I've now heard back from the BBC Trust regarding my email about BNP participation in BBC1's Question Time this Thursday (see blog dated 3 October 2009) but they say they don't answer hypothetical questions.
Ric Bailey, the BBC's Chief Political Adviser was asked a similar hypothetical question by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News earlier this evening - Would Ric have had Hitler on the programme?
Ric Bailey: Well, fortunately I wasn't in a position of being Executive Editor of Question Time then, but we have to deal with what we have now. Impartiality means you have to take a judgement about the present political context. And when the BNP won seats at a national level in that election in June we had to look afresh at the situation.
The BBC Trust wasn't consulted before BBC management decided to invite the BNP. It would be nice to think that, had they been consulted, the Trust would have counselled against the invitation. Peter Hain says that not only is the BNP a racist and fascist party, but it is also in breach of the law.
Even if the BNP was behaving within the law, the BBC's decision to invite them on such a debate programme is unsettling. Television, as Phil Redmond argued in his Huw Wheldon lecture last month, is "an empowering agent for social and cultural cohesion." Nick Griffin, however, has no intention of promoting cohesion and is instead using the medium to promote the divisiveness upon which his BNP thrives.
Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One, sacked Carol Thatcher earlier this year, following a racist comment by Carol which was overheard by colleagues at the BBC. I wonder how much say Ms Hunt had over the forthcoming edition of Question Time to be broadcast to the nation. Very little, I suspect.