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25 March 2010

In praise of Iain Dale

His interview with Nick Griffin is brilliant.

By James Macintyre

Iain Dale has had a few pops at me in the past, but I must “come out” as a fan of his nonetheless. I get that anxious feeling of being out of the loop before I’ve logged on to his blog each morning, and though I often disagree with his politics, he is a fundamentally decent man.

That decency comes across in his remarkable interview with Nick Griffin, which you can read in full here. Dale has come in for some flak from various quarters for doing this, including Denis MacShane, for whom I have the utmost respect. My basic position on the BNP is one of non-engagement, and I strongly opposed Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, so I have some sympathy for MacShane on this. I was also a founding member of the group Expose, aimed at monitoring and improving media coverage of the racist party.

The key point here, however, is getting it right — and I always argued that Griffin should be grilled on Today or Newsnight, say — and Dale has got it spot on. The tone of his interview is just right, with the right mix of disdain and bemusement; his approach is journalistic in the best sense, and forensic. Griffin is asked all the important questions, on subjects ranging from immigration into the UK to the Holocaust, the passage about which is surreal.

Here are some of the highlights (more from the link above):

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In the interview you did with Andrew Marr last year you said that you found “Mein Kampf” very dull but enjoyed one chapter of it. Which chapter was that?
That was the chapter on propaganda — that was interesting.

In what way?
Because it’s a long time since I read it, I can’t remember it. The only thing I can remember is repetition. But I suppose perhaps the Nazis were ahead of their time in now-standard advertising techniques . . . it’s irrelevant really.

How do you react to being called a fascist?
We’re not fascist. If fascism is defined in its proper sense, it’s about worship of the state or of a man that personifies the state. Our tradition is very much in the British tradition of limited government with checks and balances, and so on.

You could have fooled me. Half your policy programme involves a larger state.
We’re not fascist in that regard. It’s about a close, almost incestuous relationship, between the state and the corporations. It’s corporate fascism. The Thatcherite, Blairite PFI — that’s fascist. Another defining factor of fascism is the use of political violence as a political weapon against your opponents. And we’re the victims of a Marxist fascism — we do not practise or want to practise violence against anyone else.

Apart from throwing journalists out of press conferences . . .
Apart from throwing out lying journalists when they’re asked. I’ve been instructed that the fellow that quite gleefully grabbed his nose and twisted it shouldn’t be put on duties like that any more, because that was over the top. But the journalist was still breaking the law and he was removed with the minimum force necessary.

When did you stop denying the Holocaust?
I’ve never actually denied the Holocaust. I’ve said some terribly rude things about it and the way it’s exploited.

You said: “It’s well known that chimneys from the buildings at Auschwitz are fake.”
Ah, but I also said in the piece that huge numbers of Jews were persecuted or murdered by the Nazis and their allies just because they were Jewish in one of the great crimes of the 20th century. To deny the Holocaust is presumably to say that no one was killed, that the camps didn’t exist. Obviously, that would be nonsense.

Do you believe six million Jews were killed?
That’s the same old problem. I genuinely cannot discuss it with you because European law forbids it.

That’s bollocks.
It’s not bollocks. European law . . .

What you’re saying, then, is you don’t believe six million were killed.
There are defence lawyers in Germany in prison now because they’ve explained in court what their client said.

It’s a simple enough question. You either believe that six million Jews died in the Holocaust or you don’t.
The Holocaust happened.

But you’re not willing to say that six million Jews died?
Precisely six million?

Around six million — that’s the accepted number by historians.
I don’t think that there should be any restrictions on historical inquiry. Nor should it be an offence to be wrong. But since it is an offence to be wrong — it’s an offence to discuss what I used to believe or even the extent to which I’ve changed my mind, and I have done — I really can’t talk about it.

You can talk about it to the extent that you can say whether or not you believe that around six million Jews died.
I can’t tell you because it’s — look, I’m not going to be interrupted and left with something that I’ve said that I wasn’t . . .

This won’t be edited.
I suppose I can tell you that the reasons for my doubts were specifically with the six million figure. The problem was the way it was used as a moral club to prevent any sensible debate about immigration. That’s the issue. It’s nothing to do with anti-Semitism or anything. And there’s been people, including Jews and former concentration camp inmates, who’ve said that aspects of this history have been exaggerated and so on. So that’s the baseline. When I was at school, the figure of six million was made up of four million murdered at Auschwitz and two million murdered elsewhere. That’s six million.

