Yesterday must have been the hottest day in London for some time with corresponding humidity. So it just had to be the the day I was booked to take part in a television panel discussion underneath the hottest lights ever. But still, tant pis as the French may say.
I was, in fact, in a programme entitled “Should Europe be scared of the rise of the far right?” on Press TV chaired by Andrew Gilligan of sexed up Iraq dossier fame, who is also a journalist of the year. With me were Weyman Bennett, Secretary of Unite Against Fascism, Chris Banbury, Socilaist Worker Editor and the Media Officer of Silvio Berlusconi’s party, Maurizio Morabito. The format was like BBC Question Time with the four of us answering questions from a studio audience.
Despite three of us (Weyman, Chris and myself) being on the same side regarding the far right, we had a lively discussion. One of the most interesting points was whether the BNP should be given a platform – in other words should we debate with them on a programme such as the one in which we were taking part. Weyman and Chris were against as they took the view that it would only legitimise the BNP, and since they do not believe in democracy they shouldn’t be afforded any such platform.
My view is different. We have to recognise that the BNP now have elected representatives, and, much though I despise and detest the BNP who are a racist, fascist and Nazi party, they are nevertheless here. I therefore think we must take them on and expose their appalling propaganda. Nick Griffin, for instance, denies the holocaust took place, while Mark Collett, leader of the BNP youth wing is on record as saying “National Socialism was the best solution for the German people in the 1930s. I honestly can’t understand how a man who’s seen the inner city hell of Britain today can’t look back on that era [Hitler’s Germany] with a certain nostalgia.”
I do not believe Europe is in the grip of a far right resurgence. While it is true that far right parties did well in the European elections, we should also remember that this vote is traditionally a time for protest. Although Labour did badly in the last European elections in 2004, we went on to win the general election a year later. However, I would warn against complacency, especially when it turns into arrogance. There is unprecedented delusion and despair surrounding politics in Britain and the standing of MPs is at an all time low. We, MEPs included, need to listen more and conduct ourselves with more humility. We are, after all, nothing if we are not the elected servants of the people.