A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The BNP on Question Time

The BBC has got itself into an awful mess over allowing Nick Griffin on Question Time, basically because it had already set the threshold for allowing political parties occasional representation on the show as them having "nationally elected representatives", thereby allowing the BNP, UKIP and Greens through on the basis of their MEPs, and Respect because it has Mr Galloway in the House of Commons.

They should have foreseen that the implications of letting minor parties like the Greens, UKIP and Respect have a platform on Question Time was that one day they wouldn't be able to refuse a seat to the BNP, but I guess they thought Nigel Farage and Salma Yaqoob make good telly compared to the often boringly on-message folk the main parties usually offer up.

The reality is that parties that only have opinion poll ratings of 1, 2 or 3%, or can get MEPs elected when people protest vote but not MPs when they choose a government, or whose support is confined to a tiny geographical part of the UK, shouldn't expect to appear on panel shows as though they were equal with the government and opposition. The BBC is creating a pluralism in British politics which does not reflect the preferences of the electorate. We now know the BNP has about 11,000 members yet the BBC accords their leader a platform that makes him appear equal in credibility to representatives of parties with 200,000 members, pushing 10 million votes, thousands of councillors and hundreds of MPs.

A fair rule that would have stopped the BNP being entitled to grandstand on this national platform would be one of proportionality. There are five guests on the show so you should need 1/5 of the vote in the most recent General Election to get on the show, i.e. only Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems need apply. It might make for livelier TV and be more meaningful in terms of reflecting where political debate really takes place in the UK to have two Labour and two Tory politicians from different wings of the party on some editions - after all, the minority currents in the main parties - the left of the Labour Party and the right of the Tories - have millions more people who subscribe to their ideologies than any of the minor parties do, and have many elected MPs.

When the show is broadcast from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the threshold could be amended to allow parties that got approximately 1/5 of the vote in those territories in the last General Election to participate - the four main Northern Ireland parties (though the SDLP and UUP only got 17%), the SNP (again they got 17%) and maybe, if you round-up, Plaid Cymru though with 13% they aren't really even a national party in Wales.

If they want to occasionally include Nigel Farage it should be made clear this is for comedy value not because he has some entitlement to appear.


Blogger Mark Reckons said...

Your suggestion is a recipe for entrenching the existing parties in perpetuity. Why should more minor parties that have demonstrated some level of national support not get some representation on the QT panel?

A broadcaster that operates within a dynamic and pluralist political system needs to behave like that and in spite of the huge electoral barriers in this country, that is what we are moving towards. In 1955, 95% of people voted for one of the two major parties. By 2005 it was 67%. The BBC is simply reflecting this reality by allowing occasional representation from minor parties.

Also, I am surprised that someone such as yourself who is an advocate of a more proportional electoral system would at the same time advocate something that sought to shut out more minor parties from the debate.

7:19 pm, October 21, 2009

Blogger John said...

As far as I am aware the Beeb is following the impartiality rules of its Charter... It is also legally obliged to do this.

7:48 pm, October 21, 2009

Anonymous Democracy in Action said...

Not usually a fan of the BBC but well done for taking a stand for freedom of speech and championing democracy.

As Voltaire said

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Take note Luke

8:27 pm, October 21, 2009

Blogger Hen Ferchetan said...

"Plaid Cymru though with 13% they aren't really even a national party in Wales."

Wow - talk about not knowing anything about politics outside London. You do know Plaid Cymru is in power in Wales right? And have more Assembly seats and nationwide Councillors than the Tories and Lib Dems? The General Election is no longer the "be all to end all" once you reach Scotland and Wales these days you know.

8:52 pm, October 21, 2009

Anonymous Pedro said...

I don't see what all the hubbub's about, the BNP are not going to swing the nation in one fifth of a 60 minute program are they?

The Tories have had 12 years to gain some support from New Labour with blanket access to the media and we're still talking about a hung parliament!

What really needs to be addressed is the mainstream ignoring the elephant in the room that is immigration and subsequently having a policy of not sharing a platform with the BNP. Grow up!

All three main parties need to raise their game on the immigration debate and stop accusing anyone concerned about immigration that they are a racist. Being concerned about the transformation of your nation is not racist, it's human nature.

One fifth of a 60 minute program this year for 1 million votes at EU elections seems fair to me. Over the course of the full year it really isn't much air time at all.

10:36 pm, October 21, 2009

Anonymous Clapton Ali said...

but I guess they thought Nigel Farage and Salma Yaqoob make good telly compared to the often boringly on-message folk the main parties usually offer up.

Too right! And, at the end of the day, I don't watch QT based on which party political on-message clone is appearing, but on the interesting, often non-political QT panel members instead.

