Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 09:56 UK

In quotes: Reaction to BNP leader

Question Time panel with Nick Griffin
Angry protests were held at the BBC during the programme's filming

The leader of the British National Party Nick Griffin has made his first appearance on Question time.

He used the platform to insist he was "not a Nazi", but had been "relentlessly attacked and demonised" in the days leading up to the programme.

Here is some reaction to what he had to say.

WELSH SECRETARY PETER HAIN

Peter Hain had led the campaign to prevent Mr Griffin being allowed to appear on Question Time.

Afterwards, he said: "For me, putting the BNP on Question Time was never about who performed best or 'won the argument' as if it was some kind of TV talent show.

"The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly doing a racist, fascist party the biggest favour in its grubby history.

"Our black, Muslim and Jewish citizens will sleep much less easily now the BBC has legitimised the BNP by treating its racist poison as the views of just another mainstream political party when it is so uniquely evil and dangerous."

CHRIS HUHNE, LIB DEMS

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne shared the Question Time stage with Mr Griffin.

Afterwards, he said: "I certainly think that his credibility - for anybody who sees the show - is going to be seriously damaged by his performance.

"He has been held up for the fundamental values he espouses - which are ones of peddling hatred, of attempting to find scapegoats for our problems.

"This goes back decades. We had this from Oswald Mosely against the Jews in the 30s, we had it from Enoch Powell against the black community in the 60s and 70s. Now we're having it from Nick Griffin against the Muslim community.

"It's the age-old issue of attempting to build up support for the party by attacking a beleaguered minority."

BARONESS WARSI, CONSERVATIVES

Shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Warsi also appeared on the programme and said "a very articulate audience... took Nick Griffin to task".

"I think what your viewers will judge when they see the programme is that he was slippery and slidey and was clearly lying.

"I think if this programme has managed in some way to expose the ugly face of extremism and show him for what he and his party are then it may actually achieve some good.

"Let's be clear about this. The BNP do not, as such, have any policies and he, as such, does not have any political views other than a hatred for certain groups of people, so there wasn't that much he could really have explained in detail about his policy agenda."

MARK BYFORD, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, BBC

Mark Byford stood by the BBC's decision to allow Mr Griffin to appear.

"We recognise that we have to stay within the law of the United Kingdom... but, the BNP, I repeat, has been allowed to stand in elections for the UK and for the European Parliament. They are registered with the Electoral Commission.

"Who is the BBC to say - when they meet that threshold of support - you can't be on?

"It's much more important for the BBC to be seen to be demonstrably fair and to be upholding the democratic right for a party that's allowed to stand, that has got that level of support, to then be scrutinised by the British public that own the BBC.

"That's what happened tonight."

SEENA KALSI, AUDIENCE MEMBER

Seena Kalsi, who was in the Question Time audience, said Mr Griffin "wasn't really answering anything".

"He made a fool of himself really, that's what I think.

"The public have got an opportunity now, having been given this platform, to actually see that he has got nothing of value to say to anybody.

"He's talking about Britishness and he's going back to the ice age to define who is British and who is not British, that's just ridiculous.

"OK, we knew they were racist, but [after this] actually most of their policies come out as anti-human, not racist."

DIANE ABBOTT, LABOUR MP

Diane Abbott, the first black woman elected to Parliament, said the programme had given the BNP "unnecessary exposure".

"People that live in areas where people are heavily segregated or they don't actually see black people, they are the ones that are falling for the BNP.

"It's all very well in the morning to say 'oh well he got smashed' but in the long run people who are attracted to the BNP will come away saying 'he was a victim'.

"When you put the BNP into the mainstream like that, they drag people onto their agenda.

"Everyone is talking about Nick Griffin. The programme has given him unnecessary exposure, unnecessary credibility and giving more credibility to a fascist party in the middle of a recession is a very dangerous thing."

MICHAEL PORTILLO, FORMER TORY MP

Michael Portillo said it was right for Mr Griffin to be invited onto the show but he thought the BNP leader had been found out.

"I thought he [Mr Griffin] came out of it very, very badly. I thought he was pretty much massacred actually. He looked uncomfortable. He was unable to deny the things that he had said. I thought he had a thoroughly bad time of it.

"The one thing that remained quite worrying was that there was very considerable hostility to the immigration policy of the government. If you wanted to look for a downside, there clearly is a lot of worry about that."

MATTHEW PARRIS, TIMES COLUMNIST

Matthew Parris said all the other panellists, apart from Mr Griffin, had performed well although he felt they should have used a different line of attack when criticising the BNP leader.

"Nobody dared try what, if it could have been done, would have been the most devastating tactic of all and the perhaps the only tactic that would have done Mr Griffin any harm.

"To brush him aside as a small man, enlarged by the anger of his enemies."



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