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Tuesday, October 20, 2009 

The BNP, no platform, Churchill and Question Time.

Nick Griffin must be having what is almost certainly the greatest week of his political life. At last invited to join the political mainstream on Question Time, the target of an incredibly crass and perplexing campaign by the armed services of all people against their pathetic but predictable use of imagery from WW2 in their election literature, and now with the member list leaked yet again, he can't really have wished for more attention or publicity for either himself or his party.

At the very heart of the debate about how to deal with extremists, not just including the BNP but also the likes of the English Defence League as well as the more radical Islamists is whether giving them enough rope to hang themselves with is a good idea or not. As you may have guessed from that last sentence, I've always doubted the efficacy of the "no platform" stance which was taken against the party up until very recently. As much as the likes of Unite Against Fascism and other similar groups have the right intentions, their own authoritarian leanings and determination to stop the BNP from exercising their democratic right, especially when invited to student debates, is self-defeating in the extreme. There was perhaps a case when the British National Party was more anti-democratic than it currently is, and more openly racist and radical in its policies for it to be denied the right to spread their hatred, but even if Griffin's "sanitising" of the party is just for show as it almost certainly is, that time now has almost certainly passed.

The English Defence League, on the other hand, is probably the most dangerous organisation outside of the actual terrorist groupings currently active in this country. Their tactics, clearly aimed at inciting tension, have the very real possibility of starting race riots akin to those which shook northern towns and cities in the summer of 2001. If you're now expecting that I'm going to say that they therefore have to be denied the right to protest or make their point, I'm not. No, in this instance they both need to be exposed as the deeply racist morons which they clearly are, by more widely distributing footage and reports of their marches, and by being challenged by the likes of the UAF, which seems to have resulted mainly so far in the UAF being the clear winners. In some circumstances their demonstrations may well have to possibly be banned, much as I loathe the idea of outlawing any expression of dissent, purely because of the potential there is for widespread disorder.

Lastly, we have the likes of Anjem Choudary and his ilk. The main threat from such extremists is again, not from anything they are likely to do, but instead from the rage which their bile induces in others. The difference here is that the best way to deal with Choudary and co is to, simply, ignore them. The English Defence League speak for those who find the BNP too tame, which is a distinct minority, but a minority which is almost certainly far larger than that of those they are claiming to be demonstrating against. The remnants of al-Muhajiroun are best dealt with as internet trolls are: don't feed them, ignore them and laugh at them. There is after all something deeply amusing about the Islam4UK campaign, and their page on how Trafalgar Square would look under Sharia law itself is certainly a humourous attempt at trolling; either that or Choudary and his willing army of photoshoppers has cracked even further than before. The seriousness with which the likes of the Express treats this silliness only encourages them further, as almost certainly will the coverage their doubtless tiny march will receive. 5,000 marching for Sharia? They'll be lucky to get 500.

It's a similar kind of silliness which is behind the speaking out of past generals against the BNP's use war imagery and evocations. When neo or post-fascists in, Italy, say, use wartime propaganda, it's worrying. When neo or post-fascists in Britain use it, it's just ridiculous. A fascist party putting Winston Churchill on their leaflets, Spitfires and calling their European parliament campaign the "Battle for Britain"? It's almost Monty Python-esque, unless you take it seriously and get outraged. Here's a question for Nick Griffin: which side should have won WW2? For someone who has previously denied the Holocaust, his reply, or non-reply, would be fascinating. It's also hardly as if it's just the BNP using Churchill and faux-patriotism for their ill-gotten gains: UKIP had Churchill on their election paraphernalia as well, equally deceptively, while as the Heresiarch points out all parties and this government have abused history. The biggest insult to Churchill right now is that most people only associate the name with a nodding dog that advertises insurance, and no one's suddenly going to start a campaign about that.

It's dispiriting enough that Griffin is likely to come off reasonably well from his appearance on Question Time without giving him such an open goal to shoot into. The BNP did after all oppose the Iraq war, although I'm uncertain over what their position on Afghanistan was at the time and what is now; while Griffin's referral to the Nuremberg trials falls into the category mentioned above, just how does a general who commanded his forces in a war of aggression respond to being alluded to as a war criminal? How does the attack on the "Tory" generals not ring true? Who possibly thought this campaign was a good idea and would achieve anything other than giving the BNP further publicity?

All this said, the BBC's claim that they suddenly have to include Griffin on QT because they've now got a few seats on councils and in the European parliament is false. They primarily want Griffin on and have wanted him on because they know it'll make good television; now they finally have their excuse. It comes at a time when the BBC's interpretation of what their impartiality and legal responsibilities are is becoming ever muddied: refusing to show the appeal for Gaza mainly because of the fear of the Israel lobby, yet Griffin must be allowed on because of the law? Poppycock. There is a case for giving BNP much more coverage than it currently gets, giving Griffin a proper, Paxman or Humphrys grilling, even putting him before an audience as other political leaders are, where others have often come unstuck. Question Time though is just general discussion: Griffin will simply be the centre of attention, distract everyone, and subvert the whole programme to be all about him rather than questions from the public. This isn't to argue he shouldn't appear, but when Griffin is up against such a piss-poor panel, with Jack Straw, the horrendous, screeching Sayeedi Warsi and Bonnie Greer, with Chris Huhne the only person likely to be able to begin to hold him to account, you have to wonder whether the BNP themselves didn't leak their membership list, just to add to the free ride they're being given.

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