Monthly Archives: October 2009

Which Episode Were You Watching?

Nick Griffin

Picture courtesy of Samantha Viner

In response to Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time last Thursday, The Daily Telegraph has today published an opinion poll run by ‘YouGov’ which suggests that one in five people surveyed would ‘seriously consider’ voting for the British National Party. One in five!

I spent Thursday night watching Jack Straw and the others queue up to have a pop at Mr Griffin on a grainy television in a friend’s room. Whilst around the country over eight million more people tuned in to Question Time to watch ‘Nick’ respond to all the burning questions they have always wanted to ask him.

“Lynch mob”

There has been an interesting argument being banded around campus that ‘Nick’ was not given a fair chance to clear up important facts and explain his policies. It was clear that every time he began stuttering an answer to a question, another panel member would interrupt and argue over him to the point where the studio audience would clap and whoop, without actually giving the man a chance to speak.

The most shocking aspect of this observation is that even the experienced and usually reserved David Dimbleby could not resist jumping on the bandwagon and facilitating further opportunities for Griffin to be targeted. At one point, in an attempt to regain order he said, “if you all attack on different fronts we won’t get anywhere.”

Griffin has since likened the show’s panellists and audience to a “lynch mob” and has asked to be invited back for a second chance.

Discussing whether or not the show was a “lynch mob” or biased or whatever else is not important for now. Of far more importance to me are the figures published in the Telegraph today.

I supported the BBC’s decision to allow Nick Griffin to express his views, in the name of democracy. In truth I thought there was no debate to be had on the issue, and that there was no reason why he should not appear on the show to allow everyone to scrutinize his policies and make up their own mind. After all these are values upon which this country is built. The only problem with this is that I was naïve enough to think everyone was like me and that everyone would see Griffin’s ludicrous policies, vulgar attitude, poor eloquence and his ultimate lack of charisma.

BNP has gained huge publicity

When the programme ended, the consensus among our contingent in the darkened room was that watching Nick Griffin on Question Time was a bit like watching a goldfish get shot in a bucket. There was no way out for him, no escape from the onslaught.

As we sat and debated the outcomes of the show the last thing on any of our minds was that the BNP would gain support from it. We also all agreed that Nick Griffin would not be invited back onto Question Time for at least a couple of years.

These agreements were made in the knowledge that we would not need to discuss them again in the morning. They were made with such conviction that we swiftly moved on to debating other things. So you can imagine my amazement when reading today that 22% of people would ‘seriously consider’ voting BNP and that Nick Griffin has asked to come back on the panel in the near future.

What I think has happened is that I was either watching a different programme to these ‘22% of people’, or I simply got the wrong end of the stick. I thought I saw Nick Griffin cop a political beating of unimaginable magnitude, yet he and the BNP seem to have come away with enormous publicity, increasing support and the possible opportunity to come back for more.

I would like to be able to explain how this has happened. The truth is I am baffled. One thing I will say is that there is a huge void between telling an opinion poll that you ‘seriously consider’ voting for someone, and actually voting for them on Election Day. I think the voting public know that opinion polls do not elect politicians whereas the general elections really count.

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The BNP Protest in Pictures

Yesterday I went along to the protests against Nick Griffin and the British National Party’s appearance on Question Time. I was armed with a swish camera and got involved with the professional photojournalists. You know, the sort that push you over if you are stealing their ‘shots’.
I managed to get involved in a few scrums and got some quite good photos for a first timer. So, in addition to my blog post on the protests, I thought i’d put up some of the photos to tell the story of the protests. Its mainly for people who can’t read, or are too lazy to read. Feel free to comment.
Demonstrators gathered outside BBC Television Centre

Demonstrators gathered outside BBC Television Centre

Police had to hold protesters and press back from the gates on many occasions

Police had to hold protesters and press back from the gates on many occasions

Protesters chanted and blocked the road outside Wood Lane tube station for many hours

Protesters chanted and blocked the road outside Wood Lane tube station for many hours

Protesters squared up to police as they marched down the road

Protesters squared up to police as they marched down the road

One protester outside the Television Centre

One protester outside the Television Centre

The protests became heated when flares were set off

The protests became heated when flares were set off

Protesters marching in the road

Protesters marching in the road

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The protests eventually calmed down once the flares had been extinguished

The protests eventually calmed down once the flares had been extinguished

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Volatile Protests at BBC Television Centre

Protesters gathered outside the BBC Television Centre today
Protesters gathered outside the BBC Television Centre today

Around 30 people gained access to the BBC television centre in London today, as several hundred gathered outside to protest against Nick Griffin’s appearance on ‘Question Time’ this evening.

