I think the BBC are right to have invited the British National Party leader Nick Griffin onto Question Time this evening. He is the leader and an elected MEP of a party that got 6% of the vote at the most recent European elections. To deny him a place on one of their shows would be to single out the BNP for special treatment and as my namesake Mark Thompson (the director general of the BBC) points out in a Guardian article today, it would be to expect political censorship of this kind to be outsourced to the BBC. That is not their job.
I have written before about why I think the policy of "No platform" is a mistake. As I said previously, my view is that you win debates and arguments by taking on your opponents, not by banning them from the debating arena. That way allows them to claim political martyrdom. Darrell Goodliffe also has a good blogpost about this here today.
I have read some blog posts and commentary that have expressed the concern that Nick Griffin might not actually come out all that badly. He might even do quite well in the forum of Question Time where populist rhetoric and soundbites sometimes get applause. I am afraid my response to this is that yes, it is possible that he doesn't go down dreadfully as me and I suspect most other people would like. It cannot be guaranteed that it will play out like we hope but again that is no reason to ban him from the show. It is the job of the fellow panelists and the members of the audience who oppose what the BNP stand for to take him on. Beyond that, we cannot control the outcome. That is democracy.
For those who are interested, I will be running my regular BBC Question Time Live Chat on this blog from 10:30 pm this evening.