Countdown to BNP Question Time

By Ian Dunt

All eyes are on preparations for the major political event of the week today, as BNP leader Nick Griffin appears on Question Time.
 
Anti-fascist protesters will gather outside Television Centre this afternoon, with plans to block Mr Griffin’s entrance to the studio.
 
Meanwhile, BBC boss Mark Thompson spoke out against condemnation of the show, which has been coming from various sources, including home secretary Alan Johnson, Welsh secretary Peter Hain and former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Click here for politics.co.uk’s live coverage of Griffin’s Question Time appearance
 
Describing the arguments as a case for censorship, Mr Thompson wrote in the Guardian: “Question Time is an opportunity for the British public to put questions to politicians of every ideological hue.
 
“Politicians from the UK’s biggest parties appear most frequently, but from time to time representatives of parties with many fewer supporters… also take their seats on the stage,” he continued.
 
“It is for that reason – not for some misguided desire to be controversial, but for that reason alone – that the invitation has been extended.”
 
Meanwhile, Mr Griffin was mocking the BBC in an interview with the Times in which he said the media coverage of his appearance had given the party great publicity and seen donations roll in.
 
“I thank the political class and their allies for being so stupid,” he said.
 
“The huge furore that the political class has created around it clearly gives us a whole new level of public recognition.”
 
The BBC Trust met last night to consider objections to Mr Griffin’s appearance, including Mr Hain’s view that it is in fact illegal to allow the BNP leader on the show.
 
The Welsh secretary previously argued its ‘whites-only’ membership policy was currently being changed following an aborted court case against it by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), but that while it was not reformed, it remained an illegal group.
 
The Trust, which rarely intervenes before a programme has screened, decided against taking any action.

The BNP has had a busy week, with army chiefs making an unprecedented attack on the party for using military imagery to sell its political message.