Leading article: The untalented Mr Griffin

Related Topics

So the appearance of the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, on the BBC's Question Time has come and gone. What has it left behind, aside from several hundred frustrated protesters who failed to stop it from happening and Mr Griffin's complaint to the BBC that he faced a "lynch mob"?

There was, rightly, much argument about whether the BBC should have invited Mr Griffin to participate. Like it or not, however – and we dislike it intensely – the British National Party is a legal entity; it puts up candidates for election. It now has two legitimately elected MEPs.

In these circumstances, it would have been wrong for the BBC to treat the BNP differently from other minority parties, whose leaders and elected representatives appear routinely on the whole panoply of political programmes. To have excluded them from Question Time any longer would have fuelled the claims of the BNP and its supporters that, although they play by the rules of the constitutional game, the BBC and the political establishment do not. It would have compounded the BNP's sense of victimhood.

That said, it was probably inevitable – while patently undesirable – that the programme turned into a Question Time like no other. Not only was there a throng of protesters outside – probably more numerous and rowdy than the BBC and the police had bargained for – but the composition of the panel and studio audience was tailored to the BNP leader's participation.

And when Mr Griffin complained about having to face a "lynch mob" and being "howled down" by the audience, regrettably, he had a point. There was a hectoring and bullying aspect to the show that pitted the other four guests, and the majority of the audience, against him. That might be a fairly accurate representation of British opinion in relation to the BNP, but it is not what happens when other minority parties, such as the Greens or UKIP, are on the panel. Nor, when, say, UKIP appears is three-quarters of the time devoted to Europe. Mr Griffin and the BNP dominated the proceedings.

For anyone tempted to support the BNP, Mr Griffin's poor response to pressure might make them think again. As a politician, he was not canny enough to turn his position to his advantage; he could not deploy wit in his defence, nor did he have the confidence to protest to David Dimbleby – as he could have done – that he had come to talk about policies, not take a beating. But the way in which he was pilloried may have inspired more sympathy than he or the BNP deserve.

When the hour was up, viewers might have learnt something about Mr Griffin's strengths and, mostly, weaknesses, but they would not have been much clearer about the party's policies. That was a failure of the programme and why, not without misgivings, we say that the BNP needs to become a regular feature of political discussions. It is not hectoring or mystique, but familiarity that breeds contempt.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home