Michael Rosen, last year's children's laureate, has written this piece on why we should not allow Nazi BNP [British National Party] leader Nick Griffin to be on the programme Question Time
No platform for Nazis
Michael Rosen, broadcaster
People have been arguing for many years about the slogan, “No platform for Nazis.” In 1936 Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists said that they intended to march through a largely Jewish area of east London.
There were leaders who advised the people of that area to stay indoors and let them pass. There were others – socialists and communists, like my parents – who said, no, we should stop them coming through.
Recent events have highlighted this once more. The English Defence League (EDL) has decided to demonstrate outside mosques. It is trying to intimidate Muslim worshippers in that locality.
Following from that they hope that the news will spread and all Muslims in Britain will feel intimidated.
In other words, the EDL is claiming, “If you are a Muslim, be afraid. Be particularly afraid when you go to mosque because we might be there threatening you.
“We own this street, this locality, this country – you don’t. You have no right to be worshipping here. You have no right to be in this country. This place belongs to ‘us’.”
This is the politics of racist persecution. It also breaks the hard won principle of religious toleration. That’s why we have to confront them then and there, deny them the platform from which they are acting out these claims. That’s “no platform” in action.
Another example is the matter of the BBC suggesting that it will invite British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin on to Question Time.
Like the street, the BBC is a public place and is indirectly publicly-owned. The BBC has a responsibility to represent everyone. It has no responsibility to represent those who attack sections of the population and demand that they leave the country.
Griffin will be given the right – by us as indirect owners of the BBC – to say that a percentage of us shouldn’t be living here.
The only way in which a fascist party can bring that about is through terror, internment, deportation, and murder.
We are entitled to say that no party with this programme, either open or hidden, should have the right to come on to a public service to help it come about.
The BBC doesn’t have to broadcast what anti-social people say and do. It doesn’t have to give a platform to people who advocate burglary as a way of life. It may well choose to show such people.
But when it does it will always be surrounded by commentary and context that make clear that this is anti-social and that it is a “problem” that this person is saying such a thing.
This is because of what the BBC calls “compliance”, which it has extended into the “trust agenda”, which I, as a broadcaster, have to abide by.
On the BBC’s own terms, it’s clear to me that Griffin on Question Time would break both these principles.
It may seem to trivial to make the comparison, but the point about the recent Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand scandal, was that it broke “compliance” and “trust”.
The BBC’s contract with the public was deemed to be broken because it “offended” “us”, and “we” couldn’t “trust” it any more.
For those who’ve forgotten about it, this was about a broadcaster claiming that he had had sex with the granddaughter of the person he was ringing up, on air.
If that is “universally” deemed to be offensive, then how much more offensive is it to broadcast the views of someone who is planning to ruin the lives of millions of people?
The BBC also has a requirement to represent different “communities” and to be itself diverse. It cannot do this if it represents the BNP for the
simple reason that the party wants to eliminate different “communities” and diversity.
Griffin has made it clear that he wants to whiten the BBC – with his booklet on Jews in the corporation. In other words, there comes a point where total diversity breaks down.
And that’s when there is a political party that wants to use the BBC in order to smash the very political system that is putting that party on air.
It would be as if, I, believing in principle that I should eat a variety of foods, also on that principle knowingly drank poison. “Ah well,” I say to myself. “I must represent poison in my diet. It is just another food, after all.”
We must demand that the BBC represents the population as a whole – and that means not letting Griffin use the BBC to threaten and intimidate millions of us.
If the invite to have him on goes ahead, we must do all we can to stop people agreeing to appear on TV with him