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Labour should put minister up against Griffin on Question Time

Posted on 6 September 2009 | 12:09pm

BBC Question Time is not alone among programmes in wanting to attract as much attention to itself as it can. In a noisy, crowded marketplace, where viewers have almost infinite choice of how to spend their TV and online time, if you’re not known, you unlikely to get watched.

So they will not be unhappy to see the coverage today of the controversy over their plan to have BNP leader Nick Griffin on the programme.

Griffin’s appearance is clearly going to happen, the build up will be big, there will probably be demos at the recording, and angry debate among Griffin, other guests, and the studio audience. Anger among the audience has become a key part of the programme. I’m not sure whether it has enhanced the quality of the debates on there, but when the media was driving the expenses furore for all it was worth, the ratings rose.

If and when Griffin does appear, the BBC will report it extensively in advance, which will help ratings rise again.

In the BBC’s defence, the BNP has won seats in European Parliamentary elections, and under the rules of impartiality, they have to reflect that. The other parties have to respond to this change too. The line that ‘we do not share a platform with the BNP’ is less easy to hold.

Griffin’s worldview is repulsive, his political methods equally so, but as I said at the time of the European elections, the BNP have to be taken on and beaten in argument.

At local level, where the BNP have been elected, other parties have had no choice but to sit down and debate with them. And where the BNP have been put in a position of actually making decisions on services, or making a case under pressure, they have tended to fail.

That says to me there would be no harm in putting a strong and efffective minister up against Griffin on a programme watched by more than watch most political programmes, some of whom may be tempted to fall for the BNP bilge.

  • Barbara Cannon

    I entirely agree that Griffin and his party needs to be exposed for what they are and there is no greater medium than television debate. I agree it will be fierce and there will be those that try to stop it happening. Of course I can well imagine Griffin using the anti BNP build us to pull out at the last minute. Which may actually earn him and his foul party some sympathy.

    Lets put up our own strong contender and take him on.

  • Em

    He’s been elected and should be confronted but it does not follow that exposing NG for a foul and stupid human being will lead to any kind of decline for him and his party. Enough Brits are angry for the BNP to remain a reality of political life. Mark my words: his appearance on Question Time will raise his approval rating.

  • Helene Pearson

    Used to love Question Time with Robin Day. Never quite worked for me since and in recent years it has become a bit of a rabble. The producers obviously think public shouting at politicians is good tv. They’re wrong. As for Griffin, I agree the other parties have to take on the arguments. People will listen to considered argument, even if the programmes don’t really want them

  • Alan G

    Looking at your Facebook page, seems a lot of agreement for what you’re saying. Also I understand Tories and Lib Dems agree, so it is only really Labour HQ saying no, or not sure. this looks like one of those decisions that in Blair’s day, you and he would have got a decision made quickly, and stuck by it. Am on standby for lots of dithering, all of it to the benefit of BBC hype and Griffin.

  • Sandra Paulson

    What it should not become is Establishment v BNP. That plays into his hands. Has to be real debate about real issues, not all the obvious ones. Ask him what he thinks about tax, nuclear energy, health reform is the States … he will not have a clue.

  • Alan Quinn

    Agree with you whole heartedly Ally, many white working class voters feel let down by the mainstream parties, that’s why the BNP have been elected at local and national level.
    Knowing Labour we’ll put up a one of the romper room against Griffin. I’ll suggest a couple of beackbenchers, either Dennis Skinner or Andrew McKinley. I feel they would more than hold their own against anyone.

  • Robyn Bryan

    I agree with Sandra. This should be a proper, rabble rousing debate, to show NG and the BNP for what they are.
    However, I am concerned that this would not happen during broadcast. I saw many of the Question Time episodes during the expenses row, and quite a few of them seemed to lose direction and the point, as more and more people got angry and refused to talk about anything else.

    I am also concerned that the debate could be used as propaganda, in order to show that the BNP are (somehow) talking sense, further helping their sick ‘isolated because we are speaking the truth’ mentality.

