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8 October 2009

Is the BNP a “normal“ political party?

I worry about the BBC's attitude towards the far-right

By Mehdi Hasan

Yesterday I took part in a Radio 4 discussion about the BBC’s coverage of the BNP with the corporation’s chief adviser on politics, Ric Bailey. You can listen to it here.

Bailey seemed to me to be a decent and intelligent man performing a delicate and difficult balancing act in a high-pressure job. But I was alarmed to hear him repeat, again and again, in response to my question (“Does the BBC consider the BNP to be a normal party?”), that the BNP is a “legal, elected party”.

So? Hitler was elected.

It’s my contention that the BBC, and various other media organisations, are contributing to the “normalisation” of the BNP through soft, context-free, fact-free interviews and through the corporate and editorial repetition of this nauseating mantra: “The BNP is a legal, elected party.”

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But it’s not a NORMAL party, is it?

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I mean, which other political party in Britain has racist, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi roots? Which other political party can be legitimately described as a “Nazi” party, as the Standard Boards for England ruled in 2005? (Describing it as Nazi is, the board said, “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate”.) Which other political party has a leader who is a convicted criminal and a Holocaust denier? Which other political party includes local organisers who have convictions for gang rape or racist assault? How many other political parties have, among their former members, a terrorist and convicted murderer and a man convicted under the Explosives Act? Which other political party has, as its MEP, a man who began his political career in England’s National Socialist party? Which other political party believes that Islam is a “cancer” and that Jews run the media?

Does it really breach the BBC’s impartiality guidelines simply to point this out to the viewers, listeners and readers of the corporation’s output? Or do we have to be treated instead to a fawning interview with a man, Mark Collett of the BNP, who has said: “Hitler will live for ever, and maybe I will.”

Thankfully, as a colleague has pointed out to me, the BNP’s electoral triumphs remain limited — check out this result at a recent council by-election in Hertfordshire.