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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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.