I'm reserving judgement about the impact of Question Time on the BNP's level of support until we know more about who the eight million people were who watched it.
For your average usual QT viewer - mainly middle class - their hunch that Griffin is a crank and a very nasty one will have been confirmed. He spouted weird race theories about indigenous peoples, failed to rebut accusations he is a holocaust denier (mainly because the accusations are based on his own previous statements), and exhibited bizarre tics and mannerisms (I think that's where Jack Straw got the idea of comparing him to Dr Strangelove, which sailed over the heads of non-Kubrick and Sellers fans in the audience). Both Straw and Baroness Warsi went up in my estimation, handling a difficult task very well. Bonnie Greer was fantastic - belittling him by being patronising.
Whatever Griffin is, he lacks the skills as a political communicator of his ideological forebearers Hitler and Goebbels. They wouldn't have stuck doggedly to the race theory stuff, they would have argued about the economic plight of their target voters and then blamed the Jews or another racial scapegoat for causing it. Griffin bizarrely failed to address the bread-and-butter social issues for working class communities such as jobs and housing which are clearly fueling rising BNP support. His rather whingey version of fascism is also not that attractive for all but the most self-pitying members of the Aryan Master Race. Hitler told them they were super humans who would conquer the world and create a thousand year Reich. Griffin told them they are victims, "aboriginals", the subjects not the potential perpetrators of genocide, and so downtrodden that they should be upset about the absence of a tick-box for "English" on the census form - hardly the Versailles Treaty in terms of blows struck against the herrenvolk.
My worry is that Griffin still managed to get the cores concepts of BNP ideology across, using deliberately inflammatory language. He chose to do that rather than push a softer message. That was calculation not incompetence. He's not primarily looking to compete for votes directly with Labour or the Tories. Not yet. At this stage he needs members, cadres who buy into pure neo-Nazism rather than fluffy electoralism, because without members you can't run council candidates or deliver leaflets - most of the public have never had the chance to vote BNP outside Euro elections because they have too few committed members to run candidates everywhere. He will have recruited members and activists last night. And he's looking for votes from people who haven't voted in the last few elections because they feel alienated from politics. The people Marx called the lumpen proletariat ("historically the most reactionary class") and the French call Le Marais ("the swamp" - the people who used to vote Communist and now vote for Le Pen). Those people won't be impressed by Straw or Warsi's eloquence. They probably empathise with a guy who looked got at, was inarticulate and prejudiced. Because if you were feeling got at yourself, and you were inarticulate and prejudiced you probably find it refreshing to see a politician like yourself on TV.
People have bleated on about the democratic right of Griffin to be on TV. I don't believe in extending democratic rights to people who want to overthrow parliamentary democracy. In Germany, where they learned some hard lessons about democrats not being robust enough in defending democracy, the law can be used to ban parties that threaten the constitution - they are debating a ban on the NPD right now. I'm not sure if this is the solution but we seem to be remarkably liberal towards the BNP in a way they must feel confirms all their feelings about effete mainstream politicians.
I wonder what people feel would be the appropriate reaction if Griffin won a General Election? I guess if you accept he can appear on Question Time as a legitimate participant then you would accept he could become Prime Minister/Fuhrer. Would we meekly say, "hey, it's a democracy, the bad guys won" and allow ourselves to be carted off to the camp for former democratic political activists and other undesirables , or would we try to overthrow a BNP government by force on the basis that no fascist government can ever legitimately govern a democratic state? I'd like to think we'd do the latter, and hence I rather admire the people who protested outside the BBC yesterday. This may seem a crazy, hypothetical question to raise but in 1924 the Nazis had 3% support, the same as the BNP today, and were considered a fringe party. Nine years later they were in power.