Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 28 October 2009

What we think

BBC Question Time panel - Workers' voice denied against BNP

Eight million people watched BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time, the biggest audience for the programme in its thirty year history. In the run-up to the programme it was revealed that the production company that makes Question Time, Mentorn, had been campaigning to have the BNP on the show since 2007, long before the BNP had MEPs or even a member of the London Assembly. Reports are that its reasoning had nothing to do with 'democracy' or undermining the BNP but was purely because they thought it would increase ratings.

This shows the real character of Question Time, which does not lend itself to a serious examination of ideas and the discussion that follows from them. This was more true than usual of this episode. Griffin himself came across as evasive and incapable of defending his own record. But unfortunately, many of the audience would have felt alienated by what seemed to be an attack by the whole establishment on one individual. As a result Griffin was not effectively exposed.

In workplaces and communities up and down the country there has been a far more serious discussion on the BNP's appearance than took place in Mentorn or the BBC. Large sections of the population have debated whether it was right to invite Griffin onto Question Time, and the likely consequences of having done so.

The Socialist Party campaigned against the BNP being given this platform, arguing that, if the neo-fascist core of the BNP ever got their way it would mean a destruction of all democratic rights, including the right to vote, to join a trade union and to demonstrate; the BNP should not, therefore, be given a platform.

The scale of the campaign against Griffin exerted enormous pressure on the BBC. As a result the programme was turned into a concerted attempt to expose the BNP's racism and neo-fascist origins. The day afterwards the capitalist media triumphantly declared Griffin's defeat. He was a 'bigot at bay' according to the Daily Mail, 'loathed' on the front page of The Sun, and a rat on the run according to the Daily Mirror.

Many of those who watched Question Time would have felt that Griffin had been defeated, mainly by the audience, and would also have been disgusted by his racism and homophobia, as well as cringing at his ineptitude. Unfortunately, however, it is not true that, as the Independent put it, Griffin 'choked' on the oxygen of publicity.

Growth opportunity?

A YouGov poll found that, following Question Time, 22% of people would 'consider' voting BNP, with 7% saying they would definitely or probably vote BNP at some point. Given that 6.3% of voters in the European elections voted for the BNP, this does not necessarily represent a sudden leap in their support.

A ComRes poll reported in the Independent on 27 October put the BNP on just 2% and drew the conclusion that it had not benefited electorally from Griffin's performance.

However, it is clear that the BNP could grow as a result of it. The BNP claim that 9,000 people applied to join them after Question Time. While this is almost certainly highly exaggerated, they will have had an increase in membership.

Le Pen, leader of the French far-right party, the FN (Front National), said that he expects Griffin's appearance on Question Time to lead to the same kind of increase in support and public profile as did his own 1984 appearance on a high profile French current affairs programme - now widely recognised as being a turning point for the FN.

Griffin was attempting to tap into the alienation felt by many workers, mainly ex-Labour voters. The biggest problem with Question Time was the lack of a genuine workers' representative that could have punctured this attempt, as even the Guardian recognised. Instead Griffin was on a panel with establishment politicians all of whom support anti-working class, pro-big business policies.

Without doubt, many watching felt aggrieved that in order to attack the BNP, Question Time did not take questions on the central issues of the day, not least the postal workers' strike and public spending cuts. The concentration instead on Griffin, will have increased sympathy for him amongst a layer of viewers.

However, if such issues had been discussed, the nature of the panel would have allowed Griffin to pose as the only politician who stood in workers' interests. This would have been a lie. At local level BNP councillors have consistently supported cuts. Most recently, in Huddersfield the BNP councillor has called for public sector jobs to be slashed by 25%, even more than the up to 400 million worth of cuts that the Labour council is proposing. Only councillor Jackie Grunsell, a member of the Socialist Party, is actually fighting the cuts.

Divisive policies

And while the BNP would have accurately laid the blame for the postal workers' strike at the door of New Labour's market-driven policies, the only means to keep the post service publicly owned is the determined and united strike action that postal workers are currently taking. The BNP has not said it supports the strike. What is more, if the vile racism of the BNP was ever to get a grip amongst white postal workers, such unity would become impossible.

On immigration, Griffin was able to have an impact while saying virtually nothing, as all the establishment politicians competed to sound 'tough' on asylum and immigration.

A workers' representative on the panel could have explained the way that big business has made huge profits under New Labour by driving down wages, and that they have used workers from other countries as a tool to achieve this. Such a representative could then have explained how the only effective way to counter this is not the racism of the BNP, but a united struggle for decent pay and jobs for all.

These are some of the arguments that a socialist could have put on Question Time which would have effectively challenged the BNP. The BBC, however, has consistently refused to let militant trade unionists and socialists take part in the show, most recently Bob Crow, general secretary of the railway workers' union, the RMT, who campaigned to appear on behalf of 'No2EU' - the trade union based European election challenge. But while militant trade unionists are not given a voice on Question Time, the BNP was allowed to spread its poison.

It was correct to argue against Griffin being allowed to appear on Question Time, and there are likely to be similar campaigns in the future. However, if the BNP gets an established platform, there will also be occasions when the campaign will have to be for the right of the workers' movement, rather than just big business politicians, to take part in the debate. The need for a trade-union based challenge in the general election - against both the big business parties and the racism of the BNP - is now more urgent than ever.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 28 October 2009:

Support postal workers

Support post workers, this is no time to equivocate

Postal strike reports: Defending the service


BBC Question Time panel - Workers' voice denied against BNP

BBC Griffin protest: Jobs and homes, not racism!

Far right shut out of Newport by mass protest

Socialism 2009

Socialism 2009 forum - can we build a party for working class people?

Youth fight for jobs

Huddersfield march for jobs

Young musicians support YFJ

Cardiff Socialist Student elected


Afghanistan: anti-war demo

Tamil Solidarity fights for boat refugees

Socialist Party news and analysis

Darling you're talking rubbish!

Energy giant 'fanciful to the point of paranoia'

Marxist analysis

80th anniversary of the Wall Street Crash: Capitalist failure - then and now

Workplace news and analysis

Strikes sweep across Yorkshire

Leeds bin strike: 92% vote to reject council's 'final' offer

Battle for jobs in Land Registry

Ex Ford/Visteon pensioners protest in Swansea

Leicester uni cuts protest

Socialist Party feature

Call centres - public services on the cheap

Marxist analysis: history

Newport Rising 1839


Daily Mail homophobia

Socialist Party reviews

Film review - Capitalism: a love story

Conspirator: Lenin in Exile


Home   |   The Socialist 28 October 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangle25 years since 50,000 marched against the far-right threat

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleWhy I joined: "I hope that more and more people are going to join the Socialist Party and the fight to end inequality"


triangleDefend free TV licences for pensioners!

triangleTears and anger over the treatment of the Windrush generation

triangleTV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?


triangleCampaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

triangleFighting to end racism and capitalism

Big business:

triangleTesting: Tories' 5bn gift to private sector

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Tories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system



Capitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation


Labour Party

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation



NHS pay: 15% for all now



From first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures



What would socialist universities look like?



Huawei: what's behind Johnson's u-turn?



Fight for our livelihoods... Fight for our lives!



Saving the music industry from pandemic and austerity



Luton Council sunk by airport investment: fight for funding, not speculation!


The Socialist

Getting the Socialist over the summer



Fight for the NHS



Tories using pandemic to privatise NHS more


Them & Us

Them & Us



Nationalise Tata Steel to save jobs

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020