Martin Bright

How Question Time Became Important

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I can't expect anyone to bother reading another piece about Question Time, but bear with me here. In the build-up to Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time, I was convinced it was a fuss about nothing. I still can't quite understand Peter Hain's objection to allowing an unpleasant fascist hang himself live on TV. Good box office, sure, but surely a spectacle worth paying good money to see.

My only concern was the quality of the panel. But when it came to it,  I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Huhne, Warsi, Straw and Greer were really rather good. I have my doubts about Sayeeda Warsi's record on radical Islam and homosexuality but I was impressed by her performance. (Griffin didn't even bother to get in the point that he had been elected and Warsi hadn't, but then I don't get the feeling he's that much of a democrat). For me, Warsi was the only panelist who really skewered Griffin when she said how appalling it was to describe the plight of white British people in terms of genocide.

It was also good to flush out the BNP leader on the Holocaust. His equivocation was a disgrace. 

Sadie's Tavern has a great piece about how difficult it is to argue with people like Griffin and how easy it is to sneer at people who try. At the end of the programme I was left impressed. 

But I did wonder what someone who was considering voting BNP would have thought. The first opinion polls suggest Griffin has won the sympathy vote, at least in the short term.

I also have my doubts that a younger generation would have been impressed by the arguments in quite the way I was. Today I began my stint of teaching politics to journalism students at City University, so I had the chance to test this out. None of my new class was particularly taken with the panel, who seemed to them to represent exactly what was unappealing about the political class. One said he had even changed his mind and decided after he watched Question Time that the debate should not have taken place. 

In the end, I think it is important that we continue the debate and the soul searching. The election of BNP MEPs to the European Parliament is every bit as serious an indication of the present political malaise as the expenses scandal.