By James Lyons
Nick Griffin will go on Question Time
tonight after the BBC rejected
last-minute calls to ban him.
The corporation's governing body met
in emergency session to hear
appeals for the far-right BNP leader
to be booted off the panel.
Cabinet minister Peter Hain and Trevor Phillips,
chairman of Britain's race watchdog,
had begged the BBC Trust
to block the show. But a senior
said: "They turned the request down."
A bitterly disappointed Mr Hain said
the BBC had "made one of
the biggest mistakes in its proud history".
The decision to allow Griffin on the show
sets the scene for violent confrontations
outside the BBC television centre
today with anti-fascist demonstrators.
About a thousand are expected
to protest outside the West London
building as the programme is recorded.
Police have put 300 officers on stand-by
and the BBC has drafted in 60 extra
security guards to deal
with any problems inside.
Bnp members and left-wing opponents
will be in the 200-strong studio audience.
But despite the fears of violence,
BBC chief political adviser Ric Bailey
said the Corporation would have
breached its charter had it
not treated the BNP with impartiality.
He said the decision to have Griffin
on the programme was based
on the party's success in June's European
elections at which it won more
than 940,000 votes and two seats.
He added: "We absolutely stand
by our judgment." Welsh Secretary Mr Hain
said the BBC was ignoring its
duty to promote "diversity and tolerance".
He added: "I am very sad the BBC
I grew up with and held in such
high regard has made one
of the biggest mistakes in
its proud history.
"Nick Griffin has today confirmed that
I was right. He feels that the BBC
have given him an early Christmas present.
This gift of credibility will
last him a political lifetime."
He went on: "It saddens me to see
that BBC executives have become
apologists for the BNP, lauding
the recent electoral success of the BNP
as a new 'threshold' which
the Corporation must respect.
"They have gone to extraordinary
lengths to give the BNP a platform,
and the credibility they crave."
Trevor Phillips, head of the Equalities
and Human Rights Commission,
had written to BBC Trust chairman
Sir Michael Lyons and director general
Mark Thompson, saying the BNP's ban
on non-white members means
Griffin must not be given air time
alongside regular politicians.
He stopped short of threatening
legal action. But he pointed out that
only last week a court ruled
the BNP acted illegally
by restricting membership
to "indigenous Caucasians".
Griffin and his colleagues agreed
to try to change his party's constitution
in the wake of the humiliating verdict.
Mr Phillips said that until that
happened the BNP was not lawful
and should not be treated
the same as other political parties.
A bbc Trust spokeswoman
said Mr Phillips's views had been "noted".
Question Time is being recorded
early so lawyers can trawl
through the footage to remove
anything that breaks race or libel laws.
Last night an academic warned
that Griffin's appearance
could double support for the BNP.
That happened to the Front National
party in France when leader
Jean-Marie Le Pen was
featured on a political programme in 1984.
Dr Jim Shields, associate professor
in French Studies at Warwick University,
said Le Pen's appearance was
"a real milestone" in his acceptability.
He went on to come second
in France's 2002 presidential election.
Griffin has stoked fury ahead
of the programme with an
outrageous slur on ex-army chiefs.
He compared the generals to Nazi war
criminals after they accused him
of cynically exploiting our troops
by using them in campaigns.
The slur was condemned b
y Col Richard Kemp, ex- commander
of UK forces in Afghanistan, who
rejected Griffin's claim to have
support among rank-and-file troops.
The former commander said
Griffin's fascist ideology was the
"other side of the coin" to Islamic
extremism and went against
the proud traditions of the Armed Forces.
He added:"The BNP's divisive politics
would destroy that trust and fighting spirit."
WHO'S WHO ON TONIGHT'S SHOW
Bbc chiefs have ordered
Dimbleby not to give Nick Griffin an easy ride.
They are relying on the 70-year-old
veteran host to stop
the debate turning into a slanging match.
As a non-politician, the playwright
will have more freedom to speak her mind.
American-born Greer, 60,
can draw on her experience as
a black woman to talk
authoritatively about racism.
The Lib Dem Home Affairs
spokesman is one of his
party's strongest performers
who will refuse to be
goaded by Griffin. But he will
have to fight hard to avoid
coming over as soft on crime.
The Shadow Communities minister
was parachuted in to
David Cameron's team in
a bid to show Tories have changed.
A strong performance from her
would be a humiliation
for Griffin and his racist party.
The Justice Secretary is one
of Westminster's best operators.
He has handled racial tension
in his Blackburn constituency.
He has faced flak over
expenses and Griffin will target
his close links to Muslim groups.Link here
Sent from Kigali, Rwanda