BNP leader gets mixed reviews in London stronghold
By Catherine Bosley
Fri Oct 23, 2009 7:23pm BST
LONDON (Reuters) – Residents of one of the biggest strongholds of the far-right BNP were divided on Friday about the party leader's appearance on a flagship BBC show but many felt the Labour government should do more about immigration.
“He couldn't give a straight answer,” Tim Keane, a builder out walking his dog, said of British National Party leader Nick Griffin's appearance on the BBC's Question Time.
“Of course he was given a fair chance. He was given a simple question and couldn't answer.”
But others felt Griffin had been unfairly treated on a programme in which the majority of the questions focussed on the BNP, a party which opposes immigration and wants Britain to withdraw from the European Union.
Griffin described the panel and its studio audience as a lynch mob.
“I've never been a big lover of the BNP but at least Griffin should have had his say,” said Bob Ricketts, a retiree. “They just ganged up on him.”
“Immigration has been out of control to the point that it's undermining the British way of life,” Ricketts added.
In the racially mixed east London borough of Barking and Dagenham, 12 of 51 councillors are members of the BNP. However, many residents in one working-class part of the borough said they had not watched the programme.
Analysts said Griffin's appearance and the media frenzy around it would probably help the BNP, which has two seats in June European parliamentary polls. It has no seats in the British parliament.
Other commentators argued that Griffin's performance was unconvincing and that greater exposure would ultimately backfire on the party.
Phil Pot, 74, a retired electrician, said he had voted for his local BNP councillor and would do so again.
Pot, who has lived in the neighbourhood for over 40 years, said the media was undertaking a witch hunt against the party.
“The media are knocking them all the time,” he said. “They vilify the local councillor.”
Regardless of whether they supported the BNP or not, immigration was an issue on the lips of many locals.
Standing with her three friends and their young children in front of a bakery, Sarah Wood, said she did not like the BNP but had never voted. However, she complained that immigrants appeared to be favoured in allotment of welfare benefits.
“They are living in poverty too,” Wood, 21, said of newcomers to Britain. “But we live here and we should be priority.”
(Reporting by Catherine Bosley; editing by Keith Weir))