Who should do battle with the BNP?
The time has come for Nick Griffin to face the music, and Dimbleby’s good-natured ferocity, on Question Time. As I have argued before it is right that Griffin be given the chance to parade his idiocy on television like grown-up politicians have to. The BBC has called this correctly and, unless Unite Against Fascism succeed in barricading the studio, Mr. Griffin will be on a TV screen near you next Thursday. But what of the other guests?
So far Labour has confirmed Jack Straw – a safe choice although personally I feel Jon Cruddas (who has devoted untold energy to fighting the BNP on the streets of his Daggenham constituency) would have been better placed to fill the audience in on the realities of having fascists on your doorstep. For the Lib Dems it will be Chris Huhne who can be awfully good at quiet indignation. The ‘non-political’ guest was confirmed yesterday as Bonnie Greer who, as an immigrant (from the US) and a fantastically intelligent human being, should be able to hold Griffin to account on his wild fantasies about the effects of immigration.
The Tories have yet to confirm who will speak for them; I have to admit to having a preference. Sayeeda Warsi, Life Peer and spokesperson on communities for the Conservative Party, would be perfect. Obviously, in part, this is because she is a British Muslim. The BNP has reserved its most appalling bile for our Muslim population and, as a shining example of the contribution being made by Muslim men and women to British public life, Warsi is a visible example of the unfounded nonsense that fuels Griffin’s hate. But there’s more to it than that. As a member of the Conservative DCLG shadow team Warsi has been articulating concerns about community relations and poor integration for a very long time. Her nuanced, intelligent and sensitive critique of Labour’s approach to immigration and community relations could be a powerful blow to the BNP’s lowest-common denominator politics. She can demonstrate to those frustrated voters who, perhaps, turned to the BNP in desperation or fear that it is possible to have an adult conversation about culture and community without stooping to the bigotry that drives extremists.
Of course, Warsi may feel uncomfortable about being asked to face Griffin down. The fact that she is a British Muslim should not mean that she is wheeled out every time the Conservatives need to do battle with racists. But, if she is willing, Warsi could be the best antidote to the BNPs calculated hate – apart, of course, from the calm contempt of David Dimbleby himself!