I am a supporter of Freedom of Speech, and I happen to think that it is essential to a free society that people be allowed to express themselves freely. With curbs at law allowing compensation for such things as slander, on the whole we, in principle at least, have a reasonable and decent set up. Yes, the walls have been closing in quite a bit in the last few years, but I think this has been broadly acknowledged, and as soon as this particular Government is ousted I believe on this issue under the Conservatives we can return to a normal debate and square some of those issues away.
As Newton pointed out, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Though this is a law of physics, it can sometimes be applied to situations in our lives. To allow for Freedom of Speech there is a cost or in this analogy opposite reaction, which is that we don't just then hear what we want to hear. We have to allow for the fact that people are going to have opinions vastly different to yours and mine and that those opinions may well cause offence.
The equal reaction is that The BNP, and in this case Nick Griffin is also subject to this and he will have to hear what those of us who do not support the BNP have to say. I think it is right that the BNP have their say, as much as I disagree with them it is the price of free speech and one I am glad to pay. And on this score the BBC are right to have allowed Mr Griffin onto their flagship politics show.
If you cannot allow for this, even broadly, then I do not think you can really be a advocate for free speech.
I hope that the fellow panel members take the full opportunity to debate Griffin on TV. Over one million people voted BNP at the EU elections, and I wonder how many of them have actually heard Nick Griffin speak on TV or Radio? I would wager not that many; certainly a low percentage considering he is a party political leader. The concerns expressed by those who do not want the BNP on TV are that he will be "recruiting" - as if National Socialism and Racism were some unstoppable irresistible force that must not be allowed into people's ears. I just do not understand this rationale. Informed debate and giving people ALL of the facts is what is needed, and the mainstream political parties need to get better at doing that, even if it means we learn more about them than they don't like. Let people hear what he has to say, it may turn out that instead of recruiting new people those that did vote BNP may now not do so again in the future.
I know Jack Straw and Chris Huhne are due to appear, and they will need to up their game for this. I am not sure who the other two panellists will be*, I hope someone from the conservatives and someone from the centre-right press. Question Time does tend to swing four lefties to one centre-right panellist many weeks, so tonight may well be no different on that score.
I happen to think that if the panel spend an hour screeming "raaaacist!" in Nick Griffins direction, they will themselves not come off too well. In my opinion, they should try to draw out some opinions and policies that go beyond what will have been rehearsed off screen prior to an apperance, and then look for an opportunity to explain how poor those policies and opinions are, and how they would adversly affect the country and the people that live here if widely implemented.
I also just want to say that despite my absence from the B-BBC live blog in recent weeks (due to the unseemly time I have to get up these days, QT is on when I am usually in bed) and though I will be annoying the wife, I am going to make the extra effort to be there tonight so we can deliver our own collectively unique commentary on events. I would urge others who would like to join to be there early, as the unmoderated slots will go quickly.
* Baroness Warsi and Germaine Greer are the other guests.