Well, that’s not true.
That was the fact as presented to people in the 1970s. Then it emerged that the authorities of Auschwitz downgraded the scale of the murders there from four million to a still shattering and appalling 1.1 million. So you’re 2.9 million short.

There were lots of other death camps, not just Auschwitz.
No, the figure of six million came from the idea that in all the other death camps and elsewhere, two million died, and in Auschwitz there were four million gassed and cremated — that’s where the figure was made up from. Take the noughts off. If you have six and take away 2.9, do you still have six? No one would say where they came from. All they would do is persecute anyone who said six take away 2.9 does not equal six. They were put in prison, beaten, had their houses firebombed, driven from their jobs. That greatly offended me and made me take up the issue of their behalf. But what I will say now is I believe that the evidence that came from British intelligence of German operations behind the lines on the Eastern Front makes it quite possible to believe that a million people were shot to death in anti-partisan warfare, mainly as hostages and that the Germans, naturally enough, didn’t pick White Russian or Belarussian peasants, who were quite often on their side. They picked the local Jewish community because most of the partisans were Jewish, which, again, you can’t really be surprised about, as it’s one of these cycles of horror. So, therefore, you are no longer missing the 2.9. You are missing nearly two million. That’s all. It would be interesting to be told where they come from. But because the powers that be are so convinced that it’s true and have passed laws to say that it’s true, and because it is irrelevant and because it’s deliberately misunderstood, anyone who questions this is held up as anti-Semitic. Whereas, it’s nothing to do with anti-Semitism at all. It’s about the rights of free speech, or the right of the states, and powerful vested interest groups, to prevent free speech. That’s what it’s actually about. But because everyone’s misunderstood or it leads one to jail, I have no doubt whatsoever that the others, the missing ones, must have been there, so clearly the six million figure is correct.

Can you think of one positive aspect of immigration?
Well, a wide range of curries is a plus. But, there again, I’ve got the recipes.

The reason I ask that is when you look across the range of policies you outline on your website, almost every one you look at — and you demonstrated it earlier with the environmental stuff — leads back to immigration.
It’s a fair summary of the situation, as all things are interconnected. Secondly, it’s a failing of ours and a failing of quite a lot of our writers, as they are all virtually untrained and virtually all volunteers. They write about things with their own glasses and perspectives on. We’d be better as a propaganda machine if we did have it separated out, and, even where you could see a connection, we didn’t point to it. But we’re not a spin party.

Even though you like the spin chapter in “Mein Kampf” so much. In your 2005 manifesto you said: “We will end immigration to the UK and reduce our land’s population burden by creating firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home.” What does “firm” mean and what does “home” mean, because they are quite difficult to define?
Firm would mean that certainly, in the case of serious criminals and illegals and people whose right to work was removed. For instance, when we left the European Union, there wouldn’t be a choice about it. They would have to go.

Where?
If we are talking about the eastern Europeans, who have got the right to come here, it is obvious where home is. With most people, it is clear where they have come from. If people have entered this country and torn their documents up, then even if they have been granted asylum, they shouldn’t have been, and we would reverse that.

But if you don’t know where they have come from, you can’t return them there.
If you want to, you can virtually find out which village they come from in Africa with DNA tests. Someone has got to take them. But their presence here isn’t fair. And it is not legal.

Just because you want to send them somewhere, doesn’t mean that the state you want to send them to has to accept them. What do you do if they say no?
Well . . . we’ll find some silly European liberal state which will happily take them. Someone will take them.

You reckon?
Yes, someone will take them.

“Firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home . . .” Is that policy still your policy now?
Yes, broadly so. Let’s reword the bit in the case of ones who have no right to be here. It would be firm. It wouldn’t be brutal, it would be firm. In the case of people who have come here legally, who are integrated into our society, we would say: “Look, it is on the table. If you want to take it, you can take it.”

There are about 5.5 million British people who have emigrated or are working abroad. Do you think that the countries in which they live should encourage them to return here?
That is up to them. That’s their right. We have African leaders all over Southern Africa begging Britain to stop poaching our NHS staff. They use them as cheap labour. They often aren’t up to the skill levels that are the best that we can produce. Once they have been here, if we could say to those countries: “Here is money for infrastructure and so on. We will help you with foreign aid because you will have a larger population.” We would use it partly to undo some of the damage that mass immigration has caused.