What did the BNP’s appearance on QT mean?

November 12, 2009

I haven’t rewatched the recent appearance by Nick Griffin on Question Time yet on purpose. My previous post was written in the immediate aftermath of the show and was based on my first impression. This one is based on what thoughts and feelings I’m left with after the event. And that’s why I haven’t rewatched it as I wanted to let the thoughts occur naturally and without intense analysis.

So what are my thoughts about the implications of Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time?

The main one is that I don’t think that the show will have really changed anyone’s mind, or at least not enough people to have any statistical relevance. I know that the BNP has made claims that an additional 300,000 people joined following Question Time, but I suspect that that is just clever PR.

From my perspective Griffin didn’t do enough to persuade any floating voters. With the exception of perhaps one soundbite – paraphrased as “we should leave the Middle East and let them sort it out themselves” – he didn’t come across very well in my opinion. And I’m quite pleased about that.

But I’m really not pleased about the fact that the ‘real’ politicians didn’t do enough to convince any floating voters either. I’m pretty sure that is a substantial pot of people who are happy to be branded racists, but feel that the BNP best answers their problems and issues. The real politicians didn’t do anything to attract those people in my opinion.

So what did they do wrong?

Too much time spent defending the fact that they weren’t racist

To be fair to the politicians this wasn’t necessarily their fault. This is the trap almost everyone falls into whenever a discussion of this nature takes place. “Obviously I disagree with what Nick Griffin said …”; “I can’t condone what the BNP stands for …”; is how nearly everyone starts the conversation.

However I do think that Jack Straw was too quick to use the “some of my best friends are black” approach – in his case it was the fact that he represents a very ethnically diverse constituency, something he told us about five times during the course of the programme.

No understanding of the root causes of BNP support

It was easy to shout at him for being a racist, but clearly the BNP policies have got some support. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I don’t believe that everyone that voted BNP is just a racist. Instead I believe that they feel they have genuine concerns that are not being addressed by the major parties.

Generally speaking it’s not racism, but: poverty; lack of opportunity; fear; unemployment; worries about immigration; the fear of terrorism created and promoted by the Government; historical and cultural issues (i.e. immigrants being given the lowest paid and least skilled jobs – therefore treated like an economic underclass); the ghettoisation of some areas/towns; institutional racism (reflected back by some elements of society). And of course some people are just racist too.

But at no time were any of these other issues discussed and addressed.

No understanding of the fact that Griffin has clearly done a good job of raising the support of the BNP

I don’t like the guy and from his appearance on QT he doesn’t even come across as a particularly skilled politician; but he’s done something ‘right’. He’s turned the BNP into an electable party and that’s no mean feat. So while they were busy shouting at him did the rest of the panel actually take the time to think about what it was he might have done and how he might have done it?

If they could understand that maybe they could go some way towards challenging it.

They didn’t pick up on Griffin’s homophobia

Race was the thing they were there to shout at him about. So when he wasn’t discussing race it was as if they switched to standby mode – and in that mode they missed homophobic comments and they were allowed to pass almost unchallenged.

Surely intolerance is what the BNP stands for and that should have been challenged in every guise.

Question Time – a review

October 23, 2009

So, last night’s Question Time on the BBC featured Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP. I’m sure you knew that anyway, there was a huge amount of controversy over whether he should be allowed to appear.

I think he should have been on. Whether we like it or nor his party currently represents two constituencies in the European Parliament and receives significant numbers of votes at elections of every type. But beyond that, restricting the free speech of someone we don’t like is a slippery slope that leads to the sort of politics the BNP peddles.

But once he was there, how did he do?

To be honest I was disappointed with him. Given that he has over the last few years given the BNP electorial credibility I was expecting someone who was a skilled and clever politician. In the end he came across as nervous, evasive and at times scared. The rest of the panel and the bulk of the audience was clearly strongly against him, however they didn’t go for the kill in the way that I thought they might. Yet Griffin showed himself to be ill at ease in the situation while his use of language was clumsy and awkward and he seemed to possess no rhetorical skill.

