I watched Question Time last night and was not surprised to have all my views on the BNP and Nick Griffin totally confirmed. I think everything the party stands for is dangerous and egocentric and I consider Griffin himself to be particularly moronic and reptilian. I was pleased to see that most members of the studio audience seemed to be opposed to him too, and that they were willing to express their feelings in passionate terms.
However, I must confess that, as the credits rolled, I was filled not with a renewed faith in British society, but with a distinct sense of dread. Sure, on the one hand, the broadcast showed just how far this country has come in what is a relatively short time. After all, not so very long ago, a man of Asian ancestry claiming that he’s proud to be British wouldn’t have been supported by cheers. And a claim that homosexuals are “creepy” wouldn’t have been greeted with boos and hisses. So, yes, ‘polite society’ has learned how to adopt a more tolerant facade and has widened the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in a public setting. This is an unquestionable achievement and I don’t wish to belittle it. But my worry is that many people haven’t necessarily become more tolerant: they’ve just become better at masking their intolerance.
A tremendous amount of ugliness is revealed the moment you crack the surface of the life around you. All it takes is a trivial mistake on a road or – even worse – in a supermarket aisle, and you find yourself on the receiving end of gallons of pent up rage and frustration. Several people will happily tell you to your face that they don’t have a problem with refugees coming to Britain, but as soon as there’s a chance that those refugees might move into their own neighbourhood, the backtracking begins. And how many times have you heard a sentence that starts with the words, “I’m not racist, but…”? Give a few individuals the protection of anonymity, and you see their real opinions streaming out, just like on today’s pages of the BBC’s Have Your Say forum.
Perhaps I’m just having a ‘bad faith’ day. You know, the kind of day when you think the combined morality of every single person on the planet is weaker than the principles held by one solitary amoeba. But it cannot be denied that several thousands of people voted for and support the BNP, and I don’t fully buy the argument that the increase in their success is a result of dissatisfaction with the more mainstream parties. Somewhere, beneath the multi-lingual street signs and the multi-coloured television presenters, is a festering gash of fearful, unpredictable, animalistic narrow-mindedness and hatred. And it really worries me. But what worries me more is that, even though a great many of us can somersault onto our high horses in response to one edition of a TV programme, the next time an election comes around, we won’t be bothered to get out and vote.