  • gary Enefer

    It is called Question Time and so NG,having been voted in by some people,needs to attend and give his answers like any other panel member – that’s his and our rights in a Democracy.

    We shouldn’t be preparing some sort of bruiser to take him on. Just let the programme take place in the usual way.

    By the way i have asked to be accepted on your FB page but do not know if this is the way to see your page – which is often mentioned on this blog. If you do not wish to accept personal requests from the public (me!) can I access the FB page?Help please.

  • Simon Gittins

    Which strong and effective minister do you suggest ?, not exactly spoilt for choice at the moment.

  • Paul Durrant

    ‘Griffin’s worldview is repulsive’

    How many 100s of thousands of innocent deaths since 1997 has the Labour Party been criminally responsible for at the last count?

    Is starting wars for oil at American behest,lying to the media, smearing the wives and daughters of political opponents and destroying the UK from within economically and socially ‘nice’ rather than repulsive ?

  • @jlocke13

    not sharing a platform with the BNP just lets them off the hook…they must be held to account for their views…if it is ok to converse with terrorists then it is ok for politicians of all parties to debate with the BNP…as for a strong and effective minister..oxymoron comes to mind.

  • wyrdtimes

    I agree with a lot of that. But it begs the question, where are Labour going to find this “strong and efffective minister”?

    Where are they hiding this person?

  • Ian Eastwood

    In a strong democracy we should have nothing to fear from the likes of NG. I agree he must be held to account for the platform the BNP have been elected on.
    Labour must put somebody up against them, not necessary a bruiser but someone Who is cleaver enough to weed out the weakness in there bigoted views. I suggest John Denham

  • gary Enefer

    My friend Sadiq Khan is an effective MP and very hard working politician.

  • Dorcas

    Any Labour minister who appears alongside Griffin doesn’t need to be clever; he needs a leg to stand on! The BNP vote is a protest vote not an expression of support. The usual disgust is not going to work; wet liberal rabble-rousing is not going to work. Indeed I advise NL not to plant supporters in the audience with the intention of drowning out debate with sloganising. It will increase people’s sense of impotent fury at this government! The problem is that NL appear more and more to be a shambolic collection of bloody fools and gutless into the bargain. Gutless is never a votecatcher in a recession.

    Mr and Mrs 98.5 faced the new school term worried sick about jobs, the mortgage, food and power bills with the spectre of Christmas hovering. That big avuncular, distracted teddy bear, Gordon Brown, is busy making a speech about the environment. Yes, there’s a bigger picture but Britain in recession is 60 million small, increasingly bleak pictures depicting private non-global tragedies. I suggest NL familiarises itself with these and pays attention to them. Someone take aside the unfortunate spokesperson-to-be and put the following questions to him/her before Griffin does:

    Who do you think New Labour represents in Britain today?
    I advise against the benign waffle so characteristic of NL; I suggest you tell Griffin that Britain is the most tolerant country in the world which is why we are a popular destination. Go on to admit that NL finger-wagging, self-righteous PC blustering and transparently engineered “inclusiveness” has inflamed, not improved the situation and masked a terror of tackling illegal immigration (my neighbour, a Ugandan Asian shopkeeper, is furious at NL’s lack of action), of tackling terrorism and its British supporters decisively, of tackling immigrants who cannot and will not tolerate the British way of life. Then, tell Mr Griffin what NL is going to do about it.
    Why did it take three years, 40 million taxpayers’pounds and 2 trials to convict men who were caught seemingly bang to rights and who intended to kill 3000 innocent people?
    Face Griffin then open and shut your mouth like a fish…

