Leaving aside for the moment the fact that what one of Walker’s commentors calls the “Getting Off Your Backside And Voting system” in this country is thoroughly inept and only serves to encourage the kind of infantile political debate John describes, I think today has been a deeply troubling day. Not because I don’t think Griffin should have been there—he had every right to be—but because of the effect it will likely have. I suspect Jack Straw’s assertion that this will prove a bad week for the BNP will itself prove a sad misjudgement. Griffin’s target audience will have seen a man who’s views resound with their own shouted down, laughed at and bullied by five of the liberal elite; two of whom don’t even belong in Britain anyway. They will have seen themselves forced to stand and justify themselves before a crowd of Jews, Muslims and foreigners, and they will have asked themselves why the hell they should have to do that in their own country. It’s not a picture they’ll’ve liked. We’ve all had an entertaining evening and patted ourselves on the back for making a fascist look a fool, but Griffin’s base will have grown as a result.
It is a fundamental paradox of democracy that allowing free speech means allowing people you don’t agree with a voice, even if those people would seek to remove your own. A free democracy should allow its members always the option, but never the desire, to vote for its own abolition. Until we find a more sophisticated level of political discourse than was seen tonight, that desire will not be challenged on a meaningful level.