UK Far-Right Leader in Controversial TV Appearance
AP—The leader of Britain’s far-right party outlined his vision in a controversial television debut that critics fear could help his whites-only party ease into the political mainstream.
British National Party leader Nick Griffin feuded with fellow panelists and was excoriated by hostile audience members in a tense appearance on the BBC’s “Question Time” program Thursday night.
“It was hard-going,” he told The Associated Press in telephone interview after the show, describing the program as “a bit like a boxing match. I took some punches but I was able to land some punches too.” Still, he complained that the audience had been stacked with minorities.
“They put us on in London where the indigenous population is in the minority so we don’t have much sympathy or support,” he said.
Question Time gathers Britain’s leading politicians, journalists and other public figures in a panel to take questions from a studio audience. The three-decade-old program has become something of a national institution, and many have condemned Griffin’s invitation as awarding his far-right group an undeserved aura of political respectability.
The BBC said that, as a publicly funded broadcaster, it must cover all political parties that have a national presence. The BNP has no seats in the Britain’s Parliament, but earlier this year the party won two seats in the European legislature.
The program showed Griffin defending himself against accusations that he sympathized with the ideals of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party – but also showed him ducking the question of whether he ever denied the Holocaust.
“I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial,” he said, smiling faintly as the studio audience snickered. He later said he had changed his mind about the Holocaust, but then refused to explain exactly how.
Fellow panelist Chris Huhne, a lawmaker with Britain’s Liberal Democrats party, spoke for many of the show’s guests when he predicted that Griffin’s credibility “is going to be seriously damaged by his performance.”
Protesters Besiege BBC Studios Over Far-Rightist TV Appearance
Reuters—Hundreds of angry demonstrators besieged the BBC’s television studios on Thursday to protest against a planned appearance by the leader of the far-right British National Party on a flagship political program.Mark Thompson, director-general of the publicly funded BBC, defended the decision, saying it was based purely on support for the BNP at the ballot box in recent elections and that it was up to politicians to bar parties.
A small number of protesters burst into the television center in West London, dodging a heavy security cordon, but were escorted out, a BBC spokeswoman said.
Some 400 demonstrators, brandishing placards reading “Stop the Fascist BNP” and shouting “Smash the BNP” protested outside.
BNP leader Nick Griffin has been invited to appear as a panelist on the BBC’s Question Time debate show due to be recorded at the center later on Thursday.
The first appearance by a far-right politician on a program regularly watched by three million people has aroused strong reactions, with anti-racism groups arguing the BNP should not be given a platform and others backing it on free speech grounds.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the choice of panelists was a matter for the BBC but added that he thought Griffin’s appearance would backfire on the right-wing party.