The demonstrators stormed the front gates after they opened to allow a car through and broke down a security barrier before gaining access to the building in White City. Once inside the building they were not violent and were quickly removed by BBC security and police.

Protester Mark Twyford, a 21 year old student at the London School of Economics, said, “Everytime the BNP are given a public platform, racist attacks rise by about 300 percent. I don’t think we should be giving an openly racist party a public platform.”

David Broader, also 21 was protesting not only against the BNP but against the treatment of immigrants by the two main political parties as well. He said “I don’t think its ok to ally with the Labour Party or the Tories against the BNP, actually I think, although they are not Fascist Party’s, they themselves attack immigrants day by day.”

Police were also forced to close the road outside Wood Lane tube station for a number of hours as anti-fascist groups spilled into the streets and blocked the route of cars and buses during the evening rush hour.

Anti-Fascist protesters outside the Television Centre earlier today

Anti-Fascist protesters outside Television Centre earlier today

It was a volatile atmosphere as demonstrators marched, chanted and let off flares. There was a heavy police presence containing the crowds trying to get in the gates and holding back protesters marching in the Road.

According to the Metropolitan Police, six protesters are being held and three police officers were injured in today’s protests.

The controversial episode of ‘Question Time’ can be seen tonight on BBC One at 10.35pm.

By Nick Higgins

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Locals Remain Concerned About Islamic Extremists

 
North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park
North London Central Mosque, Finsbury Park

A local man has revealed his concerns about the possibility of Islamic extremists living in the London Borough of Islington.

The North London Central (NLC) Mosque on St. Thomas’s Road, Finsbury Park was at the centre of police investigations into alleged links with Al-Qaeda in 2002.

It is best known for its contacts to controversial cleric Abu Hamza Al-Masri, who was jailed for seven years in 2006 after being found guilty of inciting murder and racial hatred during his sermons held at the Mosque.

“The community has been rebuilt”

A representative from the NLC Mosque was not available for comment but Mohamed Abdelhalim, Operations Manager at nearby ‘Muslim Welfare House’ said, “after the damaging links to Al-Qaeda and terrorism, the congregations at both our Mosques became a lot smaller. But it doesn’t affect us anymore, the community has been rebuilt.”

Despite an increase in the numbers of worshippers at both Mosques in the Finsbury Park area and a new management structure at the NLC Mosque, some locals are still worried about the legacy of Islamic extremism in the area.

A member of the congregation at the NLC Mosque who wished to remain anonymous remembers being turned away in 2002 by supporters of the extremist Imam Abu Hamza. Since that time he said,

“Things at the Mosque have improved greatly, but I am still worried. You cannot tell what might happen. It’s very likely there are still extremists in the area, which is a problem for everyone”.

By Nick Higgins

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New Awareness Advert Heavily Criticised

A new advert designed to change the way the public view mental health problems has been heavily criticised by a person with first-hand experience of a mental illness.

The advert sees the term ‘Schizo’ appear onscreen in clear white letters. It has been created for the ‘Time to Change’ programme, which was set up in January with the aim of ending discrimination against people with mental health problems.

Marian Moore, 67, was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and bi-polar in 1989 and spent the following twelve years in a mental hospital. She said “I was appalled by the advert, because it puts words like ‘schizo’ in the public domain, which I would never use.”

Mrs Moore refers to mental health problems as “the last taboo of society” and has done a lot of work in trying to change the way they are viewed by the public, “We’ve got to bring it out in the open haven’t we?”

‘Literacy around mental health’

According to SHiFT, an organisation set up to reduce discrimination against the mentally ill, only 10% of homicides are carried out by people with a mental illness compared to 60% which are related to drink and drugs.

Laura Deeley, a health writer for ‘The Times’ said “the general public’s literacy around mental illness is incredibly low.”

Mrs Moore, was quick to point out the improvements which have been made in caring for the mentally ill since she was diagnosed. She applauds the increased use of psychological therapy, stating that “the medical model of treatment is only good for bones and legs, but not for the head”.

By Nick Higgins

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Do We Need a Politician to Expose the BNP?

The decision to invite the Chairman of the British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin onto the BBC’s flagship political programme ‘Question Time’ has caused major uproar among both the public and elected politicians. Many have argued that the BNP are not democratic and that their message is both xenophobic and actively inciting racial hatred.

Nick Griffin 2

Nick Griffin (courtesy of Moonie0079)

I do not wish to discuss whether or not Griffin should have been invited onto the show. Let it suffice to say that since he is an elected Member of the European Parliament, in my opinion he has the right to represent those who elected him in the public sphere.

