Much fuss has been made about whether we should ban the British National Party from appearing on Question Time and the Trades Union Congress now wants to bar anyone who is a member of the party from working in the public sector.
The party is undoubtedly racist, homophobic and sexist but the TUC's proposal is deeply disturbing. Firstly it suggests that anyone holding undesirable or unpleasant views should be denied access to the right to work. Most of us don't particularly want to work next to someone who thinks some people should be "sent home" but almost as damaging to democracy is the idea of censuring unpopular or unpleasant political views.
Secondly, instead of challenging these views head-on, it means we push them (and their advocates) out of sight. It smacks of "If we close our eyes, it'll go away." It also suggests we don't have enough conviction in our own views, as if these are not strong enough to stand up against hate.
Let's look at some of the weirder views held by the party: legal director Lee Barnes has a particular hatred of flat-chested women and describes those with dwarfism as "pitiful products of the flaws in nature".
Or what about the disgusting views of Nick Eriksen, the BNP candidate who said women would be more upset if their handbag was stolen then if they were raped. This charming specimen added that some women were "like gongs. They need to be struck regularly". Another example is the party's bizarre grasp of British history, something any A-level history student should be able to dismantle quite easily.
All these examples show that letting them have their say is the way forward. Let the BNP speak, sprout nonsense, tie itself up in semantic knots. To shy away from rubbishing such confused, unpleasant and sometimes downright mad sentiments is ridiculous and even cowardly. You can't stop people from voting in a certain way, but you can at least give extremist parties such as this ample rope to hang themselves and expose their views for what they really are.
People often say that it is useless to attempt to engage the party in rational debate but this is a strange way of thinking. Of course general opinion on issues such as immigration varies, but most of us do not want "voluntary repatriation" of people with dark skin or any other of the party's hateful policies and have quite enough arguments to throw back. In fact, many of these policies are so irrational, a brief gust of logical debate should blow them away.
Mainstream politicians need to stop creating a legend of fear around the BNP. It's unnecessary. This is not a powerful party by any means. It is facing a costly court battle over its membership policies, a fight which has the potential to close it down. In addition, it is unlikely to be hiring the best political minds in the business, due to the stigma of association and the issue of money.
Get rid of 'no platform' and forget trying to sack BNP members. Hell, let them sit next to David Dimbleby if needs be. Instead of pretending they're not there and allowing them a kind of perverse matyrdom, seek them out, challenge them and drown out their voices in a sea of reasoned, logical debate.