    Why have you castrated the police force?
    Its job is now to keep the peace at all costs, keep the crime stats down but not to uphold the law. Indeed, those of us in social housing are treated as part of the criminal subculture; we aren’t allowed the luxury of moral outrage. Pensioners are expected to live above and below junkies who steal from and then threaten them; the CPS and Fiscals don’t prosecute. Junkies/drunks buying their poison with disability benefits so generously provided are part of everyday scenery for many of our children (in Scotland methadone is provided free to be sold on, no rehab strings attached!). To anti-social tenants, addicts, vandals and unruly kids, the police are a joke. Moreover when they announce they are losing the battle against drugs and related crime, NL brushes them aside. We in social housing live with this. Our miseries are compounded by councils and housing associations who claim they are forced by government to house criminals, junkies and the unsupervised mentally ill amongst us. We discover that tenancy regulations are a joke; almost no-one is evicted; re-housing requests by victims are routinely refused. What do we matter, anyway? Once the gap between the law and our natural sense of justice becomes too wide, once any government allows it to happen whilst telling us continually that we are wrong and that everything is fine really, when we know we are right and it isn’t, fascism will surely follow.

    Explain to Mr Griffin that the reason the British “family” is in a mess is that for more than a decade NL has been listening to 2 difficult children, throwing money and resources at them, tolerating demands and tantrums and trying to cajole them into good behaviour. It hasn’t worked. Moreover, the other eight children in the family are seething with resentment at being taken for granted for so long. They have learned that under NL, the wingeing minority is the only voice heard and the destructive minority is cushioned from cradle to grave and thus has no incentive to contribute to society. Who but an idiot would give up a life of leisure on a nice disposible income, rent provided?.

    Some (though not I) may be tempted to “fall for the BNP bilge”. Others may stay with the current bilge. NL has turned itself into a sitting target by losing the support of the very people who voted it in. Are there any men or women of intellect, principle, charisma and wit left to squash a flea like Griffin in a public debate or are such qualities now considered elitist at NL HQ? I fear we’ll need to dig up Nye Bevan. I think I can hear him rolling about anyway.

  • Iain Gill

    The British People have genuine concerns which the current political correctness prevents them discussing

    Labour sound bite “it will be much harder for British firms to employ non European workers” which is just spin and no substance, after Gordon’s famous “British jobs for British workers”

    We have a problem with floods of 3rd world workers in this country. the problem is the inter company transfer visas! The leading Indian outsourcers Cognizant, Satyam, Tech Mahindra, Tata etc etc have tens and tens of thousands of staff here on these Visas. The staff are not in much of a real sense working for the company which brought them in, rather they are immediately subcontracted (for less than a European could possibly afford to work for) into our public sector and large companies. India is sucking up some of our key skills, and forcing our own workforce out of work. I should add that such folk after a few years here are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain and there we have it totally uncontrolled immigration. Also worth noting that they can bring their family in, partners and children who are also entitled from day one of entry access to the NHS and our education system. WHEN I WORK ABROAD I PAY FOR MY HEALTHCARE AND KIDS EDUCATION! Some very seriously ill people coming into the country via this route and draining our health resources. To say nothing of those bring a few kids in and taking places at schools that just could never have planned for such unplanned extra heads to educate. There maybe enough school places on average in the country but there sure is not in the hotspot areas. Many have already got indefinite leave to remain (due to time in the country, or having kids here), when they get this they are finally able to leave the company which brought them in, get a job anywhere in the UK, and help force down even more wages for Europeans (as they had been doing already when subcontracted via their Indian outsourcer). Up until that point they are treated very badly like modern days slaves, indentured servitude. Now the outsourcing and offshoring business has already moved countless tens of thousands of our most highly skilled jobs to India, and similar countries. we have compounded this by allowing totally unrestricted inward movement of Indian nationals on inter company transfer visas. This cannot continue. The country cannot sustain this. Normal market forces are totally broken, and the UK really needs to think long and hard about how it is going to compete with countries which disregard health and safety and the norms of good employment practise. We should be educating and training our own people, and market forces without this influx would have forced employers to spend more on training our own workforce. Sadly I expect real serious problems for us ahead if we allow this to continue. If we are going to continue to allow this we may as well allow all Indian nationals free work visas, why should we allow the Cognizants to make money simply by providing a mechanism for these folk to get Visas? We need proper managed migration a situation where so many of our own highly qualified folk are unemployed in the recession and we are still allowing tens of thousands of Indian nationals into the country to work cannot be sensible. The government on this as many other issues has lost the plot, victim of lobbying from the big industrialists who like having over supply of workers forcing wages down. We should not be supporting this for the reasons of poor employment practises suffered by the Indians brought in as much as anything, we wouldn’t support the slave trade, and this is often little different.

