Popular opinion on Nick Griffin’s scheduled appearance on Question Time divides broadly into two categories. First, the argument runs that extremism is nurtured in dark corners and the way to defeat it is through open, democratic debate. Second, it is recognised that an organisation like the BNP craves publicity, and, given that all reasonable and reasoning people agree that its views are abhorrent, it should be denied it wherever possible.
Unfortunately it has been a bad weekend for those who subscribe to the latter view. The debate on BNP participation has already commanded many inches of newsprint. Whether one agrees with the BBC’s decision to include Griffin in its panel, or not, the path of least resistance must surely now dictate that he appears. If he were replaced at this late juncture it could not fail to nourish the erroneous sense of grievance on which his party thrives.
In Northern Ireland we have seen the way in which extreme political views can be insinuated into the mainstream, until they become, effectively, unremarkable. Griffin will have ambitions to achieve a similar outcome. In common with another rabidly ethno nationalist party, Sinn Féin, the BNP’s support grows in accordance with its persecution complex.
It is too late to deny the BNP publicity; it is possible to avoid needlessly fuelling its sense of persecution.