I sincerely hope some good comes out of this and that Jack Straw, and all the other panellists, make an excellent job of exposing the BNP for the evil fascist scum they actually are.

4:59 am, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democracy and freedom of speech hurt hey guys...

7:16 am, October 22, 2009

Anonymous T_i_B said...

F**k Question Time. I'm having an early night tonight.

It's boring and full of bullsh*t at the best of times. Why should I tune in just because they have somebody on the panel whom I despise even more then the rest of them?

8:19 am, October 22, 2009

Blogger kris said...

Get them all on there - Anjem Choudary, the BNP, everyone. Let the country see exactly what they are and how they deal with questioning.

I'm not scared of what they may say.

What happened to Freedom of Expression?

This Government's so effing scared of "offending" people that nobody breathes a word. Is this what is supposed to happen in a democracy?

8:52 am, October 22, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I quite like the idea of having different currents of opinion from within the main parties on there.

I don't actually see why letting people from minority parties on there should be seen as giving some sort of right to all people from minority parties. Is there really any difference having George Galloway on than having Ian Hislop on? The fact that Galloway is an elected politician is by-the-by. They put plenty of vaguely entertaining, opinionated people on there, alongside the people from the main political parties. If some of them happen to be minor politicians, that is not necessarily what earned them the seat on the panel.

Griffin should not have been invited.

9:34 am, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Karen, Dalston said...

Very disappointing from a Labour councillor. Your maths is dodgy - I don't know how often QT airs each year as I don't watch it, but let's say 30x 1 hour programmes. Surely a party with even 1% of the vote should qualify for 20 minutes once a year?

I despise the BNP as much as anyone, but denying them a platform is just wrong and likely to backfire.

10:34 am, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They put that wilting popster Will Young on ... and he had absolutely nothing to say about anything.

Griffin deserves to be on the back of his voting support.

And say what you like, he's very good, he's a natural. I suspect that's the bit which upsets Peter Hain so much; Griffin happens to be more convincing than him.

So much for Labour democracy. A great idea but not if anybody other than us wants to exercise it.

11:43 am, October 22, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

I don't think that solution is credible. The argument regarding Griffin is because of what he says - and the question should be how much the BNP need to be restrained. Freedom of speech really isn't everything. I'm quite happy to silence hatemongers.

12:13 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

The BNP are just neo nazis who would kill jews, gays, and gypises if they got to power.
OK it would take them a few years to put their plans in place like the NAZIs took 6 years to start their death camps, but that is all these evil scumbags ever want to do in the end.
Also they do not represent working class people they want to bring back grammar schools, and cut taxes for the rich.
I do not want to end up being burned in a concentration camp by some skinhead with rape fetish.

12:29 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do remember in my youth being at a Fabian meeting in Cambridge which was disrupted when someone who looked very like Nick Griffin threw a firework into the room.

Having suffered temporary deafness for a period of 1 to 2 hours as a result I do find it highly ironic that Griffin is now a beneficiary of the freedom of speech which he seeks to destroy for others at every opportunity - but I suppose decent people always have to aspire to higher standards that the evil ones.

One would hope that the Police are scrutinising the text of what Griffin says so that the moment he makes a single comment inciting racial hatred he is subject to the full force of the law. And as the programme is not being transmitted live - I trust the BBC will be ready to cut out any such illegal statements prior to transmission.

1:57 pm, October 22, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

The BNP are extreme Thatcherite Tories only interested in maintaining the Status Quo of The filthy Rich owning and controlling everything and the scape goats will be immigrants, ethnic minorities,Gays and Disabled people, these Nazi's are sick as they experimented and tortured Children in the Camps. The BNP should be rounded up and put into Gulags to do hard Labour and go on a re-education re-form programme!

They are the lowest filth and Scum!

3:39 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Dagenham Max said...

Labour should spend less time worrying about the BNP being on Question Time and more on why exactly they are gaining popularity in what used to be Labour strongholds.

Mark Reckons - add the Lib Dems into your equation to make a “big three” rather than a “big two” and that’s 89.7% in 2005 from 98.8% in 1955. BNP managed 0.7% nationally btw so this one appearance should be enough for the next ten years.

5:57 pm, October 22, 2009

Blogger Mark Reckons said...

DM - That's all well and good but at the last nationally fought election (the Euros) they got 6% of the vote. That is the figure that the BBC are mentioning in their justification and it is difficult to argue against.

6:00 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Clapton Ali said...

Dirty Euro wrote: The BNP are just neo nazis who would kill jews, gays, and gypises (sic) if they got to power. OK it would take them a few years to put their plans in place like the NAZIs took 6 years to start their death camps, but that is all these evil scumbags ever want to do in the end.

