British National Party leader Nick Griffin is to take part in a televised debate with Justice Secretary Jack Straw on BBC1’s Question Time, it was confirmed today.
The announcement came after Straw became the first senior Labour politician to say that he was willing to appear on the show with Griffin. The BBC then confirmed that the two men were among the panellists booked for a recording of the show, hosted by David Dimbleby, in London on 22 October.
The BBC sparked controversy earlier this month when it announced that it would be willing to feature representatives of the BNP on Question Time after the party won two seats in the European Parliament in elections in June.
Labour reviewed its long-standing approach of refusing to share a platform with the far-right BNP and Gordon Brown made clear he was ready to allow a minister to take on Griffin, now an MEP for the North West of England.
But Cabinet ministers such as Peter Hain and Alan Johnson said they would not go on Question Time if the BNP leader was invited.
Yesterday Straw told BBC1’s The Politics Show North-West edition: “Wherever we have had BNP problems in my area and when we have fought them hard, we’ve pulled back and won the seats back. And that’s what we have to do. We’ve got to make the argument for people and I am delighted to do so.”
Other members of the panel have not yet been confirmed.
Anti-fascists campaigners reacted with anger to the news and called for huge demonstrations to be mounted outside the BBC TV studios when the programme is made.
Tony Kearns, assistant general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union said it was a “disgrace” that the BBC was going ahead with offering the BNP a seat on Question Time despite a huge outcry in recent weeks.
He called on Government ministers and MPs to join protests against the decision.