Public debate is de rigueur at London’s monthly Intelligence Squared debates which take place in the theatre of the Royal Geographical Society. There, most recently Anne Widdecombe and a Nigerian Archbishop were positively slain by Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens advocating a motion tabled that “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”.
Thursday’s debate du jour was served wrapped in the rind of yet another debate. I spent the day leading up to Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time watching the socio-political fallout. With great interest I followed the story as it proliferated itself across the Internet and news outlets, rattling the doors of parliament and rousing the executive suites of the BBC. Watching again as I ate my lunch, I was again moved by just how incendiary an issue this has been. And not just in terms of the wider populous. I truly flit between opinions as to the morality amidst this issue with all its gloomy complexity. I felt as though I needed my own debate about the issue before Griffin even reached the television studio. There are too many things to be said about this issue, too many views I myself want to express. But here is just one. It is a troublesome one, but one I would love to see given the kind of intellectual currency afforded to such platforms as the Intelligence Squared debates.
I put forward the proposition that the BNP, distasteful and undemocratic though it is, is in fact a powerful force for the re-democratisation of the UK. If you can put to one side for a moment the controversy and scaremongering (not to downplay the importance of the bias and racism inherent in the what the BNP stands for), it is plain to see that the drafting of this party onto a highbrow political platform and therefore into the upper echelons of the political arena, has exorcised the populous in a manner practically unheard of in contemporary party-politics. Not since the expenses scandals have ordinary, grass-roots voters been motivated to comment on the functioning of politics and I would suggest that contrary to its outward appearance to have roused political interest, the expenses issue served mainly to cement widespread dislike of the political classes and apathy in the process of democracy and its ability to offer real options and real change.
The BNP’s appearance on prime-time television, however, is one which leaves the moral compass spinning. If pushed I think I find myself most in agreement with the ex-editor of the Sun who commented that the BBC cannot be blamed for simply fulfilling the mandate for which we pay our license fee. I am not sure I am happy about Griffin appearing on Q.T. but it’s worth noting that it is the fundamental bases and building blocks of our society – law, rules, codes of conduct – that keep the BNP and its followers from exerting a greater influence than they do in this country, and therefore we must adhere to these markers of civilisation, and follow the rules and codes in deciding whether to give the BNP this platform. This taken as a given, it is plain that the BBC had only one choice given the BNP’s six percent share of the vote and two seats in the European Elections.
In which case it is not the BBC who is responsible for my discomfort in seeing such a figure ascend the tiers of debate in which I could find at least some semblance of respect for the participants until now. It is in fact the voting public, my fellow countrymen and women.
Quite simply, I do not remember the last time such a divisive political debate lead so readily back to the grass-roots electorate. In my disgust at some of the issues coagulated within this row, I cannot help but take enjoyment from the barbed blade planted firmly into the torso of political apathy.