Good point, Dirty Euro, but the Nazis began their killing machine immediately after they came to power in 1933 (although the programme for killing adults with mental or physical disabilities formally began with a letter from Hitler issued in October 1939; this was administered from Tiergartenstraße 4, under the guise of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care).

Also the July 1933 "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring" prescribed compulsory sterilisation for people with a range of conditions thought to be hereditary such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, Huntington's chorea and "imbecility". Sterilisation was also mandated for chronic alcoholism and other forms of "social deviance". This law was administered by the Interior Ministry under Wilhelm Frick through special Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte), which examined the inmates of nursing homes, asylums, prisons, aged care homes and special schools to select those to be sterilised. It is estimated that 360,000 people were sterilised under this law between 1933 and 1939. Disabled children were forcibly sent to centres for special care for diagnosis, injected with lethal injection after a few weeks and death certificates were issued declaring the cause of death as pneumonia.

6:15 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Griffin has been elected to his current position by the electorate. Unlike the PM!

7:56 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BNP = yet another spectacular New Labour own goal.

Anyone over the past 11 years that had concerns or the audacity to talk about immigration levels,wage cuts,housing criteria etc was slapped down as a racist,so no discussion,and low and behold the BNP step into the vacuum.

It aint astro physics.

Angry voter

9:33 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Distill News

'The BNP are extreme Thatcherite Tories'

Didn't think that the wwc inner city,run down areas where the BNP has the strongest support base were in fact core 'extreme Thatcherite' Tory areas,maybe all the various pollsters have got this wrong.

Are you ashamed of the voting behaviour of former Labour supporters,trying to re-write history or just being an idiot?

angry voter

9:42 pm, October 22, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'If they want to occasionally include Nigel Farage it should be made clear this is for comedy value not because he has some entitlement to appear'

Talking abot comedy,next weeks question time has Jacqui Smith appearing for Labour,you coludn't make it up.

angry voter

9:46 pm, October 22, 2009

Blogger Alison said...

As a Labour Party activist you are obviously interested in maintaining the two and a half party "democracy" which has run since the Great War. Democrats laud democracy until it delivers the "wrong" result - bit like the EU.

The BNP may have some racist policies, but unless the main parties come to grips with the fact they need to run the country for the benefit of those who live here (regardless of colour or creed) be prepared to see them grow. Despite what an earlier poster says the BNP voters are not Thatcherite Tories, they are largley disillusioned Socialists in danger of acquiring the National tag.

So grow up guys and start to put country ahead of faction, or you're in for dangerous times.

10:26 pm, October 22, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I haven't changed my mind, but... Rather fortunately Nick Griffin was REALLY SHIT. Any fear that he was a canny political operator who would play this to his advantage has gone: he is actually the worst performer I have ever seen on Question Time (and I've seen some dross).

They've got lots of unneccessary publicity from this - I still don't think the BBC made the right decision - but it was an own goal for Griffin. He fell apart.

12:59 am, October 23, 2009

Blogger Stuart Jeffery said...

Why don't you go the whole hog and restrict QT panelists to parties that are in government? You could broaden that to all media comment... that would give Labour about 6 more months airtime.

I also think you'll find the Greens received 9% this year in the only truly representive nation wide election in this country.

6:58 am, October 23, 2009

Blogger DocRichard said...

"There are five guests on the show so you should need 1/5 of the vote in the most recent General Election to get on the show, i.e. only Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems need apply. "

The above is disingenuous.

If QT has one show a week, 50 times a year, and there are five seats per show, this gives 250 appearances a year. Therefore a party getting 5% in elections should get 12 appearances a year, if proportionality were to be applied.

You could get it down by arguing that some of the seats are for non party political speakers. But you cannot pretend that there are only 3 (or 2.5) political opinions in this country. Democracy requires that all strands of opinion should be aired -yes, even the ugly neo-Nazi views, so that they can be countered by reason.

11:08 am, October 23, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the EDP and UKIP these are both far right wing parties and have the same goal as the BNP to create a Nazi all white state!

12:39 pm, October 23, 2009

Anonymous Arnold said...

How hypocritical was it of Baroness Warsi to attack the B.N.P.'s racism when hers was the party that at the last election put up posters that said: "Are You Thinking What We're Thinking?", a slogan clearly designed to tap into the racist vote.

Who voted for this flaming woman? Nobody, that's who!

1:38 pm, October 23, 2009

Anonymous Billy The Kid said...

Now everyone feels sorry for the BNP - how stupid is this government to once again blow it?


2:55 pm, October 23, 2009


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