The BBC planned an invitation for the British National Party to appear on Question Time two years ago, a former employee has claimed.
James Macintyre, a former producer on BBC1's Question Time, has accused the BBC of 'not being completely honest' over the reasons for it inviting BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on its flagship current affairs debate show.
Last week the BBC said it may invite Griffin to appear in the near future after his far-right party succeeded in having two of its candidates elected as MEPs in last June's European elections. The corporation said it was obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission, and operating within the law, with due impartiality. The Labour Party said the BBC decision had forced it review its position of never sharing a platform with the BNP.
Macintyre, who is now political correspondent for the New Statesman, claimed the proposal to include the BNP was 'doing the rounds' long before its breakthrough at the European elections. Writing in this week's New Stateman, Macintyre went on to suggest the decision was 'more about the BNP' than reasons of impartiality.
Macintyre wrote: "My objection is that Question Time, unlike Newsnight or Today, where presenters could give Griffin a grilling on immigration, would provide a soft format for him to pontificate on a variety of issues of the day. It is hard not to have a good Question Time. Symbolically, Griffin's appearance…will mark the arrival of the party into the media mainstream."
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: " We have clearly set our position on this - the BBC is obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and operating within the law with due impartiality. By winning representation in the European Parliament at the recent elections, the BNP has demonstrated evidence of electoral support at a national level. This will be reflected in the amount of coverage it receives on BBC programmes such as Question Time.
"It would be a normal part of the process for there to be discussions every year around impartiality as it relates to all the parties as the political landscape and context is not static and changes over time. This is the first time the BNP have been invited on to Question Time."