Opportunity Missed

October 31, 2009

I settled down to watch Question Time last week. I expected it to be more interesting than usual, as one of the panel members was to be Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP). There was outcry at the thought of this racist party being given the oxygen of publicity and certainly leading up to it there were flashes of racial tension A group called the English Defence League took it upon themselves to protest against Muslims outside a mosque in Harrow, being sensitive to the month of Ramadan, naturally. By the time the programme was ready to air, there were protests outside the BBC studios and certainly all my friends were eager to see how this man was gong to do. I really hoped the programme would give the rope of restraint and calm with which he could hang himself. I really hoped that politicians, just this once would be sensible and not just do the party political line.

My blood was slowly boiling as it became clear that right from the start it was to be an opportunity to see who was the least racist, most politically correct and least like Nick Griffin in policies or personality. The denouncement of the BNP could’ve been done in ten minutes; then we would’ve seen how he coped with real issues of the day like the postal strike. But all the questions, even the final one about Stephen Gately where there were more sly digs, kept this horse on one track so we didn’t learn anything new. Jack Straw was appalling. A simple direct question about immigration from the audience he would not answer. He continued in the time old tradition of bluster and obfuscation. The others were not much better. And politicians wonder why people hardly vote, or for those that do, at least some are going for the BNP. The opportunity to nail Nick Griffin that night floated away like a Heene balloon.

The fallout in the hours after the show was aired was swift. The great British public like an underdog. They also like to give authority a good kicking if they think they’re being too uppity and not with the likes of us, guv. And so it proved that the professional politicians were so busy scoring points and trying to deflect their failings that they managed to make Griffin, in the eyes of some people at least, a local hero and a victim of bullying by the chattering classes. Some were considering a move to the BNP thanks to that abysmal performance. To rub salt into the wound, Griffin started bellyaching like a petulant child about his treatment on the show, then buoyed by this apparent surge in support started showing his true colours. The best statement of the day from him was that London was no longer a British city. I assume he came to that conclusion because some of the faces in this fine and at times frustrating place are not milky white, some of the sexual orientation is not hetero and some of the religions or philosophies are not Christian.

The thing that seems to be conveniently lost to Griffin and his merry band of ethnic cleansers is that the culture and language of various peoples over the years and centuries have embedded so well that we now accept them as English. The most popular dish is no longer Fish and Chips but Chicken Tikka Masala and black people had settled in Britain long before the Windrush of 1948. So you just keep on deluding yourself, Mr Griffin.

You’re more of a minority than you think.


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