Should we laugh at the BNP?

Jim Jepps praises Peter Cranie for not taking up the BBC’s airtime offer to debate climate change with Nick Griffin. Quite right too. After watching this excellent explanation of the UAE “climategate” emails, well trailed as a “controversy” in the media, I was beginning to wonder if the BBC wasn’t about to go back to it’s old damaging balance position. It hasn’t exactly won the public’s affection over its stance on giving the BNP disproportionate time on news bulletins and Question Time.

But what do you do if you must share a platform with the BNP?

The London Assembly gives me regular access to the BNP’s “mr chips” Assembly member Richard Barnbrook. Word is, by the way, that he only ever eats plates of chips in the cafeteria, which might explain a few things. This week he tried to deny climate change by helpfully pointing out that there aren’t any cows on Mars. He can barely get through a question without confusing himself; statistics are his favourite form of masochism. A quick search for his name on the GLA web site is good for at least half an hour of entertainment, if you’re bored.

Of course this all means he’s also very bad at getting anything done. If you can’t formulate a really cutting question, or trick the Mayor into giving a commitment, you’re not going to get anywhere. And that’s not all. Aside from overt racism and xenophobia, Barnbrook purports to defend the working class. This would be why he denounced 10:10 as a “stealth tax on the poor”.

But if you really care about elderly people not being able to heat their homes, wouldn’t you support a campaign that wants better insulation? If you want families on low incomes to have access to cheap, quality food wouldn’t you worry about climate change pushing up food costs? Isn’t low cost public transport pretty handy for people on low incomes?

The consensus seems to be that if you must share a platform with the BNP, you either try to ignore them (as Boris Johnson affects to do), or your laugh at them (as most London Assembly members seem to do).

All jolly fun, but I wonder if any of those potential BNP voters – the type who aren’t particularly racist but just feel let down on housing or crime by Labour – if they ever see this. What would they think? What does it achieve? How can we make clear that Richard Barnbrook is (a) completely useless at pushing his agenda and (b) not very good at standing up for the people who vote for him? How can politicians who must share a platform get this message out effectively?

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