My wife and I often watch BBC’s Question Time – but it was a first when Adam, our eldest son, joined us. The appeal of Facebook, Playstation3 or almost anything else you can mention would normally lure him away. Like most teenagers he’d prefer to wash up or tidy his bedroom rather than listen to a bunch of politicians debating, but the row surrounding the appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, on prime time TV provoked his curiosity.
It didn’t take long for Adam’s passive interest to grow into annoyance and then indignation. Ten minutes into the programme he was angry. Griffin’s insistence that he was not a Holocaust denier but couldn’t say why he had compared those who believed that Hitler killed millions of Jews with those who believed that the Earth was flat caused our normally mild mannered 17-year-old son to pound the sofa with his fist and shout at the TV. He was incensed when Griffin argued that the BNP was defending Christianity. When he claimed that the Klu Klux Klan was not all bad, he turned to us in disbelief. “The man’s a racist and an idiot, how can he say those things? What’s going on? How did he get to be on this programme?”
We explained that since the BNP had polled a million votes at the European elections and now had MEPs and a seat on the London Assembly, the BBC felt they had to invite him on. We asked Adam to keep his voice down a bit so the neighbours wouldn’t be disturbed, but at the same time we were pleased. The BNP is something to get angry about.
The party has regularly attempted to promote itself as the only one standing up for Christian values – a laughable claim which Christian denominations and organisations, including the Evangelical Alliance, totally reject. However, it underlines the need for followers of Jesus to take seriously the need to have a thoughtful and considered argument to defend our faith from being linked to extreme views which distort or stand diametrically opposed to the teaching of scripture.
By the end of the programme Adam announced that he intended to vote at the next opportunity if that meant it would help prevent the BNP getting elected.
We have the privilege of free speech in our society, though we shouldn’t forget it was hard won. Everyone has the right to be heard – even murderous dictators get to speak at the United Nations. So given the party’s electoral success, I consider the BBC was right to let the BNP leader on TV.
Personally I’m glad for the impact Question Time had on my son. I hope the BNP exposure will result in similar reactions in other homes across the UK. The challenge remains however; how to motivate disengaged voters with the political process? Cynicism over the MP’s expenses scandal and the belief that the Westminster political system isn’t working is widespread. That contributed to the rise of the BNP in the polls.
It will take a willingness to change by the political elite to turn the tide. It will also take the honest sacrifice and hard work of men and women of integrity to roll up their sleeves and join in the political process rather than carp from the sidelines. What’s stopping you joining a political party today?