Thursday, October 09, 2008

I heard it in the Coachmakers ...

The Coachmakers is not only a fantastic pub serving an excellent selection of real ales. It is also a place where you can learn a great deal.

At the end of BBC Question Time yesterday evening (Thursday 9th) it was indicated that the next programme - to be recorded on Thursday 16th - would be in Stoke-on-Trent. But the full list of guests, and the venue for the recording, were not mentioned. Neither it seems, are they mentioned on the website. Curiouser and curiouser, local BBC staff do not seem to know where the recording will be either.

Well, this could be something, or it could be nothing. Which is where that little bit of extra information, informally imparted, makes the picture a little more complete.

The mystery guest, I learnt - though I should add that I cannot confirm this, is to be Nick Griffin, of the British National Party, the racist, neo-nazi group which has had significant success in local elections in Stoke on Trent and has several local councillors. It has been involved in agitation locally, most recently organising a national rally in the city. Its criminal activities, convictions of its activists and financial irregularities are well documented (here and here and here).

I also learnt that an unnamed BBC official visited local radio offices recently and instructed the staff that they must 'treat the BNP exactly the same as every other party'. If all or any of this is true, then Stoke-on-Trent, as a BNP 'stronghold' is a place of some interest to the BBC, but is the laudable commitment of the BBC to freedom of speech really such a good thing in this case?

Shouting 'fire' in a crowded room is not the excercise of free speech, and preaching race hatred, especially in a city which knows such relative deprivation and has remarkably harmonious and wide racial diversity, should not be protected as a right, but clearly seen for what it is, vindictive and malicious poison.

The secrecy surrounding both the name of the guests and the venue for the recording indicate the sensitivity of the invitation. To invite Griffin to the recording here is Stoke-on-Trent would allow national perceptions of the advance of the BNP and the racism of the city to be reinforced, not rejected.

Is there anything we could do?
I think that those who reject BNP hatred should ask the BBC to confirm
or deny the invitation, and if it is true to lobby them to withdraw it.
I believe that right thinking people locally should apply now to be in the audience that day then - if Griffin is indeed on the guest list - not turn up (CLICK HERE).
And if the recording does go ahead with Griffin, good thinking people should peacefully protest outside the venue.

Of course ... my source may have it all wrong ... let's find out.
COMMENTS CAN NO LONGER BE LEFT ON THIS POST as many of those received have been threatening, abusive and have caused anxiety and distress to friends and family members. I do not however, intend removing the post itself, as- notwithstanding the speculation about the invitation in question - what is published here is clearly verifiable.