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Tuesday 27 October 2009
Letters: BNP and Nick Griffin
Winners and losers in BNP publicity circus
I have every sympathy for the appalling experiences of racist intimidation and violence at the hands of the BNP and its sympathisers described by Paul Rees (letters, 26 October). But can I, as one of the "middle-class white liberals" he castigates – albeit one married to a non-white, conservative, immigrant, and who also works in the field of equality and human rights – please clear up his misinterpretation of why people like me supported the BNP's inclusion on Question Time.
We have no desire for the BNP to be "treated as a legitimate party" but accept, reluctantly, that they have gained sufficient electoral support to have access to the main channels of national political debate. And the BBC got the format spot-on: give him his place, but offer no pretence that it was a "normal" edition of the programme. Our main hope was that, from their own mouths, the BNP would show the ineptitude and stupidity that marks them out as the odious no-hopers they clearly are, so undermining any spurious legitimacy they may already have.
And didn't they do just that! Griffin's performance was an unmitigated disaster, for him and the BNP. In addition to some highly inappropriate grinning and clapping: he could not coherently explain his views on the Holocaust; failed to spot Bonnie Greer's implied suggestion that the BNP is the party of Neanderthal man; tried to defend an "almost non-violent" branch of the Ku Klux Klan; and misquoted the young Churchill, while claiming that his own youthful, not so youthful, and fully documented, comments had somehow been misreported.
Afterwards, far from crowing about his success, he claimed that the audience had been a "lynch mob"; unfortunate, given his reference to the Klan.
So, thanks Mr Griffin for living down to below our lowest expectations. The "mainstream" of politics looks even further away for the BNP than it did last week.
Dr Andrew Meads
Whatever the rights and wrongs of having Nick Griffin on Question Time, the sheer arrogance of Diane Abbot (24 October) is incredible. Apparently it was quite in order for her to be the first black left-winger to appear on the programme 22 years ago, but it is disgusting for a first white right-winger to be afforded the same opportunity.
This "closed shop" attitude by the main political parties is what infuriates people and draws them to outsiders like the BNP.
D S Davies
Your report "Griffin's performance gets a more sympathetic hearing in his heartland" (24 October) gave a distorted view of Barnsley, describing the BNP as "part of the everyday political fabric" of the town.
In the recent by-election, Barnsley Trades Council and Unite Against Fascism leafleted every house explaining what the BNP really stands for. In spite of a massive effort by the BNP the turnout increased by 25 per cent and the BNP vote dropped. When voters are given the facts, they turn their back on Griffin's extremism.
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
The main point to come out of Question Time was that Jack Straw and Labour refuse to accept that immigration is a major concern for many people and blame the expenses scandal for people voting BNP. The main parties are burying their heads in the sand on this issue.
Mass immigration at a time of mass unemployment is leading to social unrest and unless it is addressed the situation will get worse.
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
I hope that viewers of Question Time will have noticed that on the platform were four men and two women. This is the standard, except when there are five men and one woman. I can't remember when there were last three men and three, or more than three, women. Question Time seems to see itself as being exempt from considering the issue of gender balance; its message is that current affairs are safe in the hands of men. Only they aren't.
In 2006 I was in the audience of Question Time when Sir Andrew Green, from Migrationwatch, was one of the guest panellists. A question about Britishness led to a discussion about immigration. Sir Andrew stressed many times that his organisation is not concerned with the colour of skin or religion, but simply in numbers of people. His views were met with silence and David Dimbleby moved quickly on to Ming Campbell who disingenuously laboured the point that to have a cosmopolitan city was fabulous; London has great restaurants. This was met with much applause. It seems that even to raise the subject of immigration makes one a racist.
Sir Andrew Green is the acceptable face of the discussion on immigration. If even he cannot be respectfully heard, many will unfortunately head for the BNP.
Griffin said he could not answer questions about his view on the Holocaust because it would breach European law. The law concerns Holocaust deniers. If to speak would break that law and he cannot speak, then, clearly, we know what his view is. If he believed 6 million Jews died in the death camps, he could say so without risk of prosecution.
John Stacey (letters, 24 October) writes of councils which substitute "Winter lights" for Christmas lights to avoid causing "offence" to non-Christians.
I was a Hindu pupil at a Catholic convent school in India in the 1960s. Many of us attended midnight mass and marvelled at the beauty of the hymns and the service, without losing our Hindu identity or devaluing a deeply religious experience for our Catholic friends by treating it as a bland multicultural entertainment show.
