In just over 30 minutes, Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, will take his place for the first time on the panel of BBC's Question Time. The decision to invite him on the programme has attracted a huge amount of publicity and caused outrage among both the mainstream parties as well as the wider public. A good friend of mine is one of several hundred people making their protests heard outside the BBC's London studios at this very moment.
But even amongst those who despise this openly racist party, opinion seems to be divided- either deprive the BNP of the 'oxygen of publicity' or put them on a national stage and expose them for what they are. It is, to be honest, a tricky one. I'm not sure to which camp I belong. Not yet, anyway. Maybe in a couple of hours, depending on how the debate goes, I will have an opinion.
For the other panellists from the mainstream parties, it could be a challenge. Merely calling the BNP a ‘vile and despicable party’, is not going to cut it. They are going to have to tread a fine line between engaging with them on issues while distancing themselves from the party’s real agenda. If the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour can join forces and systematically pick them apart, the BNP will look stupid and out of their depth. If they overdo it, however, it will look like they’re flogging a dead horse. It is vital they achieve the right balance.
For Griffin himself, the advantages of appearing on the show are clear. A record audience will be tuning in and he will want to milk it for all it is worth. There is also no doubt that it will lend a certain legitimacy to a party whose constitution is still officially illegal. On the other hand, you've almost got to hand it to him. I would be surprised if every word he utters isn’t booed and hissed at, and in between all that he has to try and prove he is not a Nazi. Or prove that he is. Whatever the case, it should be an interesting show.