October 23, 2009

Griffin tried to make small talk, says Bonnie Greer

Question Time panellist reveals how BNP leader tried to ingratiate himself

The BNP may have expended considerable energy in the week leading up to last night's BBC Question Time programme attacking her, but the black American playwright Bonnie Greer reveals today in the London Evening Standard that the party's leader, Nick Griffin, spent the evening trying to ingratiate himself with her.

Greer, who had the dubious pleasure of sitting next to Griffin on the panel, tells interviewer David Cohen how she left her dressing room before the show's recording began, "prepared for combat", and came face to face with the BNP man in the corridor at Television Centre.

"It was as if he'd been waiting for me in the corridor," Greer, 60, told the Standard. "I was the last to emerge and when he saw me, he turned and smiled his greasy smile and clumsily half extended a hand. I ignored it and thought to myself: What are you about? Are you forgetting I'm black? Are you trying to show me you aren't racist?"

Last week the BNP website referred to her as a "black history fabricator" for her work on the radio documentary In Search of the Black Madonna, which was, it said, an "Afrocentrist daydream". The website said that she would be the "joker in the pack" on the panel and sneered at her claim that she was a 'refugee' who fled the Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

So Ms Greer was understandably surprised to find the party's leader making nervous small talk with her as they sat down in the studio. "As we were having our microphones attached, he leaned towards me like I was his new best friend... 'Bonnie, how many times have you been on?’ he asked. 'Bonnie, do you find it scary?' I looked him straight in the eye. 'No,' I replied sharply, 'but you might.'"

Describing last night as "probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life", Greer says that her composure almost snapped at one point of the evening - presumably when Griffin looked like he was about to hug her or when he made a jocular reference to the white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.

"I spent the entire night with my back turned to him. At one point, I had to restrain myself from slapping him. But it was worth it because he was totally trounced," Greer says. "I had thought we'd face a formidable orator, somebody who knew his facts and had his ducks in a row, but the guy was a mess!"

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