The sound of a helicopter thumping overhead told me that the protest had already begun at the BBC Studios in White City, only a couple of blocks away from where I am currently living. People were protesting over the rather controversial decision to allow the Chairman of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, a seat on the panel show Question Time on BBC1.
At the time of this posting, Nick Griffin is an elected Member of the European Parliament for North West England. He has made numerous comments about Islam, the Jewish Holocaust, British Immigrations Policy, European Union and Homosexuality that have inflamed the British public. But these comments have also appealed to a section of the community that are disillusioned with the majority powers within Britain and need to place their frustrations somewhere, regardless of misdirection.
The question remains … does allowing Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time, along with British ministers like Jack Straw and Sayeeda Warsi give legitimacy to his standing as a politician by placing him in their company and on their level? The debate rages. The BBC state that Question Time gives the public a legitimate forum to question politicians for their principles and policies, whilst showing political impartiality. If not giving voice to Nick Griffin, does that then send his support and beliefs underground where there can be no place to confront them?
Standing amongst the throng of protestors and police, I listened to the arguments against placing him in this forum. Some where restrained and sensible. Other full of fiery rhetoric. There were workers and teachers who have seen the devastating consequences of racial attacks that have been inspired by some of the comments of the BNP. There were the elderly. There were families of various faiths. There were students.
There were also people scattered in the crowd, with faces masked and obscured. You couldn’t help but think they were there not for peaceful protest. And of course, there were the Police. Men and woman in uniform, some even in riot gear. Some of the protesters voiced their anger towards the police. Another case of misdirection?
Once again, I am reminded of my own country’s debate when elected official of Oxley, Pauline Hanson, in her maiden speech to the Australian Parliament made claims of Aboriginal financial favouritism and anti-multicultural policies. From my own point of view, we were fortunate that Pauline Hanson was given the opportunity to speak up. She gain quite a bit of support in the Australian community, from “real Australians” who were disillusioned with the political parties of the time. Fortunately, way in which she conducted herself was used against her. The 1998 Australian Hit Single, “I Don’t Like It” by Pauline Pantsdown, and her use of the expression “Please Explain”, quickly entered into the Australian popular culture as a form of parody and mockery.
So what do the British people do with Nick Griffin?
At least they still retain the right to protest. And that they can speak up and take a stand, regardless of what the BBC’s policy is about impartiality. In fact, setting aside the legitimacy platform, Nick Griffins appearance on the show has now elevated the level of protest against the BNP.
I guess we will see what the consequences will be over the next couple of days and months. Britain is, after all, headed for a general election in 2010.
I’ve uploaded some rather grainy shots of the protest here.