As a Hindu in this country, I have no objection whatsoever to Christmas being celebrated as a Christian festival. As with Diwali and Eid, everyone can join in the celebrations but should respect the religious significance for the members of the faith concerned.
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Contrary to Nick Griffin's ridiculous claim that the majority of the British public support the BNP's immigration policy, evidence from our refugee integration project, Time Together, proves quite the opposite. Since July this year, there has been a waiting list of British people who have signed up to mentor a refugee to help them integrate into the UK.
Since its inception, the project in London alone has matched over 500 refugees with Londoners willing to give up their time to make a newcomer feel at home in the UK. In fact, our statistics show that the main reason why volunteers sign up to the project is because they want to welcome people from different cultures and backgrounds into this country.
Chief Executive, TimeBank, London SE1
The BBC should not have changed the format of Question Time to focus relentlessly on subjects identified with the BNP. However vile Nick Griffin's views are, he won the right to appear by virtue of his democratic election to the European Parliament, and as such should have been accorded equal treatment.
To do otherwise fuels the very sense of ostracism felt by many voters who turned to the BNP in recent years and is a gift to the BNP propaganda machine that wishes to portray the establishment as incapable of understanding or accommodating the views of its supporters and their fellow-travellers.
The BNP received 948,598 votes, or over 6 per cent, of the total in the European Parliament elections in June because some working-class voters feel that they are no longer represented by mainstream parties, particularly Labour.
The working class is also ignored by the national media, especially the broadsheets, and the traditional political voice for the working class, the trade unions, now have much reduced power and find themselves criticised by the party they helped to found.
Mainstream parties should try to understand working-class lifestyles, concerns and attitudes. If they don't, they will continue to lose support to parties like the BNP.
Baildon, West Yorkshire
Women in the Catholic church
Mary Wakefield is being disingenuous when she refers to the Roman Catholic church championing women's rights (24 October). Indeed it does, and a lot of other people's too; the quality of its social teaching is unparalleled.
But at the same time the Roman Catholic authorities deny any of these rights to their own members. Formal authority and decision-making reside solely in the ordained – a tiny group of celibate men. Any decision taken by the non-ordained is purely at the discretion of the local bishop.
As she appears to be such an enthusiast for Roman Catholicism, Mary Wakefield could usefully employ her journalistic talents to help restore, in practical terms, the gospel equality of all the baptised – a battle many of us have been engaged in for decades.
MPs should play by their own rules
Last year, our MPs were happy to impose a retrospective pay deal on the police rather than back-date a delayed agreement and pay it in full in accordance with the rules which existed at that time.
This year, they threatened to impose retrospective legislation to claw back some of the pension from Sir Fred Goodwin which had been agreed within the rules by RBS.
Yet when Sir Thomas Legg imposes limits on what they can claim for housecleaning and gardening retrospectively, they bleat about his ruling being totally unfair and contrary to the rules of natural justice.
North Shields, Tyne & Wear
Misrepresentation of southern Darfur
In your report "Darfur: a deadly new chapter" (17 October), you refer to "the Christian south", whereas other sources correctly state that the overwhelming majority of southern Sudanese are, in fact, animists; see the US Library of Congress, for example.
It may seem a moot point – but it's more than just a question of accuracy. Misrepresenting the south as "Christian" is the very reason why the US Evangelical and Baptist church movements have got their teeth stuck into Sudan in the first place – yet remain flummoxed by the problems of southern Sudan (which are mainly tribal and economic underdevelopment-related, not religious, in nature).
I am a saver with and a shareholder in two high-street banks. It seems to me that the money paid out in bonuses is my money. If they can afford to pay enormous sums to their CEOs, they can afford to pay me more interest, or to increase my dividends. The bonuses constitute robbery.
Lord Greaves (letters, 23 October) points out that Cameron's plan for all-women shortlists in certain constituencies, against the will of local parties, sits ill with his denigration of "top down" government or his calls for more "localism". Lord Greaves could have mentioned a further worrying example. In the latest abrogation of Cameron's own espoused principles, Tory policy, if elected, is to give the final decision on large controversial planning projects to the minister concerned, to be decided within a rigid timescale. Cameron's intentions do not match up with his soundbites. Big talk, but Big Government will remain unchanged.
Should the European Space Agency or Nasa wish to take up Richard Grant's suggestion (letters, 26 October) of colonising the Moon with plants from Earth, may I recommend that they begin the experiment with Ground Elder and Japanese Knotweed?
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