicians – who are in a position to address them.

Griffin is slippery and will be very difficult to pin down: Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley

I found out that Nick Griffin was standing against me in the 2005 general election a few weeks after the death of my husband in a car crash. He was the last person I wanted to hear from at that time in my life.

I have spent 12 years walking on egg shells because of my work to fight the cases of Asian young women, and not wanting that work to be twisted by the BNP so they could use it against the Asian community in my constituency. I have always refused to share a platform with the BNP and I continued to refuse during that election.

My mind is divided over his appearance. Nick Griffin is a slippery politician. He will say one thing to supporters on the doorstep and something else to the media. I find him completely distasteful. But I have no problem with someone going on the programme if they think they can benefit the cause of democracy by demonstrating to the public just what it is he is about.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness