Home News British BNP far-right leader appears on BBC show amid protests

British BNP far-right leader appears on BBC show amid protests

Published on 23/10/2009

London -- The BBC controversially gave a far-right party leader a first appearance Thursday on its flagship political panel show as angry protesters besieged its headquarters.

Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party (BNP), appeared on the weekly "Question Time" debate show as around 500 demonstrators joined in angry protests outside Television Centre in west London.

Around 30 demonstrators broke into the BBC’s headquarters, while others lit flares outside and clashed with police. Six people were arrested and three police officers were injured, one being taken to hospital with a head injury.

The British Broadcasting Corporation defended its decision to invite Griffin on the show, saying it was duty bound to be impartial.

The BNP had never appeared on the show before but was invited on after Griffin and a colleague were elected to the European Parliament in June, with the party taking nearly 944,000 votes — a 6.2 percent share.

The BBC’s invite sparked passionate debate — and saw mainstream parties change tack and agree to share a platform with the BNP.

"We remain firmly of the view that it was appropriate to invite Nick Griffin onto the ‘Question Time’ panel in the context of the BBC meeting its obligation of due impartiality," BBC deputy director general Mark Byford said.

"Members of the audience asked the kind of tough questions that mark ‘Question Time’ out as the premier television programme where the public put the panellists on the spot."

Griffin faced hostile questions in a show dominated by debates around BNP policy and panellists challenging the 50-year-old on quotes attributed to him.

His appearance has dominated the British news agenda this week and was on the front page of most national newspapers Friday.

"I’ve been relentlessly attacked and demonised over the last few days," Griffin said.

"I am not a Nazi. I never have been," he said, adding that "I am the most loathed man in Britain in the eyes of Britain’s Nazis" for having stopped the BNP being "frankly an anti-Semitic and racist organisation".

He said: "I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial", adding: "I was very critical of the way in which the Holocaust is abused to prevent serious discussion over immigration."

He added: "Our country must remain fundamentally a British and Christian country… based on Western democratic values", saying he stood for people who felt "shut out in our own country".

Griffin was on the panel alongside Justice Secretary Jack Straw for the governing Labour Party; Sayeeda Warsi, communities spokeswoman for the main opposition Conservatives; Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne and US playwright Bonnie Greer.

Griffin said beforehand that the furore around his appearance "clearly gives us a whole new level of public recognition". The BNP website said it had been forced to take its normal pages offline due to a surge in hits.

The BNP wants to "stop immigration and put British people first". Its membership is restricted to "indigenous Caucasian" people, though that is set to change after a recent court battle.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Griffin going on the show was "a good opportunity to expose what they are about".

Griffin told Britain’s domestic Press Association news agency afterwards that he thought the programme was a "hard-fought match" that would "polarise normal opinion".

He said: "A huge swath of British people will remember some of the things I said and say to themselves they’ve never heard anyone on ‘Question Time’ say that before and millions of people will think that man speaks what I feel."

Robin Millard/AFP/Expatica

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