Instead, he seemed to catch himself out more often than the rest of the panel did and his attempts to laugh off some of his previous quotes, or to join in with a perceived bonhomie on the panel looked very distasteful. There was one incident when he seemed to pat Bonnie Greer on the back that was particularly unnerving.

That said, I was also very unimpressed with Jack Straw on the panel. He seemed to want to attack the BNP rather than offer a real alternative to its voters. He talked a lot without saying anything and on the subject of immigration, which Baroness Warsi rightly said needed an honest debate, he was at his most evasive.

The person that actually came across best on the show was the non-politician and that was Bonnie Greer. She was rightfully dismissive of the BNP’s views without resorting to personal attacks.

But what this all shows to me is that although I find the BNP’s politics completely abhorent, the major parties are not addressing some of the major issues and grievances felt by the electorate. Those people are seeing the BNP as the only real alternative and they will continue to do so until their issues are properly addressed.

You can watch the programme here on iPlayer, or a cut down version here from the Guardian.

Let me know your thoughts.

The Debate Begins

June 16, 2009

Last night Sonny posted a very long, passionate and intelligent comment on the previous post. It was so good that it deserves a post in its own right. So here it is:

I’ve just been informed about this blog, and I read all the articles so I’m commenting on the latest, but it’s a comment that reflects on all of the articles really.

It’s interesting that this issue about Independent MPs should come up now as this is an issue that is actually very close to my heart at the moment. I’m currently a record producer and engineer and although I do like my work and think that music is important, personally I don’t feel like I’m actually doing something of use to society. I may very well be wrong, young and naive, but I feel I have the motivation, the energy, and the ability to fight for what I believe is a better place for everyone, but also the wherewithal to fight for other peoples beliefs… and I think that there would be enough people that would agree with my thoughts to back me. Hence I have seriously considered no longer making records and becoming an MP. Not a Career MP, but an MP for my local area. It’s my local area, the place I was born and raised that interests me. Nowhere else. Not because I don’t care about those places, I do, but because I think that someone else is much more qualified to govern those areas (by qualified I mean passionate and vested interests).

Though as I looked into becoming a councilor or even an MP I realised that this is a particularly long process. You need a high level of knowledge of many areas of economics, sociology, psychology etc. (or at least I think you should have). This is the bit that excites me about it. Knowing more. The bit that stops me from packing in my life in London and moving back to Calderdale to become an independent candidate is the money aspect of things. The time spent canvassing, learning, convincing, discussing, contemplating etc. is nothing compared to how do you keep a roof over your head, fee yourself (and your family if you’re fortunate enough to have one) and pay for press.

I don’t want to point out pitfalls of the idea of independent MPs, as I would love for the opportunity to become one, but there a few things that I would suggest need to be addressed.

1. Money Makes The world Go round.
However you look at it, however hippyish your views, that’s a fact. For the basic reason that money is; ‘a current medium of exchange’. I want that, you’ve got it, I’ve got this, you want it, deal done. It keeps your kids fed, your house watertight, your shoes hole free. And the more you have of it the more you can get. So the reason we have a political class is because there are a certain group of people that have enough money to be able to pay for the essentials while stilling doing whatever they wish, but not enough of it that they don’t care about how the country is run, to warrant fighting for change. So if Independent MPs are to succeed, some sort of financial infrastructure and support needs to be in place, whether locally or globally.