With that in mind, and with the programme set to air this Thursday, I have found myself eagerly anticipating this groundbreaking demonstration of the great British democracy.

 Justice Secretary Jack Straw was the first senior minister to commit to appearing opposite Mr Griffin in the televised debate. Subsequently he faces the challenge of exposing the ideological core of the BNP in front of a live audience and millions of television viewers.

However, we have to question whether there is any need for an elected politician to help expose the weaknesses of BNP policies, or to demonstrate the racist nature of Mr Griffin himself? After all this is a man who has a criminal conviction for denying the Holocaust as well as being quoted saying he believes in the Holocaust but only because European law requires him to do so.

“Weak Policies”

The mere fact that the BNP won two seats in the European elections in June shows that the party is rising in both popularity and confidence. But does this mean the British public need an experienced politician of Jack Straw’s stature to unveil the truth and highlight voter’s misconceptions?

The BNP’s official website throws up some interesting policy outlines which appear to be based on nothing but hot air. A good example to highlight is their official policy on health: 

  • Replace 100,000 NHS bureaucrats with doctors, nurses and dentists;
  • Invest sufficient money in the NHS to provide a decent service to the British people;”

“Invest sufficient money in the NHS to provide a decent service”?  – Now this is beautifully detailed, leaving the electorate knowing exactly what they will receive if they vote BNP. Right?

And where exactly are the 100,000 doctors, nurses and dentists going to come from? Currently in the UK a large proportion of these professions are filled by highly skilled immigrants, who are recognised as being in high demand.

 “Policy clash”

The BNP’s infamous flagship policy of putting a stop to all immigration is demonstrated by the following strap line on their website:

Given current demographic trends, we, the indigenous British people, will become an ethnic minority in our own country well within sixty years – and most likely sooner” – BNP Website

When we combine this flagship policy with the mentioned policy on health a monumental issue comes to light.

It seems that the BNP and Mr Griffin have blindly stumbled into an unworkable clash of policy. It follows that the party will have to decide which policy to run with. I wonder which one they would drop if they were ever elected to power: The detailed flagship policy of preventing immigration, or one of the vague secondary policies which are seemingly designed only to give the party more credibility?

Getting back to the point, when Nick Griffin takes his seat on that panel on the 22nd October, will the old hand Mr Straw necessarily be required to expose the real BNP to the waiting public? I think not.

“Truly explosive episode”

The live audience on Question Time is likely to be set against the BNP from the outset and Mr Griffin will certainly face some testing questions.

He may be an experienced politician and model himself on a modern statesman but I think he will find it difficult to back up policies that could have been written on the placemats in Pizza Hut by a four year old with a crayon.

Dear Mr. Straw, you may not necessarily be needed this time but you will have the best seat in the house for what is likely to be a truly explosive episode of Question Time. Other than a certain Mr. Dimbleby.

 ‘Question Time’ can be seen on Thursday 22nd October at 10:35pm on BBC One

By Nick Higgins

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Anti-Fascist Demonstrations Welcomed by the BNP

Plans for a staged demonstration next week against the BNP leader Nick Griffin, have today been hailed by the controversial right-wing party as ‘democratic’.

 The left-wing pressure group, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), are expecting thousands of protesters to demonstrate at White City, London, in response to the invitation of the BNP leader’s to appear on the BBC political programme ‘Question Time’ on the 22nd October .

 

When questioned about the protests, BNP member of the London Assembly, Richard Barnbrook, called the anti-fascist protests part of the democratic process. “I am happy for the UAF to be there,” stated Mr. Barnbrook, “my only grievance with them is that if they find us so terrible, then I say they should stand at the next election.”

 

In response to Mr Barnbrook’s comments, Senan Mortell from UAF stated that the anti-fascist group had “no interest in running as a political organisation in an election,” reaffirming that “UAF only exists to oppose the rise of fascist parties, and deny them the political legitimacy which they crave.”

 

The UAF are furious with the BBC’s decision to offer Mr. Griffin a position on the panel of their flagship political programme. “The BBC is a publically funded body. By inviting Nick Griffin to take part in Question Time, they are legitimising fascism and racism,” Mr. Mortell said.

  

Conservative member of the London Assembly Mr. James Cleverly defended the BBC’s decision to invite Mr. Griffin onto Question Time. He said “For all his faults, Mr. Griffin is a democratically elected member of the European Parliament. I think he should be free to talk the rubbish that he talks, and we should be free to critique what he says. You can’t beat fascism by being fascist. The denial of free speech is a classic tool of fascism, and I don’t think we should go down that route.”

 

By Matt Priest and Nick Higgins

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