Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg today reveals his party will appear alongside the British National Party to "expose and beat" them on their controversial first appearance on BBC's Question Time. The BNP should not be given a "free run to peddle hate and loathing" and need to be challenged head-on, Mr Clegg told the Yorkshire Post.
The Sheffield Hallam MP said he understood why the BBC felt that it had to invite the party to appear for the first time after it won two seats in the European elections held in June, including one in Yorkshire and the Humber. Inviting the BNP to debate on the BBC has sparked controversy, with several Labour Ministers – including Home Secretary Alan Johnson – unwilling to appear alongside the far-Right party.
But Mr Clegg said: "If the BBC invite the BNP onto their programmes, I want the Liberal Democrats to be there to take them on. I don't want us to be seeking out platforms up and down the country with the BNP, but nor do I want them to be given a free run to peddle hate and loathing on taxpayer-funded television.
"I think it's time someone is there to confront them and say all your hate and all your loathing doesn't provide any answers to anything. It won't produce a single job, won't save a single school, won't help educate a single child, won't equip a single hospital ward, won't do anything to help tackle climate change or international crime."
The BBC confirmed earlier this month it was considering inviting BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on a future edition of the flagship Question Time programme after reviewing its stance in light of the results of June's elections. It said it was bound by the rules to treat all political parties with "due impartiality".
Labour is now reviewing its position after previously refusing to share a platform with the party, although ministers are unlikely to be forced to debate. On Sunday, Mr Johnson, MP for Hull West and Hessle, said: "I've gone 59 years without sharing a platform with a fascist, and I don't intend to start doing it now."
But Mr Clegg claims the Lib Dems have a strong record of taking on the BNP having won seats from the party in Burnley, and believes they can be as successful challenging the party on television. He also claimed allowing the BNP to appear will shatter the "whingeing lie" that Mr Griffin is the victim of the political establishment.
"We know how to expose and beat these thugs, and if they're now going to be given a place on national television, I want us to do the same on Question Time as we did in Burnley," he said.
He also said some of their "bizarre" domestic policies should be exposed and challenged, adding: "If they're not bad, they're mad, and this is something I don't think Britain needs at a time we're facing a massive economic crisis."
No-one at the BNP was available for comment last night.