BBC "liberals" love the BNP

What was that about left-wing bias again?

I don't want to say I told you so but . . . er . . . I told you so.

The BBC's decision to invite the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, on to Question Time next month is, in my humble view, the final nail in the coffin of the ludicrous right-wing argument that the corporation has a liberal or left-wing slant. How many bona fide liberals do you know who go out of their way to be hospitable to the BNP? How many dyed-in-the-wool leftists do you know who force Labour to rethink its policy of not sharing a platform with far-right extremists?

In fact, there are those on the centre left who believe this move by the Beeb will further legitimise the BNP's neo-fascist views -- in a confirmation of Godwin's Law, the Labour MP John Mann, chair of the all-party anti-Semitism group, said: "This is how Hitler came to power."

As it happens, I think Labour should now reconsider its policy. The genie is out of the bottle and Griffin and his odious ilk have already appeared on too many serious television and radio programmes and been treated, absurdly, as if they were ordinary politicians. (The BNP is not an ordinary political party. I despair at the number of media commentators who pretend that it is, simply because of the share they get of the national vote. I mean, how many ordinary political parties do you know that happily welcome criminals, thugs and racists to their ranks?)

I also worry that Question Time will provide the perfect populist platform from which Griffin can spew his vile, racist and bigoted views -- unless he is challenged by articulate and passionate "big beasts" from the three main political parties. It is a shame, therefore, that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has already refused to appear on the same programme as Griffin, for fear of lending him greater legitimacy.

Then there is the specific issue of Islam. For Griffin and the BNP, blacks and Jews are no longer the real enemies: Muslims are. In a recent Channel 4 News interview, Griffin described Islam as a "cancer" that should be removed from Europe by "chemotherapy".

I wonder, which British Muslim will QT be booking to appear with the BNP leader? Or will they allow his Islamophobic bile to go unchecked and unchallenged by its main victims? If they're struggling to come up with someone, I've checked my diary and I think I'm pretty much free every Thursday night in October. I look forward to the call from the Question Time producers at the independent production company Mentorn.

Oh, and to read an insider view of this whole affair from my colleague James Macintyre -- who worked as a producer on Question Time until 2007 and has strong views on the BNP -- you'll have to buy a copy of this week's magazine (on newsstands on Thursday).

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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