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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: TV Comment

Question Time
Richard Crawley

Question Time was a shambolic pantomime; an ugly facade of political debate that exposed the BBC as a leftist snake pit willing to engineer the content of supposedly unbiased broadcasting in order to quell the growth of a worrying [though perfectly legitimate] political movement.

Orchestrating this thinly veiled propaganda was David Dimbleby- a suited Wee Willie Winkie in all but name- who abandoned his usual restraint and calm stoicism by instead allowing the program to become a riotous platform of hate speech, bullying and racial intolerance; nearly all of it directed at Nick Griffin MEP.

If Griffin was the pantomime ogre of the production then Jack Straw [who looks more and more like 90's kids TV villain The Demon Headmaster every time he ventures out in public] was surely the slippery tongued genie; emerging from his lamp with a puff of foul smelling smoke and relying on a largely liberal audience to support his evasive contributions with wave after wave of undeserved applause.

Griffin, in contrast, was stamped on like a chip pan fire as soon as he started to gain momentum. Take, for instance, the now much Chinese-whispered segment about Griffin's encounter with the Klu Klux Klan. What was not revealed was that Griffin shared the platform with former KKK leader David Duke not to collaborate with but to argue against the American racist. However, rather than being allowed to explain himself, Griffin was simply found guilty by association and as such was sentenced to spend the remainder of the debate in the proverbial stocks- while rotting fruit got passed around the audience by the sloppy bucket load.

As all genies do, Jack Straw spoke in riddles and was told to on fewer than fourteen occasions throughout the evening to properly explain himself. Just how Mr. Straw can profess the moral high ground when his own Labour party has so recently been exposed as a fat gang of expenses hungry pigs was beyond me. He did though, and on the few instances Griffin stepped up to confront Straw on these deceits the conversation only descended into "Oh no you didn't! ......... Oh yes you did" territory that served no other purpose than to underline the tackiness of the whole charade.

Indeed, I half expected the black-suited ghost of Enoch Powell to appear behind Griffin's shoulder and for the pantomime's Cinderella, Bonnie Greer, [a beautiful and soulful creature full of intelligence and wit and who was ironically the only member of the panel to speak to Griffin like a human being] to wail "He's behind you!"
There was a tangible sense of unrest in the studio and we were always aware of the thousands of supposed anti-fascist campaigners on the outside of the building; huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the door down unless Griffin was taken shackled from the studio to be burned alive atop a bonfire of copies of Mein Kampf.

This collection of no doubt highly educated rabble should dissect their own behaviour; threatening violence in order to undermine and prevent free speech is the very definition of fascism. But then, my intuition tells me this ignorant scum weren't out in force to campaign for hard won democratic freedoms- they just fancied a ruck.

Despite the violence outside, nowhere is the showbiz maxim that "the show must go on" truer than in panto. And go on it did. Sayeeda Warsi and Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne fit snugly into their roles as the ugly sisters of the panel; hiding away in their respective corners until Griffin had been suitably bloodied so that they could stomp him without any fear of reprisal. Baroness Warsi in particular, who herself has said some abhorrent things about homosexuality [calling it both "repugnant" and "a crime against the one true religion Islam"] never missed a chance to lash the befuddled BNP leader with her forked and duplicitous tongue.

The second act of the show didn't bring any relief. Nick Griffin [an elected representative of the people whose party received over one million votes in the last European Election] was plainly bullied and was even allowed to be referred to as "Dick Griffin" by one idiot audience member without the slightest reprimand from either Dimbleby or the show's security staff. Imagine if similar personal attacks had been levelled against the delightful Bonnie Greer or her funhouse mirror image Sayeeda Warsi- do you seriously think that same person would have been allowed to go on unchallenged?

No, of course not. They would have rightly been escorted from the building. And very probably would have faced racially aggravated criminal charges the moment their feet hit the pavement outside the studio.

But Griffin was forced to shoulder the abuse, fielding flurry after slanderous flurry of relentless and largely unconnected questions without being given the time or opportunity to defend himself. Griffin didn't help his cause; he allowed himself to get caught up in sticky spider webs of counter-productive debate concerning the more extreme facets of his party's manifesto- while his opinions on real issues such as policing and benefits and the crumbling economy went largely unspoken.

Finally though, after an infuriating hour, the pantomime came to an end. The crowd went home, the velvet curtains were drawn, and Griffin, momentarily dethroned from the castle atop the beanstalk, was allowed to go on his way: battered bruised and missing a few golden eggs but fit to fight another day.

Griffin didn't deserve better- frankly I don't care if that pug nosed ogre waddles away under his bridge never to return- but he knew the rules and came to play by accordingly. The same cannot be said of The British Broadcasting Commission.

You see, stupidity is the nature of ogres. They beat their chests and wave their clubs and threaten to grind bones to make bread. That is their nature and the BBC should have enough faith in us, the public, to see ogres for what they are without their facile interference.
© Richard Crwley Oct 25th 2009

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