BNP leader ducks Holocaust denial question

BNP leader ducks Holocau

Facing a predictably hostile audience on a leading British political debate show, British National Party chief Nick Griffin denied he was a Nazi. However, when asked if he was a Holocaust denier, Griffin stalled, and then said, "I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial." He went on to say that his far-right party was the only British political party to fully support Israel's campaign against Hamas. "I have brought the BNP from being an anti-Semitic and racist party to being the only political party to stand full square behind Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists," he said. Also during the long-awaited Question Time program, Griffin said that white British people were the Aborigines. Ahead of the far-right party leader's appearance, anti-fascist protesters broke into the BBC's west London headquarters as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the premises in a rowdy rally against Griffin. At one point about 25 people breached a police cordon and ran into the center's lobby. BBC footage showed some being pulled across the floor by their arms and legs by security. The broadcaster said the protesters were "escorted promptly" from the building. "Shame on the BBC!" one female protester yelled as she was being dragged out. Scotland Yard said three officers were injured in the protests, and six people were arrested. Griffin said afterward that he was relatively pleased with the program, and had taken a lot of flack but had "been able to land a few punches of my own." "It was hard-going," he told The Associated Press in telephone interview. "It was a bit like a boxing matching." He said he didn't believe the show itself would revolutionize his party's fortunes, but said it was a kind of "boy scout's badge" for having secured, he claimed, the BNP's place on the national stage. Question Time gathers Britain's leading politicians, journalists and other public figures to discuss questions from a studio audience. The three-decade-old program has become something of national institution, and many have condemned Griffin's invitation as awarding his far-right group an undeserved aura of political respectability. The BBC said that, as a publicly funded broadcaster, it must cover all political parties that have a national presence. Earlier this year the party won two European Union parliament seats, gaining 6 percent of British votes in European polls. It has no seats in the British Parliament. The whites-only BNP opposes immigration and claims to fight for "indigenous" Britons. Griffin has a conviction for racial hatred and has denied the Holocaust in the past. But the party has tried to shed its thuggish image and enter the political mainstream. "We believe that the BNP is illegal, undemocratic, racist and homophobic party whose existence encourages thugs on the street to engage in violent acts against minorities," said Jackie Hutchingson, a 46-year-old volunteer who joined the protest from southern England. "It gives racist people confidence. That's the argument for why they shouldn't be interviewed or given any publicity," said Sarah Ensor, a 42-year-old bookshop manager from East London. The University of Cambridge-educated Griffin said he expected a hostile reception, but had a right to be heard, and insisted his views had been misrepresented. "If these people would only let us say what we want to say and then argue with what we've actually got to say instead of creating monsters and then being wound up about the monsters, everyone would get on far better," Griffin said before the show. The head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari, said "allowing the BNP to air its toxic views will increase Islamophobia and give the BNP aura of respectability needed to spread their message of hate." Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Griffin's appearance would expose the party's "racist and bigoted" views. The BBC is wary of government interference in its political coverage. In the 1980s, the Conservative government banned radio and TV appearances by members of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party. The broadcaster hired actors to read their words instead.