Nick Griffin appeared on the BBC1 programme Question Time on 22 October, 2009.
The BBC had been attacked by Labour Government Ministers for inviting the MEP and Leader of the British National Party (BNP) onto the show. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain wrote in the Guardian: "The BBC will be showcasing the BNP on a panel alongside the mainstream parties as an equally legitimate, respectable, democratic political party, when it is nothing of the kind." Hain had called for a meeting to discuss his support for "No Platform" with the BBC but it remains unclear at present whether one took place.
The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, told David Dimbleby, the host on the show on 15th of October: "You may like to consider your invitation to next week’s Question Time.”
He added: “There isn't a constitutional obligation to appear on 'Question Time'. That gives them a legitimacy they do not deserve.”
The BBC has given reasons for its decisions but these have not been as widely reported as the attacks.
Ric Bailey the BBC's chief political adviser and former executive editor of 'Question Time' from 2000 to 2006 summed it up thus:
"For the BBC, it's quite straightforward. "Due impartiality" means we have to take account of the political context when we're making editorial judgements, day in day out. There isn't one single formula which applies in all circumstances. So how do we decide what are appropriate levels of airtime for the different political parties? Our starting point for that judgement - though not the only factor - is how real people vote in real elections."
"Measuring impartiality is less about mathematics and more about good judgement - but let's just look at the maths for a moment. In the recent European election, the BNP won more than 6% of the vote across Britain - approaching a million people. In some regions it was close to 10%. Like the Greens, they now have two MEPs - far fewer than UKIP - but they also have over 50 local councillors - fewer than the Greens, many more than UKIP.
"Ever since UKIP and the Greens won representation at a national level, they have appeared from time to time on 'Question Time'. Inviting the BNP onto the panel would be a continuation of the approach which recognises that the level of electoral support is a relevant factor in making these judgements.
"The BBC could not apply different standards to different parties because of their particular policies. That would be a breach of our charter, challengeable in the courts.
"But it's not fear of the lawyers or lobbying from the BNP themselves which would prompt an invitation to Nick Griffin. Impartiality is at the core of the BBC's journalism and this is a normal part of the process of constantly asking ourselves how we should be defining that impartiality in a changing political environment."
On the 'Question Time' programme which Johnson appeared other panel members disagreed with his view that Griffin and the BNP should be censored. Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP, said that they should be "challenged in argument".
Damian Green MP, for the Tory Party, said Nick Griffin should be allowed to have his say on Question Time. He said that mainstream politicians should "confront them in argument". Nigel Farage of UKIP stated “The BBC have not put him on Question Time, the voters have.” Joan Bakewell, the other panelist, expressed no clear view. Johnson was clearly isolated.
Seen in this light, the comments of Labour Ministers can only be an attempt to bully the BBC to act in a partisan way. It's no surprise that the Labour Government want to tell the BBC who to invite, or not to invite and even how to report. That's nothing new. Nor is it a surprise that the Labour Party want to do down their BNP rivals. In many electoral wards the BNP represent their main opposition. Voters have turned to them in desperation at the abandonment of the white working class by an out-of-touch Political Class.
Censorship and abusing one's position to suppress the electoral chances of another political party which may take votes from you is merely political expedience disguised as moral indignation.
Alongside the establishment campaign to bully the Beeb runs implied threats of violence from their far-left street proxies. Fresh from their clashes with the Police and their mirror-image (the English Defence League) in Manchester the misnamed 'Unite Against Fascism' (UAF) have also lined-up to oppose the BBC decision. Writing in the Times, Fiona Hamilton reported UAF's stated intentions for the 22nd of October.
"Unite Against Fascism, which regularly demonstrates against the BNP, has said that it will try to blockade Television Centre to prevent Mr Griffin gaining access next Thursday."
"Unite Against Fascism told The Times that if thousands of protesters turned up there were plans to blockade the BBC building. A rally is also planned for the night before the event in Central London."
Notice the language being used here. The word is "blockade" not "protest" or "picket".
Definitions of "blockade" include:
• obstruct: hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of;
• barricade: render unsuitable for passage; "block the way";
• obstruct access to
The stated aim of UAF was to prevent Nick Griffin MEP from entering the building.
In the event Nick Griffin was able to enter the Studio accompanied by over 40 of his own security guards (many of whom are martial arts trained). Only 500-700 counter-demonstrators appeared and they blocked the wrong entrance.
In response to the criticisms from Labour ministers that the format of the programme would not allow "scrutiny" of Mr Griffin the BBC threw the normal format out of the window. Instead they stacked the studio audience with people hostile to the BNP and allowed the panel to gang-up on him. The hatred shown to him was disturbing to watch. He was treated very unfairly and scarcely allowed to answer without interruption. He was continually booed and jeered. Only one question was asked which did not concern the BNP and that was designed to allow further attacks on Mr Griffin. The real issues of the day, the Post strike, MPs arrogance on expenses, bonuses for the bankers etc were not even raised. This was not Question Time - it was a pantomime in which Nick Griffin, MEP, was cast as the villain.
We the undersigned:
1. Support the BBC decision to invite Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time.
2. Denounce Labour Ministers for seeking to interfere with the editorial independence of the BBC and undermine its' duty of due impartiality.
3. Denounce the partisan and biased nature of the show and the abandonment of its' normal format.
4. Urge the BBC to produce an edition of Question Time at the earliest opportunity including Nick Griffin, MEP, where he is given the opportunity to comment on topical news items alongside other panelists.
5. Urge the BBC to publicly apologise to Mr Griffin for the harassment and demonisation he was subjected to.
This is not a Party political issue and by signing this petition I make no statement in support of the policies of the BNP. Simply fair play.
The Give Nick Griffin MEP a fair-hearing on Question Time petition to The Director General of the BBC was written by Patrick Harrington and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.