I have always believed Richard Littlejohn of the Mail to be one of this country's most prejudiced, narrow-minded and reactionary right-wing commentators: a writer who prefers to indulge the casual bigotry of his readers rather than confront them with facts, figures or reasoned arguments.
But not today. In his column, Littlejohn takes on Nick Griffin, the BNP and the BBC with a verve and gusto conspicuously absent from much of the commentary by the centrist, liberal and left-wing press. Littlejohn argues, for example, that:
. . . the BNP isn't a serious force at Westminster, nor is it likely to have any MPs after the next general election. So the BBC is under no obligation to give Griffin a platform.
We are told the programme offers an opportunity to expose the BNP. To whom?
The party trawls for support among white working-class voters, those the advertisers refer to as C2DEs.
How many of them do you imagine watch something as cerebral as Question Time?
"Oi, Doris. I never realised the BNP were racists. I'll be voting Lib Dem in future."
If they're hoping that Griffin will come across as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, they are going to be sorely disappointed. He won't rise to the bait.
Littlejohn -- deep breath! -- is right. Griffin won't come across as a Hitler figure, or as a fascist or a nutter. He will, instead, calmly pontificate on the issues of the week (postal strike, anyone?) and will be applauded. And the BNP will move one step closer to the mainstream of British politics.
The more I think about this, the more I become convinced that Thursday night on BBC1 will be car crash TV. I only hope I'm proved wrong.