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Curbing Racism in Britain: Censoring the BBC is not the answer

Racism and xenophobia have once again emerged in British politics, driven by the very difficult economic situation in which Britain is now mired.  

The grim reality of racial unease in Britain and its possible consequences were highlighted by an invitation by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to a convicted racist and leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, to appear on one its prestigious television programmes, “Question Time.”   Griffin appeared alongside representatives of British mainstream political parties, including the Justice Minister Jack Straw.

Straw argued that he appeared on the programme to confront Griffin and not to leave “an empty chair.”.

Jack Straw, Dimbleby (Chair, Question Time), Nick Griffin

Outrage at the BBC invitation to Griffin has been widespread and the BBC’s Director-General, Mark Thompson, has been heavily criticised for the decision which he defends by saying that the BBC will not cave into “censorship.”

As the programme was about to be recorded on Thursday October 22, hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators crowded the BBC’s television studios to protest Griffin’s appearance.

Well, what are the facts about electoral support for the BNP?  The party is not represented in the British Parliament.  In the 2005 British elections, the BNP received a meager 0.7% of the popular vote.  But, in addition to already holding seats in several metropolitan borough councils, the BNP won its first county council seats and two seats in the European Parliament in June this year. 

While these numbers represent a modest increase in votes for the BNP in local government and European Union elections over the last four years, they do not translate into significant support for the party at the national level in Britain.  Traditionally, turn out at local government and European Union elections is small, and seldom does it reflect national consensus except in a national elections year.

Protesters outside the BBC as Question Time is recorded 

The BNP is, beyond any shadow of doubt, a racist political organization with a very strong anti-foreigner position.  Its anti-foreigner and racist views are not limited to Africans and Asians, but to Jews as well. 

In August this year, the BNP was forced to change its constitution after the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued County Court proceedings against it, expressing concern that its membership criteria were restricted to white people. 

Prior to the change in its constitution, the BNP stated that it is "committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948", and it restricted membership to "indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of ‘Indigenous Caucasian.’" 

The change in its constitution removing restrictions on non-white people was never real; it was done to satisfy the Court and to avoid being banned for violation of Britain’s race relations laws.  On October 15, a group of non-white people was barred from attending a BNP meeting and the reason was captured on video when one of its members told the group: “We don’t want you. You are not white British.” 

So, the BNP is a fully racist, fully anti-foreigner political grouping whose main desire is a Britain of exclusively white people except for white Jews.  It is repugnant, repulsive and vile without question.


Anti BNP poster

But the BBC is right that the BNP and its leader should not be banned from its programmes.  Banning the BNP or censoring it would serve the BNP best.  The party would point to such a ban as a policy by the authorities to suffocate its views, giving it ammunition to wage its war against them, and a cause around which to rally its sympathizers.   It would be far better to bring the BNP’s racist and anti-foreigner views out into the open where they can be rejected and defeated.

London’s former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, argued against Griffin’s appearance on the BBC TV programme by predicting that the BNP leader’s appearance would spark a rash of racist attacks on blacks and Asians.  I believe the opposite to be true.  Racist attacks by BNP supporters are more likely to result from banning Griffin from appearing.  Griffin himself thanked all those who opposed his appearing on the programme because, as he said, they were “so stupid” that the massive publicity resulted in big financial donations to the BNP which, up to then, had been severely cash deprived.

The truth is that the BNP has miniscule support in Britain at the present time.  It has begun to appeal to some of the working class people because they are under severe economic pressure.  Living costs are rising and so are taxes.  There is also a shortage of low income housing, and the traditional welfare state that has been built up since the Second World War is being eroded.  In such conditions, it almost axiomatic for the White working class to identify people of a different race as a contributing factor to their woes.

Protestors clash with Police outside BBC Television Centre as Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, participates in "Question Time" 

Significantly, it is not Africans and Asians alone who are the brunt of current working class resentment.  The present financial crisis has also led to job losses to European immigrant workers who are prepared to work for the minimum wage – a wage that the British worker has long rejected. But, at the end of the day, it is easier to identify people of a different colour in violent protests.  So, despite the fact that European immigrants are the greatest rivals for British jobs, inevitably, Africans, Asians and West Indians will be the targets of any violence that may occur.

The solution to the problem does not lie in banning the BNP from the BBC or any other media.  The party and its leadership ought not to be dignified by the idea that they are feared; they should be confronted - as they ultimately were on the BBC programme “Question Time” - and their fascism exposed and repudiated as indecent, anachronistic and unacceptable.

The real solution lies in the British government and British industry pulling the economy out of the doldrums in which it now wallows and allocating resources to the improvement of the lot of the working class, who, incidentally are not only white but African, Asian and West Indian as well.

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