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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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while he would hold a free vote, party policy would be changed to oppose military action, an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention (though it is reported that just 100 emails were checked).

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, members made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbot and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet. There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.