Someone had obviously coached Nick Griffin for his Question Time debut, and the key advice given, was obviously to smile – whatever. Media trainers will always give such advice but they may have to rethink it. Mr Griffin’s attempt to present himself and the BNP as reasonable by hideously grinning throughout Question Time served only to make the British public see him even more clearly as a racist, homophobic, bigot.
And that’s good – the BNP is the appropriate party for a racist or a homophobe to vote for. On the doorstep, when I come across the thankfully rare occurrence of an obvious racist – I always say that I don’t want their vote.
But the BNP seats at the European table didn’t all come from racists. And the Government and local councils have not addressed some of the issues that drive those who feel disenfranchised into the arms of the BNP because they feel they are getting ignored or believe they delivered a raw deal.
The BNP and their ilk will always feed off of those who are disgruntled, disenfranchised and ignored. A vacuum in terms of political attention provides the perfect feeding ground for those who feed off of that discontent. Additionally, where there is a scarcity of resources – the extra pressures brought by high levels of immigration and asylum seeking means extra pressure on public services – school places, health services and housing key amongst them in those areas.
The Government does not give local councils the full costs of bearing the weight of new immigrants and asylum seekers – so it does add pressures. If you take social housing in Haringey – for which the demand outstrips provision by such huge proportions that my surgeries are always populated by those who are desperately in need of housing. And yes – there is very occasionally ‘racism’ towards those who are perceived as arriving in this country with lots of children and immediately getting a house against those who are on the housing list for years and get nowhere. The stories are legion. The Equality and Human Rights Commission did an investigative piece of work to establish whether this tale of the ‘newly arrived’ jumping the housing queue was true – and found it was not. What is needed is more housing, and to publish transparently who gets what accommodation so that the suspicion can be allayed.
Back to Question Time. Yes – the BBC was absolutely right to invite Nick Griffin on to the program. It had no choice with the two MEPs having been elected. However, I don’t expect that those two seats at the European Parliament warrant more than a visit to Question Time once every few years if that – proportionally. If the rating s for last night persuade QT to offer that platform any more often than is proportionally deserved then they will lose the moral high ground which they claimed for giving the BNP that exposure this time round.
And media trainers will have to go back to the drawing board – as ‘smile and the world smiles with you’ just didn’t do it for the BNP.