Apparently I belong to a group of two million people. People, who like me, sit down in front of the television and watch "Question Time" on the BBC on Thursday evening. Usually come 10.35pm and the start of QT, Mrs Troy decides to go to bed and I respond along the lines of "I'll just see who they've got on the panel and perhaps listen to the first couple of questions". Nine times out of ten though I end up watching the entire programme and find it generally very interesting though occasionally irritating [eg Shirley Williams].
However this Thursday was different. A further six million people tuned in to "Question Time" and even Mrs Troy delayed her beauty sleep. Only someone who had been out of the country for the past few weeks would have missed the phenomenal publicity the BBC had built up ahead of the first appearance on QT of Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Prior to his appearance the usual left-wing Rent-A-Mob had violently protested outside the BBC and Labour's Peter Hain, invoking a Mugabe interpretation of democracy, had tried to get Griffin's appearance banned. The show however went ahead and the BBC, rightly in my view, gave a place on the panel to the leader of a party which has two MEPs as well as growing band of local councillors.
At this point maybe you are wondering (and indeed worrying) whether Troy is a closet BNP supporter? The answer is a most definite NO!! Many of the BNP's policies, other than on "race" are ultra-left wing being extremely socialist in nature. The BNP support comes primarily from the white working class, let down by its instinctive home, the Labour party. I might flirt with UKIP but never BNP.
Thursday's QT was unlike any other QT I've ever watched. It was primarily a case of four panellists, a "chairman" and a largely hostile audience goading and baiting one panellist (NG) about BNP race policies. Attacked from all quarters, including an outrageous performance by the Chair, NG was interrupted and ridiculed throughout. The BBC had taken a calculated decision to reformat the programme away from its usual format of various topical issues being addressed equally to all panellists. The venue, Central London, ensured the BBC an audience representative of 'Inner-City' rather than being representative of the UK as a whole.
NG as an individual did not impress. However despite being in such a caustic, hostile environment he did land one or two solid verbal punches in the discussion. Jack Straw never seemed to recover from a revelation early in the programme that unlike NG's father who had fought in the RAF during WW2, Straw's father alledgedly spent the time in prison having refused to fight the Nazis. Later, Straw's outright refusal to concede that Labour's mass immigration policy had been a significant recruitment driver for the BNP won't have been lost on many viewers. Whilst Labour remain in denial the BNP will continue to flourish. For the Conservatives, Baroness Warzi performed extremely well other than for one major gaffe. At one point, she interupted NG telling him that there was no such thing as a "bogus" asylum seeker. In a clever legalistic way, perhaps she is correct, but I suspect the average BNP-targetted viewer would recognise an economic migrant claiming asylum for what they really are. (And if none are bogus then why are less than 100% deemed genuine and admitted?).
So, what were the final scores? No, the BBC didn't adjust the format of QT to the extent of having final scores - in many other ways they changed it, but not this! My own final scores (out of 10)would be:-
Straw (Labour) 2 [some commentators have since wondered whether he was ill]
Warzi (Conservative) 7 [would have been 9 without the above mentioned gaffe]
Huhne (LibDem) 5 [which is not bad for a LibDem]
Greer (playwright/novelist) 5 [generally a well measured performance]
Griffin (BNP) 4 [better than he could have hoped for given the bear-pit atmosphere]
Dimbleby (Chair) 1 [I think he will look back in shame on his performance as Chair]
BBC 2 [recognised the democratically case to include NG, but radically changing the format of QT showed total bias]
and publicity for the BNP - beyond price (and their wildest hopes).
(So, were you watching the same programme I watched?)