When I was growing up, I quickly learned to cross the road whenever I saw a group of skinheads.
I recall the National Front distributing leaflets outside my school.
I remember Blair Peach, the school teacher from New Zealand who died during a demonstration by the Anti-Nazi League in 1979.
I remember the shooting of Cherry Groce and the death of Cynthia Jarrett and the London riots of the early 1980s that were sparked as an indirect result. I will also never forget Stephen Lawrence.
So yeah – I don’t exactly embrace the British National Party. Or any form of extremism come to that, whether it’s based on race or religion. I don’t agree with a goddamn thing Nick Griffin says. But he does have a right to his opinion.
Like it or not, he was democratically elected as the Member of the European Parliament for North West England. The people that voted for him should be able to see him engage in political debate – even if it’s on the BBC.
But more importantly, it’s the people that didn’t vote for his party that need to hear what he has to say. As well-intentioned as the objections from the likes of long-time anti-Apartheid campaigners Peter Hain and Jerry Dammers of The Specials were, personally, I don’t agree with them.
I want to know what I’m up against. For that reason, I’m glad the BBC didn’t back down. I agree with their stance on this matter.
To the show itself. The panellists were Jack Straw (Jewish), Sayeeda Warsi (Muslim), Chris Huhne (that surname doesn’t sound Anglo-Saxon to me) and Bonnie Greer (black American Anglophile) – who was placed next to Nick Griffin (white skin. But who knows what his heritage is? Does he?).
Loving the work of whoever did that. Can you imagine said person organising a dinner party? They’d probably put Peter Andre next to Katie Price.
On a side note, can I just say that I love Bonnie Greer’s hair? If I ever get to meet her, I’ll broach the subject of the role of women in Richard Wright’s classic novel Native Son and then I will ask her who does her hair.
Then again, she’ll probably tell me that she does it herself because she’s all dat and a bag of chips. Can you tell that I admire Ms Bonnie?
So back to the show and emotions were running high – I swear I could feel the nervous energy coming out of my TV set. I’m a David Dimbleby fan; I thought he did an admirable job chairing the discussion and keeping it on track. Can you imagine this same panel but with the late Sir Robin Day in the chair? I’m drooling at the thought.
Naturally a great deal of the questions were directed at Nick Griffin, who spent most of the night denying quotes attributed to him: he didn’t say that black people walked like monkeys. He never said "Thank you Auntie" because the Beeb had let him on the show. He didn’t say that Adolf Hitler went "a bit too far". What the flying duck did he say then?
The (very mixed) audience didn’t let Nick Griffin get away with everything, although when it came to the subject of immigration and migration, Jack Straw wasn’t off the hook either. One of the questioners asked if the success of the BNP could be explained by the "misguided immigration policies of the government."
Let’s just say that Mr Straw’s dithering answer was far from convincing and leave it at that. Be prepared – that’s the Scout motto. Pity Jack Straw ignored it. He knew he was sharing a platform with Nick Griffin – did he not think that the question of immigration would come up at some point? If you’re going abroad, you don’t leave your passport at home.
Similarly, Jack Straw should’ve explained the government’s stance with conviction to shut Griffin up. He didn’t. In fact, his performance on the whole was largely ineffectual. And some people wonder why the BNP gets votes. It’s partly because the mainstream parties are failing to engage with the grassroots in constituencies up and down this country. And they’re failing to connect on the issues that matter to those voters.
Thank the lord for the calm, intelligent Bonnie Greer and her courteous, patient handling of Nick Griffin. She treated him as if he was Harry Enfield’s Kevin The Teenager – it was pretty funny. After yet another spurious assertion about Britain’s racial background, she even invited him to visit the British Museum (of which she is the Deputy Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees) to learn the anthropological history of Britain. With a few choice words, my girl exposed his stupidity far better than all the politicians on the panel combined.
Truth is, Griffin talked a load of codswallop. Like so many politicians, he’s a bloody hypocrite too. What’s a man like him, a man who wants the UK to be ‘all white’, doing begging Muslim, brown-skinned Libyans for money to fund his ideologies? Can any of you BNP voters see the logic in that?
When caught out like a deer-in-the-headlights, he resorted to bouts of slimy, insincere laughing. I’m not talking a little titter either – I mean great, big belly chuckles complete with clapping. He looked like a braying seal. This happened on a number of occasions. It was weird. It made him seem less like a dangerous threat to British democracy (to sum up the view of opponents to his Question Time appearance ) and more like a buffoon. Which is exactly what he is – a prize idiot.
The water cooler moment came from an Asian man who began his question: "Dick Griffin… I mean Nick." Dick Griffin is now a trending topic on Twitter; I kid you not. The man went on to passionately declare his Britishness before launching into the topic of repatriation. "Where do you want me to go?" he asked before striking the killer blow. "You’d be surprised how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket and your supporters… to go to the South Pole. That’s a colourless landscape, it would suit you fine." Booyakasha!
And so Question Time raced to its end (where did all the time go?) and the credits ran and the world didn’t end. So now we can get back to more important issues like who’s gonna win X Factor and why do the people behind that Tena advert think that a woman painting a man’s toenails will make incontinence pads sexy?
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Today I am mostly lovin’ – Found a tape with loads of old episodes of Neighbours. Paul (Robinson) and Gail (Lewis) had that will they/won’t they thing going on. I’m a sucker for unresolved sexual tension – one reason I’m so hooked on House.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – Actor Stephen Graham has hit out at the lack of investment in quality British drama. He’s "gutted" about the demise of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street – aren’t we all…
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