A racist on the BBC

Nick Griffin

The rest of the country is blogging and tweeting about Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time last night, so let me join in. For those who have the good fortune not to know, Nick Griffin is the leader of the far right British National Party who was elected to the European Parliament in June, and who had hitherto been excluded from mainstream political broadcasting on the grounds that he himself was not in the mainstream.

Now that he has been elected as an MEP and has started collecting the £76,000 salary that goes with it, things are different. The BBC offered him a slot on its flagship political discussion programme Question Time, where he took a place alongside four other political and public figures in front of an agitated studio audience.

Opinions differ as to how well he performed: the people who oppose him say he did badly; those who support him say he did well. To me, I think the most important thing was that he was laughed at. His attempt to present his racist views just looked ridiculous. And so it should.

The central proposition of the BNP ideology is that human existence is a contest between different races. This is wrong, on two counts. First, there are no races. There is a diversity of racial characteristics – take a look at any Premiership football team over the weekend – but it is not possible to divide humanity into discrete racial groups. There is a spectrum in which each of us has a place, but where no definitive lines between people or groups of people can be drawn.

The second error is that there is no contest between groups. He has misunderstood evolutionary theory. In fact, there is not even competition between individuals: the competition upon which natural selection is based takes place between genes. Nick Griffin’s idea of race has nothing to do with it.

Even they were scientifically founded, his ideas would not have to be accepted morally; but the science doesn’t stack up either. Would you buy a round-the-world air ticket from someone who thought the earth was flat?

The division of humanity into groups based on ethnicity or nationality is a cultural notion, not a biological one. (I wrote about this on the blog in the context of Somalia two weeks ago.) It is not an immutable force before which politics must tremble: it is a fact of the way we live that politics, if it wishes, can change.

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