Liveblogging Question Time

Join me from 10.35pm for minute-by-minute commentary

10.35 It hasn't started yet. Black weatherman on the box. How ironic. Does Griffin really believe he can turn the clock back on multiracial Britain?

10.36 Here we go. Nervous?

10.37 Boo. Hiss. Look at him smirking. Sitting next to Bonnie Greer.

10.37 This is the question that many of us have already watched in the clips released to the news. Straw is right to make it immediately about race: "a party and an ideology based on race, just like another party represented here today", etc. Good "moral compass" line from Straw. The BNP, as I have always said, can only be defeated by politicians who understand the importance of passion and emotion. Oh, and facts: nice to remind the audience at home and in the studio of the non-white contribution to winning the First and Second World Wars.

10.41 Poor kid with the random irrelevant first question on EU trade. He's not from Ukip, mate, he's from the BNP! Great follow-up from the articulate, bespectacled black guy in the front row who we saw earlier on the news. Will he be on the front of the Mail or the Mirror tomorrow? "Completely disgusting" -- hear hear!

10.42 "Why are you smiling? It's not a particularly amusing issue." Great line from David Dimbleby (DD).

10.43 "Islam, we'll come to it later"? Cryptic DD.

10.45 Great reference by Baroness Warsi to the BNP press officer Mark Collett's language on Churchill. Remember Collett? "Mark" from Radio 1? The man who was recorded on Channel 4 praising Hitler a few years ago?

10.47 "You laugh. If I was a BNP member I'd be scared." Good line from Bonnie. I may have to take it all back . . .

10.48 The Enoch Powell audience member has a point. Chris Huhne is picking up on it.

10.49 Huhne has done his research.

10.50 Griffin says he took the BNP from being anti-Semitic "to being the only political party . . . stood full square behind Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists". Interesting claim from Griffin. I've said it before and I say it again -- does backing Israel inoculate you from the charge of anti-Semitism? It's the Stephen Pollard/Michal Kaminski/Nick Griffin line of argument. Strange, eh?

10.53 Jack Straw's brought quotes, too. Has any group of QT panellists ever done so much research before a show, I wonder?

10.54 "We'll come to that," says DD. Stop teasing us, David!

10.55 "I cannot explain why" I used to be a Holocaust denier?!?!

10.56 I have just clapped for the first time. Great line from Straw: "I am the justice minister."

10.57. Sadly, not THE "Tariq Ali" in the audience. But good question. Important issue. Let's go.

10.58 Here he goes, inciting hatred with lies about Islam. He has never read the Quran. He claims to love the Jews now, but hates the so-called "new Jews", the Muslims. He's done the Iraq line as I knew he would. Funny to hear him talk about women's rights and rape when one of his party colleagues, Nick Erikson, has claimed that women "enjoy" sex and therefore rape isn't a bad thing. He's a nasty bigot.

10.59 "What is your policy on Islam?" asks DD. Come on, Dave, get tougher on Nick!

11.00 Baroness Warsi getting to the point: "Mr Griffin is a deceptive man . . . demonising Islam . . ."

11.02 I know this (Asian) guy in the audience. He used to be a regular audience member on the Jonathan Dimbleby show that I worked on earlier in the decade. Guess he likes audience shows . . .

11.03 Immigration. Uh-oh!

11.05 Having read Gary Younge's excellent take-down of New Labour (and Straw!) in the Guardian this morning, I can't help but think those who argue that this government has played a key role in the rise of the BNP -- especially vis-à-vis immigration -- have a point.

11.10 The Enoch Powell-supporting audience member is heckling. This is depressing. And the man with the moustache, shouting about the EU and "migrants", seems to be a migrant or a descendant of a migrant himself. Perhaps I'm wrong.

11.12 "Wolf in sheep's clothing"? Hmm. Not quite. He's a wolf in wolf's clothing. He's called for refugees' boats to be sunk and for "chemotherapy" to be used against the "cancer" of Islam. Haven't heard much about that so far.

11.14 Are the Lib Dems now jumping on the anti-immigration bandwagon, too? How things change. And how depressing.

11.15 Huhne is making partisan points about the Lib Dems being the only party that can defeat the BNP. Pathetic. Stick together, panel, or you haven't got a chance.

11.16 "Skin colour is irrelevant"? This man is a liar and a fraud. Where is DD?

11.17 Can he name any of these so-called "scientists"? "Time immemorial"? This man went to Cambridge University? Embarrassing . . .

11.18 Hilarious: a man who denies the worst genocide of the 20th century is claiming that our points-based immigration system is "genocidal". What a joke. And the BBC invited him on. Shame.

11.19 QT does Twitter, too. Hmm.

11.20 YAY! The Asian man I saw on the news. What a great line about the South Pole and "Dick/Nick". Ugh! Nick is pretending to smile and laugh.

11.21 How can Griffin claim he's happy for the Asians to stay, when his party's constitution claims it wants a white Britain?

11.22 Good line from Warsi about "bogus asylum-seeker" being an incorrect and inaccurate term. Shame her party's bigwigs over the years have popularised the phrase -- William Hague, Michael Howard, etc.

11.23 SHUT UP, DD! Why are you grilling Straw in a tougher manner than you're grilling the Holocaust denier (!) to your left? WHO CARES ABOUT KOOKY FRANK FIELD!!!

11.25 "Nick Griffin, he says it's working. Do you think it's working?" DD, could you BE any softer on Griffin?

11.26 Interesting non-BNP question on Jan Moir and Stephen Gately.

11.27 Those of you who haven't read Tom Calvocoressi's excellent post on Moir on the Cultural Capital blog should check it out after QT finishes.

11.29 Tricky question for Baroness Warsi to deal with.

11.30 She's wriggled out of it. Here comes Nick!

11.31 Finally! DD puts a damning quote to Griffin. People are booing and heckling for the FIRST time in this show.

11.33 "The feeling of repulsion is mutual." Hilarious.

11.33 Interesting last question; navel-gazing and self-centred, but interesting and important nonetheless. I'm with Peter Hain. It has been a "Christmas present" for the BNP. Huhne is talking nonsense. Like so many others, he seems to think elections legitimise the BNP. They don't. Hitler was elected.

11.35 These panellists -- Huhne, Greer et al -- don't seem to get that tonight has not been about exposing or not exposing Griffin. Tonight has been about the BNP "arriving" in the mainstream and being considered normal, acceptable and legitimate. Griffin himself in the Times today has said pretty much the same thing.

11.37 "The BBC has done what they had to do," says Griffin. Sorry. No. Not true. No law or constitutional obligation or Ofcom regulation demanded that the BBC invite Griffin on to Question Time, rather than confine him to Newsnight, Today, etc.

11.37 Just realised that there doesn't seem to have been a contingent of BNP supporters in the audience. Strange. I guess I was wrong about that. But I think I was right to be sceptical about the value of this exercise. The genie is out of the bottle. The BNP is here to stay. Disgusting. Depressing. A dark day/night for the British media and politics.

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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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.