Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books will know how to deal with a boggart*.
Boggarts are creatures that reveal themselves to you in the shape of your greatest fear. If you hate spiders they will appear as a six-foot tarantula, and if you hate racism they will look like Nick Griffin of the BNP. The way to deal with a boggart is to use the Riddikulus spell. You point your wand at the creature and think of something really funny.
I think the nation must have been using the Riddikulus spell last Thursday night when the BNP leader joined the BBC Question Time panel. To me, the man lost a lot of his menace and by the end of the programme was more a figure of fun than a serious threat to British politics.
He came across as a bumbling fool. There were moments when he made a little sense but they were few and far between. Most of the time he denied any quotes attributed to him, backtracked on everything he had ever said and laughed, apparently at his own inability to answer questions. He didn’t want to comment on his Holocaust denial, he said, because European law made it illegal to do so. There was some laughter when Jack Straw, the Justice Minister, gave him permission to expound his theory without fear of prosecution. He then admitted that he used to deny the Holocaust but now he believed it because he had listened to recordings of some intercepted radio messages from Germany during the war.
What this tells me is that he is slow; he has finally taken on board an historic fact that everyone else knew 60 years ago. He had previously said that the Jews who spoke of the Holocaust were like the people who once thought the world was flat. I wonder when Nick Griffin discovered that it was not flat? Did someone intercept a message from Neil Armstrong on the moon? The alternative, forgive me for suggesting it, is that he is lying through his teeth.
Last Friday’s papers, television and radio were full of reports of the programme that created such controversy and trebled Question Time’s viewing audience. Some suggested that Griffin had been bullied. I didn’t see evidence of that. He was given plenty of opportunity to answer questions but seemed unable to do so. All he did was smirk, laugh and nod his head vigorously as though to show he agreed with all reasonably minded people. The bulk of the questions related to BNP attitudes, but Griffin must have known that would be the case. I laughed at Griffin, but perhaps that was the wrong response. Perhaps that could lull me into a false sense of security because, when all is said and done, this man is selling a message of hate wrapped in a parcel of fear.
Should Griffin have been allowed on Question Time? Yes he should. Our rules of democracy say that if a political party reaches a certain threshold they are entitled to be heard. And, on balance, I thought having him on TV might have done some good because he did not come across well. He tried to sound moderate, when moderation is certainly not something that he wears with any comfort.
I hate what the BNP stands for because I have lived in racist societies and seen what destruction they cause. But I also hate the fact that so many of their rank and file members are afraid to stand up and be counted.
I have had several anonymous letters from BNP members but on a recent occasion I was impressed to get a letter through the door at work that had been signed, with an address given. Unfortunately the address was just a couple of doors away from a colleague of mine who knew the owners of the house who certainly did not go under the name given.
If the BNP is a moderate party seeking only what is best for the citizens of Britain, why are so many members scurrying around in the shadows? Why are they so afraid to stand up and be counted?
Times and Star
*Or indeed, a bogart, which was how boggart was spelled in the article.