I don't usually bother with Question Time. I find David Dimbleby very annoying as a Chairman, as he too often adopts the role of judge and jury. And the politicians seem too eager to react against the other parties, without saying what they would do themselves.
But the draw of Nick Griffin's appearance was too powerful for me to ignore. Although I intensely dislike what the BNP stands for, I was pleased they were invited on the show, to explain what they are about, and to answer questions from the audience. But what did we get? A panel and chairman taking the opportunity to interrogate the man as if he was in the courtroom dock. Griffin didn't respond well to this treatment, but I felt that he wasn't given a chance to answer many questions, or to challenge the liberal/media establishment that were pillorying him. If I was a BNP supporter (or potential member) this bullying by the panel would have made me more more sympathetic to his cause.
I wish the panel had given Griffin more chance to speak, because that's when he revealed where he comes from. Responding to comments on his meeting with a Ku Klux Klan leader, he explained that the guy he met "wasn't one of the violent ones". And when he started talking about the British indiginous people he was on very soft ground and sinking fast.
Whether we like them or not we have to acknowledge that a sizeable minority voted for the BNP at the recent EU elections. Rather than criticise the voters for being gullible for succumbing to the charms of the far right, the mainstream parties should look at why they are so unattractive to a large part of the population, most of whom do not vote at all, or use it to support the BNP. The best book I've read recently about why the BNP is doing fairly well in some parts of the country is Billy Bragg's "The Progressive Patriot".
I left all the Question Time noise behind, when I made an early start by train to Scotland, on Friday morning. Sitting in a "quiet coach" I was intrigued by those inconsiderate individuals who enjoyed the peace and quiet so that they could get on with their busy lives, undisturbed by the rest of us quiet folk, while they tap away at their bleeping computers, have their (inevitably loud) phone conversations, and generally irritate those who have specially chosen to sit in a 125 mph bubble of peace.
Coming back from Scotland yesterday, the quiet coach was much quieter. One person had a phone call, an action which was condemned by the guard's announcement asking for compliance with the rule, but the message was only heard by everyone else in the carriage. Frantic arm waving had the desired effect, as the coach returned to silence, the remainder of the journey punctuated only by yours truly munching on an extremely noisy packet of crisps. Mr Griffin, they were indiginous British-day-at-the-seaside salt and vinegar crisps, and none of those fancy foreign flavours.