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.