The great news furore here in Britain is about the appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, on the BBC’s Question Time programme. Since I suspect this has hardly featured in the news outside the UK, let me explain for those of you logging in from Riyadh or Brisbane. The BNP are the British equivalent of France’s National Front – they made a small electoral breakthrough at the last Euro-elections and now have two MEPS. (Griffin is one of them.) Since Question Time is probably the most prestigious political programme on TV, it is a big step for Griffin to be allowed on.
Along with 8m other people, I watched the programme last night – and I thought Griffin was reassuringly bad. I had expected him to be smooth, well-prepared and unflappable. As it was, he looked sweaty, nervous, incoherent and ingratiating. One of his big problems is that he has a long history of racist statements – some of them made on tape – that he is now trying to shrug off. His efforts to deny his previous record of Holocaust-denial was embarrassingly evasive – like the worst sort of slippery politician. His suggestion that he had appeared alongside the Ku Klux Klan, partly to persuade them of the error of their ways was ludicrous. So, all in all, I share the views of Matthew Engel in today’s FT – that it was a good move to put Griffin on television, because he made an idiot of himself. Read more