The Week That Was…

24 10 2009

There were two notable news stories this week. Except that the first wasn’t really that notable unless you’re a history geek like myself. I don’t want to really discuss this story in much detail except to say that it seems that it is much easier now to be a public fool than it ever was in the past. The Internet, which Menzies credits for revolutionising history (which, undoubtedly is true – check out one of the best First World War sites written by one of my own course predecessors for evidence of this), also makes it easier to be made to look very, very stupid, as Menzies himself has done. Of course Menzies has attempted a disclaimer by admitting he knows nothing, but he seems to show a fundamental understanding of what history is. It is not, in any way, about simply about writing down a few soundbite statements and then hoping there will be a few documents somewhere which will support you. It is, instead, about the whole process of investigation, exploration and interpretation. It is about going into an investigation with an open mind, not a pre-conceived idea of what you expect to find. The end product is incidental to the process of exploring history.

Anyway, moving swiftly onto the next big idiot of the week, Nick Griffin. Whilst the newspapers have been splashed cover to cover with his sloped-gaze of general bigotry and ignorance, Griffin has finally proved himself publically to be the racist, stupid prat we had all known he was. He has come out of the Question Time debacle, and all he has got to show for it is a complaint to the BBC that there were people protesting against him.

Well, not quite all, because apparently, according to a YouGov poll, some 22% of the population would now consider voting BNP. However, if pushed, only 3% would do so tomorrow. Just for the sake of the maths, 3% of the 1,314 people who were surveyed is just over 39 people. Which, in all fairness, is somewhere near what they were polling prior to the programme.

Now Peter Hain can get all worked up that the BBC has given exposure to a party which it shouldn’t be doing. However, I’m guessing that if the majority of the eight million people who watched the programme (plus those of us who watched it on IPlayer later) actually listened to Griffin, then we all know that (a) the BNP have very little in the way of policy beyond racial cleansing, and (b) Griffin was made to look like a complete idiot by everyone in that studio. Especially by Bonnie Greer. Plus, can someone please tell me how his history of the English people seems to ignore the fact that as a people we were colonised by Germans?

Griffin was not given the opportunity to vent his soundbites which he had obviously rigorously prepared beforehand, nor was he allowed to look like his words had an ounce of rationality to them. He was hopelessly out of his depth, and was shown to be nothing more than the voice for a racist few. Which, incidently, are still going to be present regardless of whether Griffin was here or not. If nothing else the programme shows that the BNP do not have supporters as much as the other parties have people who will not vote for them. I’ve said it before, but it is the job of these parties to demonstrate just what they can do for these people who feel so disillusioned that they vote BNP in protest rather than anything else. Once these people have been convinced, the BNP will struggle along with the few people who still think it is right that colour, race or ethnicity should have anything to do with anything.

I’ve championed free speech and a platform policy before and I will continue to do so as it provides ample opportunity to show people the ‘truth’ about those up on the stage. The ‘truth’ is that following Thursday’s events, the BNP are nothing more than a confused racist organisation fronted by a strange little man with a warped version of history, and an even more warped understanding of what the Ku Klux Klan actually is. Don’t fear him, he has nothing which we should be afraid of. Continue showing him up, making him look stupid, and continue working out how to win back voters.

Finally on this, Britain is not like Germany in the 1930’s for the simple reason that we have a monarch. Just a thought for the few doom-mongers who seem paralysed by the fear of the BNP.


Platforms and Fightbacks…

9 06 2009

As the dust begins to settle following a pretty poor set of European election results for all the major parties (The Conservatives only gained 1%, and the Lib Dems were down 1.2%), the focus has fallen on the quite frankly ugly/evil mug of Nick Griffin. The Independent has it splattered across it’s front page today, coupled with the caption “A Dark Cloud Over British Politics“. I’m not sure what it is, but his face alone indicates someone who is just that bit evil (maybe that’s just me?). Anyway, so the question becomes what to do about the BNP?

At least, that’s what it should become. Again, maybe it is just me, but I feel I am seeing more about who is to blame for the BNP’s rise, rather than what can be done to stop it. Some blame Labour for losing the most seats in places where the BNP were successful, others blame politics more generally for failing to engage with the voters. The thing is, the one group who are not blamed, but should shoulder the responsibility for encouraging a racist/homophobic party to the fore, are simply the electorate. Those who put a simple black cross into the box next to the BNP last Thursday deserve to be labelled as the ignorant racist idiots who allowed themselves to get swept away in the sensationalist yarns spun by Griffin et al.

However, the vote shows me two things. The first is that the PR system of democracy is a flawed one, as I commented a couple of weeks ago. Griffin would have been nowhere near the limelight save for the system. He won less votes than in 2004, but because Labour did so badly, he didn’t need to worry.

The second thing is that a no-platform policy to these extremist prats is just not a viable option. I found myself agreeing with Glenda Jackson’s summation of the whole thing in the Indy today. She wrote,

At least the way ahead is clear. The days of arguing whether we should confront or ignore the BNP are over. We won’t confront them. We will tear into them. We will highlight and expose their agenda of prejudice and bigotry and division.

It sounds like something from a bad film, but the point is clear. Let us (by which I mean intelligent, educated folk regardless of politics) have a platform with these people, let us demonstrate why they are racist, homophobic, simple minded folk who have no clear idea about the way British society is now constructed, let us consign them to history along with other extremist groups. Let us show you why this party does not represent everything that Britain now stands for. It is not about nationalism, but multi-nationalism.

The very worst thing that we can do is have a no platform policy against them. It is clear that there are a few pockets in Britain who swallow the BNP’s empty rhetoric with all the hunger of a malnourished dog. Forcing the BNP underground through the no-platform approach would serve to make them martyrs to a cause. They would gain more from being ostracised by society than simply allowed into rational debate. Even Griffin must know, deep down, he has nothing. He is gambling with a two and five, hoping something falls his way. At the moment, the cards seem to be falling for him, expenses, recession, falling political confidence. All aid his cause (and he still didn’t do that well at the European elections). Yet to salvage these problems would leave him raising the stakes with nothing. It is the job of the main parties, as well as the likes of the Greens and UKIP to begin to sort these problems out. Faith needs to be restored. That’s the simple bit that most already know.

The question of how is infinitely harder. Perhaps it has to be the grassroots levels, perhaps it has to be the folks in the street knocking on doors, talking to people. Perhaps it has to be at the top, with Cameron, Brown and Clegg leading by strong example, setting the tone for others to follow. It was only today that Jeremy Vine was talking about how the ‘green shoots of recovery’ are beginning to sprout in the economy. Perhaps the only thing that the system needs is time itself. Let the wounds heal and let politics begin to speak for itself again through it’s actions and consequences.

The main thing that does need to change though is that people need to feel a connection with their MP. People need to know their elected MP will fight their cause in Parliament. At the moment, they don’t, hence why they are looking for other options. Or indeed, why they are not voting in the first place. To some, politics is just men in suits aye-ing and nay-ing to various issues. To others it is a tool designed to impeed the person on the street. Levels of crazy bureaucracy, red tape, and silly laws all do not help. Politics is something that the public need to get reacquainted to. The consequence of them not is the grizzled mug of Griffin plastered across a few more front pages.