Peter Hoskin

The laughter will have hurt Griffin

The laughter will have hurt Griffin
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There's only one question that counts now that Question Time has been shown: did it do Nick Griffin and the BNP any good? It's a tough one to answer. To my eyes, at least, Griffin embarrassed himself in front of the cameras - he was given scant opportunity to gloss over his more unsavoury views; he looked terribly uncomfortable whenever the debate ran away from him; and the other panellists scored most of the major points. But we largely expected that anyway. Griffin was always going to come under heavy questioning, and he was never going to have many friends in the audience.

Like Fraser, I fear that much of Griffin's job had been done before he appeared in front of the cameras. The protests, the interviews and the reams of publicity that Griffin has received will mean that he has reached out to the one-in-a-thousand, one-in-a-hundred, one-in-fifty people who may be attracted by the BNP's message. And that's regardless of how he managed to deal the questions put before him tonight.

In which case, I think the thing we can be most grateful for is that Question Time itself rarely slipped into hysteria. Sure, there were jeers and boos for Griffin; sometimes the panellists raised their voices. But this wasn't the all-shouting, all-screaming, egg-throwing battle which some people expected, and which would have made a martyr out of the BNP leader. Indeed, the defining moment was when the audience greeted his claims about a "non-violent" Ku Klux Klan member with simple laughter. You suspect that will have hurt Griffin more than anything that's been said about him over the past few days.