2. Stick with what you know.
Human nature is to go with what you know. Choose the one you think you can rely on. That’s why BT can out do people like Telecoms Plus, British Gas get more custom than Gas’R’Us etc. That’s why I buy Apple Computers, we’re all susceptible to it. I know I can rely on Apple. If it has the Apple symbol I’ve got a good idea it’s gonna be useful. This is how the major parties attract so many votes. They have lots of people in these clubs, would appear to all be fighting for the same things (so obviously that many people can’t be wrong) thought probably no more than any two other people; they have nice logos that evoke certain thoughts and feeling in us, they have more money and can shout louder because they shout in unison. I would say that most people who vote, vote for the party because that’s the one they’ve heard most about. Their friends said they’d vote for them, there are a few more poster up that any other party, they’ve seen the party political broadcast… and ‘hey he looks like a nice fella… I’ll vote for him’. Maybe hard to believe but I bet it’s quite true… and that’s only the people who do vote.

I’m pointing these out not to say ‘what’s the point then’, but more ‘if we can get over these then jobs a good ‘en’. The problem that we would have as Independent MPs is that we do not have a unifying manifesto. Each person would be fighting individually. This is in many ways a good thing… the good idea that started this blog, it means that my arguments in Calderdale or even smaller area, are specific to my constituency and I represent them as accurately as possible, not generalising. Thought it also means that capital support is thinned out and that the number of votes per candidate is reduced, meaning one candidate may have the highest number of votes, but with only 10% of the constituency. This is then multiplied over each constituency and you’re left with a less representational vote than the current one.

This very scenario is what has happened to the industry I work in due to the advent of the internet and computer recording. Anyone is able to make music on their own, in their spare time and to a higher standard (but still not as high a standard as the professionals). They are also able to distribute their music to a wider audience as it’s now more simple and cheaper to upload music onto iTunes, Rhapsody, Reverbnation etc. as well as market it using blogs like this one, make their own sites on wordpress or squarespaces and using social networking such as twitter, facebook, 12seconds and even perform gigs via Ustream. This all sounds amazing at first. For a small price of what it used to cost I can effectively producer and distribute my music to a much larger audience. Fantastic. The problem lies in that everyone is doing the same thing. So now, rather than people being introduced to music via the top 10, they are bombarded by thousands of bands, all with their own ‘unique’ genre or sub genre, which means the consumer is confused by the choice, finds it much harder to search for something they want, because everything is categorized so differently leaving them not knowing what to choose. Therefore the wealth is then spread so thinly that it no longer becomes a financially viable option to be a working musician. Everyone becomes a Jack of all trades and you have no Masters.

If Independent MPs is to work it has to overcome this problem in a much more effective way than the Music Industry has/hasn’t. We could do this by creating an Independent MPs alliance. A single point of contact where an independent MP can get the information, support and help to raise funds they need to become an MP. Though for it not to be just another major party it would have to be impartial to any political view… but that would then mean that I, a socialist, would have to take support from as well as give support to an organisation that also takes/gives support from/to those with a similar view to the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP. Now I will stand up and fight to the death for anyone to have the right to believe those things and to voice their opinion, but I would also die before giving them the financial, political, or social leverage to overcome my beliefs. They are allowed their opinion and they are allowed to voice it, but I’m not paying for or setting up the PA system to amply it.

Some questions that I don’t know the answer to (yet) but I would like to work towards answering them and maybe we can get to point where you don’t have to have money to govern the country and that intellect and passion rule and are the measuring stick to success. I shall be adding more… like it or not 🙂

I don’t know the answers either, but this blog is a way to hopefully find out …

Well, there’s at least two of us

June 4, 2009

I had a good meeting this afternoon with Lloyd Davis (twitter @LloydDavis and hashtag #lloyddavis4mp), who was one of the inspirations for this blog (and potentially this movement) with his post To run or not to run from last week.

It was good to meet and to talk about what this means and where it might go (neither of us know the answer to that right now) and perhaps more importantly how we might do it.

Although we don’t know the exact answer to the final question either, it does seem easier to address initially. And in effect the first part of the answer is to just get it out there and to see what happens. I detect a mood from people about a desire to have politicians that more closely represent the man or woman on the street, so if that desire is really out there then let me know, make a comment, follow me on Twitter (@independent_mps) and join the debate. I’d love to know what you think about this and how you think we should do it.