The most encouraging sign emerging from last night’s Question Time was that it has shown that the BNP can be beaten through debate.
Griffin was uncomfortable, uncertain of his own policies, exposed for having no idea of British history, not even sure of his own past and branded a ‘thoroughly deceptive man’.
The audience – more impressive than any politician – tore his agenda apart with the mainstream media this morning picking over his support for the KKK, his repulsion at homosexuality (“the feeling is mutual” said one excellent lesbian audience member) and how, according to the Independent, he ‘choked on the oxygen of publicity’.
Even the Daily Mail, Express, Sun and Star were united with the Mirror and quality press in their damning headlines this morning. Even Sky News have finally managed to stop treating “Dick – sorry Nick – Griffin” (another audience member) as a neo-celebrity in its reporting.
But while the BNP performance coupled with the headlines this morning will not have helped win new support, Griffin may have felt the party landed some important punches on mainstream politics this week.
The squabble about immigration on Question Time will not have re-assured any wavering voters inclined to vote on this issue – something Labour, Tories and Lib Dems must sort out rapidly. For such an important topic in beating the BNP, the three parties should agree a common line.
And against an almost united studio and media, the victim card may have cut through and helped galvanise his existing support base.
But (as I’ve argued below) last night’s TV showed that when its ideas are debated, the BNP have no answers and nowhere to turn, other than in blatant lies, racism and homophobia. As Margaret Hodge MP suggested on Channel 4 News, when the debate is had, the BNP are exposed to voters as a nasty, hollow, violent party.
Mainstream politics does need to get its act together with clear messages which deal with the issues, a united approach and support from the public, but the BNP can be beaten and last night was a good start.