Far-right leader slams BBC over 'lynch mob' TV grilling

24th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

British far-right leader Nick Griffin on Friday accused the BBC of setting a "lynch mob" on him in a charged debut on its top political panel show, and called for the programme to be re-recorded.

London - British far-right leader Nick Griffin on Friday accused the BBC of setting a "lynch mob" on him in a charged debut on its top political panel show, and called for the programme to be re-recorded.

Griffin, who made a first appearance Thursday on BBC television's "Question Time", suggested the London audience, which fired some angry questions at him, came from a city being "ethnically cleansed" of white people.

Some eight million people watched the British National Party (BNP) leader's controversial appearance, the BBC said -- nearly treble its normal viewing figures.

A furious Griffin said Friday he would lodge a formal complaint with the BBC, accusing it of changing the format to show him in a bad light.

"That was not a genuine 'Question Time', that was a lynch mob," said Griffin. "Let's do it again and do it properly this time".

Asked to rate his performance, he said: "I think under the circumstances, I did just fine", adding the audience was drawn from a city, London, which was "no longer British" due to the size of its immigrant population.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said the British capital's success was its ability to attract the best people from around the world.

"Nick Griffin is right to say London is not his city. London is a welcoming, tolerant, cosmopolitan capital which thrives on its diversity," he said.

The most recent census, in 2001, found that nearly two million of the city's 7.1 million residents were born outside Britain.

The BNP claimed on its website Friday that 3,000 people had asked it about becoming members since the show aired. If they all sign up, it would represent a 30 percent membership increase.

As a debate rages about whether the BBC was right to invite Griffin on the flagship show, the broadcaster said the size of the audience for "Question Time" proved it made the right decision.

"The agenda of the programme was set by the audience's own questions," said Mark Byford, deputy director general of the BBC.

"The BBC is firm in its belief that it was appropriate for Mr. Griffin to appear as a member of the panel and the BBC fulfilled its duty to uphold due impartiality by inviting him on the programme."

The broadcaster said it had received more than 350 complaints about the show, most of which alleged bias against the BNP.

Griffin was invited on after he and a colleague were elected to the European Parliament in June, with the BNP taking nearly a million votes -- its best-ever election result.

The party wants to halt immigration and has a whites-only membership policy, although that is set to change after a recent court battle.

Around 500 protesters staged angry demonstrations Thursday outside BBC Television Centre in London, where the show was being filmed.

Around 30 of them broke into the building and there were six arrests, while three police officers were injured.

Cabinet minister Peter Hain, a veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, has accused the BBC of legitimising "racist poison" by inviting Griffin on "Question Time", while many newspapers were also critical Friday.

In the hour-long show, Griffin claimed Britain's World War II prime minister Winston Churchill would have been a BNP member had he been alive today.

"I am not a Nazi. I never have been," he said, adding: "I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial", without going further into his views on the subject.

Katherine Haddon/AFP/Expatica

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