On Nick Griffin and the wretched state of British democracy

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the BBC’s decision-in-principle to invite the recently elected fascist MEP Nick Griffin onto its Question Time programme, public reaction has given rise to some deep soul-searching, and in some cases intelligent debate about free speech and public service obligations in liberal democracies.

With the ‘British National Party’ representing a sizeable constituency of British public opinion, the BBC’s decision was in my view inevitable.

The thought of Griffin appearing on Question Time makes me feel very uneasy. Those in favour argue that Griffin’s appearance would expose his and his party’s bigotry for what it is. Wrong. The problem, as Chris Dillow notes, is that the BBC’s primetime political panel game is:

“… a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience who clap like hyperactive seals.”

Given that Griffin has long been puking his opinions into the public arena, on Question Time the BNP leader would be in his element. Griffin could get away with playing the populist card, as do many of the more legitimate politicians and commentators who appear on that show.

As well as capturing the wretchedness of Question Time, Dillow has neatly articulated my own thoughts on the sickness in British democracy. That is, we have no infrastructure or culture that can underpin public political discourse. To this I would add that the formulaic public service obligations of the BBC (and ITV) make for a popular debate that is largely devoid of depth.

Another problem I have with the expose-the-BNP thesis is that few of our politicians have the moral integrity, credibility and intellectual capacity necessary for the job.

Fascism feeds on the decaying bodies of failing bourgeois democracies.