Lloyd Evans

Tin pot Griffin fluffs his lines

Tin pot Griffin fluffs his lines
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Mobs of howling protestors outside the BBC. Police cordons being smashed by anti-fascists. News clips of upended students being dragged across the foyer of the TV Centre shouting, ‘Shame on you for defending fascism.’ It was chaotic, it was emotive, it was anarchic. But, ultimately, it was a marvellously British occasion. Thanks to the BNP, we were given proof tonight of the rag-bag unity of our society.

No one is quite sure how Nazi bogeyman Nick Griffin was smuggled into the Shepherds Bush studios for the recording of Question Time. The best evidence is that he stowed away in a lorry driven by an unsuspecting dupe who failed to check the back of his rig.

When Griffin entered everyone was amazed that his suit was unsmeared by bunged eggs. But his appearance on the Question Time panel was the highlight of the evening for him. After that, it was all downhill for his party of conspiracy theorists and mis-historians.

The speakers had been briefed that the BNP are dangerous. And purpose the of the prograamme was to expose their new-found duplicity and cunning, and to reveal the far-right’s brilliant public relations machine which aims to schmooze us with its charm and rhetoric. There was no need. All that emerged was that Nick the Nazi just hasn’t got the skills for a high-flying fascist. We’ve seen charismatic right-wingers in action and frankly they’re usually a lot better than this.

Seated next to the American playwright Bonnie Greer, Griffin kept giggling and smirking and leaning towards her as if he was desperate to mount her next production. When he admitted that he’d been photographed alongside David Duke, a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, he tried to mitigate his lapse by saying Duke had been ‘a leader of the Klan but not a violent one.’ Bonnie Greer didn’t look enormously impressed.

Taken to task by David Dimbleby over his racist views, Griffin flatly denied that the BNP was racist. He boasted that he had changed the BNP from being an anti-Semitic party into one which had recently supported Israel against Hamas. He even denied that he had denied the Holocaust. He said ‘radio intercepts’ from the Eastern Front had convinced him that Jews had indeed been murdered during WWII.

Jack Straw asked him if he needed ‘radio intercepts’ to confirm the evidence of Auschwitz, but Griffin’s reply was drowned out by studio argy bargy. He then made an embarrassing attempt to pretend that European legislation prevented him from discussing the deaths of six million Jews. Very poor stuff. Traditional British fascists like their Holocaust-deniers to be loud and proud. Griffin didn’t cut it.

Dimbleby put the question to Jack Straw that the BNP’s success was due to Labour’s failings on immigration. Straw waffled ineffectually for many, many minutes. Mercy arrived when Dimbleby cut him dead and Sayeeda Warsi, for the Tories, made the salient point that racism isn’t the core issue. It’s resources. Her home town of Dewsbury, ‘has the largest BNP vote in the country,’ she said. She sounded quite proud of it. ‘There is statistical evidence that people vote for BNP who are not racist.’

Nazi Nick echoed this when he announced that 84 percent of the population supported his immigration policy. It’s true that those who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s are very keen on limiting further influxes of foreigners.

The trouble for Nick is that these supporters are also the people he wants to get rid of. Or are they? This too is in doubt. Griffin gave the impression that he would say absolutely anything to massage the prejudices of those he was talking too. In fact, he’s half way to joining the LibDems already. Meanwhile he seems to be the semi-leader of a semi-racist party.

‘It’s time to shut the door because the country is overcrowded,’ he said. ‘Criminals and bogus asylum seekers should be deported. Everyone else can stay.’ Fine. But he also insisted that he stood for the rights of the ‘indigenous’ white population which has been here for ‘17,000 years’. Whites like me, that is, and whites like him. He calls us ‘the aborigines.’ So our claim to a passport must be earlier, and stronger, than that of more recent arrivals.

Questions from the floor revealed just how hard it would be to untangle Britain’s ethnic threads. One Cockney speaker complained, ‘It was the Conservatives ‘oo joined the European Union, not Labour, and it was them wot let all the foreigners in.’ Cockney accent, yes, but he had a black moustache and an Asian complexion. A middle-aged Pakistani-Brit-Cockney.

Another woman, who looked as if she’d spent the evening making toffee apples for the WI, complained that Jack Straw had incorrectly identified her social status. ‘I’m not Afro-Caribbean,’ she said in querulous middle-class tones, ‘I’m African-Caribbean.’ Straw looked mortified at this howler.

That was the tenor of the evening. It was a celebration of the new polychromatic Britishness. Nick the Nazi brings out everyone’s core values about this country, that's the great thing about him. He foments a renewed interest in our sense of history and heritage. We pull out our photo albums. We talk about our grandparents. We compare their service records and we celebrate our family background.

Just tonight we learned that Sayeeda Warsi’s grandfathers both fought in WWII. We discovered from Jack Straw that he’s a third generation Jewish immigrant on his mother’s side. And through the testimony of Bonnie Greer, we were informed that Churchill was descended from ‘Mohawk Indians’ (she didn’t say ‘Native Americans’) via his mother. How amazing. Nazi Nick has emerged as an enormously cohesive force in our society.

The fact that the BNP leader isn’t quite sure what he believes in, and that he's spectacularly inept at presenting his views with any eloquence or charm, is something that should bother only his party membership. He seems to want repatriation of some kind for certain groups. But who? That's undecided. The English can stay. So can the Scots and the Irish. And the Welsh too. Phew, that’s me off the hook. What about the Griffins? Well, paradoxically this name looks mysteriously unindigenous. Anyone with the faintest interest in philology will have spotted that ‘gryphon’, from which his surname presumably derives, is a Greek word for a mythical dragon which featured prominently in Persian folkore. Oh dear.

But not to worry, Nick. Let’s call it quits. I’ll go back to Llanelli. You go back to Baghdad.