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.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.