    BT has stopped hiring grads, they hire them in India through their subsidiary Tech Mahindra and bring them in using inter company transfer visas in their tens of thousands. Go look at many of our biggest companies and public sector bodies.

    Work visas are not the main issues, inter company transfer visas very much are.

    I quote the Migration Advisory Committee ” A separate scheme is created for graduates only which would require 3 months prior experience with the company” since most of the folk being brought in by the big Indian outsourcers are grads (don’t ask about the quality of their Indian colleges though) this has made it easier not harder to keep the massive flow of these folk into the country

    Now the IT and Telco businesses have more than enough Europeans qualified to do the work, many tens of thousands recently thrown out of work

    Why are the big Indian outsourcing companies allowed to flout employment law, flout immigration laws, flood the country with cheap labour?

    And why pretend any government action is sorting this out. The big Indian outsourcers have taken at least half a million jobs away from European workers in this country in the last few years, partly by moving work to Indian, and partly with staff here on inter company transfers. The UK workers playing fair are being shafted big time.

    European workers cannot compete with 3rd world nationals imported here on inter company transfer Visas.

    Of course the BNP will continue to make ground, if the main parties allow this and other situations to continue!!!
    You can come over on the Dover Ferry without even showing your passport
    I am increasingly concerned about how we compete with nations that ignore pollution controls, ignore decent employment practice, ignore health and safety, how can the UK bear the extra cost of these things and the massive cost of our public sector and compete with 3rd world and emerging nations? Especially when we are allowing floods of staff in from these areas and effectively training them up in the very skills that we should be leading the world in, and throwing away our competitive position, and at the same time as throwing our own people on the scrap heap using our own tax spend to send “aid” to the very same countries that are taking the bread from our tables, we really need to rethink our position in the world
    Once you give birth in the UK you are NEVER sent home, thousands of people get into the country on a million and one false pretences and have a kid as soon as they can, and bingo life of riley in the UK is guaranteed
    The London hospitals (especially) are overflowing with foreign nationals who have not paid into the system, compare and contrast with how much Brits get charged when taken ill abroad
    You displace a few thousand of the role models in the community, often the most educated Brits in a family, by allowing Wipro, Cognizant et al to flood the country with 3rd world nationals and this ripples down so that the folk at the bottom of British society really are suffering
    I can walk you round many a university community and show you people who really shouldn’t be in the country, and these are genuine places of learning, do the same at some of the dodgy colleges specialising in getting foreign nationals Visas under false pretences and its even worse
    Many of the people suffering the most cannot put their arguments very eloquently, and they sure don’t have many politicians listening to them at the moment, they are probably not using the most politically correct language, the country is sleepwalking into a position where the BNP or similar are the only choice in some areas
    It is not racist to want sensible debate on these issues, the logical conclusion that we allow ever more thousands of workers from India and similar nations into this country is clearly not going to work, do the maths? We are only a small nation
    There are reasons the BNP are gaining ground, and unless the main parties start listening and acting sensibly we are in big trouble
    It is not racist to question why we are handing out inter company transfer visas to 3rd world nationals to swamp our workforce
    Show me any mainstream party prepared to discuss these matters?
    the Labour party position is untenable. We don’t want the racist elements of the BNP, but we sure do want some change to much of the chaos of current UK policies.

  • Phil McNally

    “That says to me there would be no harm in putting a strong and efffective minister up against Griffin.”

    Such as?