I agree with your editorial, especially your point that last week’s edition of Question Time was designed to ensure that one member of the panel was attacked throughout, namely Nick Griffin
(“Question Time fails in handling of BNP -- Abandoning usual format was a mistake”, The Herald, October 24).
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Regrettably, Nick Griffin has a challengeable point in saying that this particular edition was not conducted as a proper Question Time, especially since all but one or two of the questions were aimed specifically at him. David Dimbleby’s chairmanship, which fell below its usual standard, and the baying of the crowd almost made Mr Griffin look like a martyr.
On top of that, the panel could hardly have been more deliberately hand-picked to keep the pot boiling and make the issue of the evening Mr Griffin, rather than the main topics of the day such as the economy, on which his views might have been elicited.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary at Westminster, did not help his own cause, or hinder the BNP’s, by evading the question about the effect immigration policy was having in feeding support for the BNP. He assisted the bear-baiting but was supported by colleagues who seemed picked for this occasion.
If people such as Mr Griffin earn the right, by degree of voter support, to appear on programmes such as Question Time, it should be within the normal format of questioning and not contrived.
I abhor everything for which the BNP stands. The question is how far we go with Voltaire, who said: “I do not agree with your opinions, but I will defend to the death your right to hold them.”
The best way to defeat the BNP and others is by creating conditions in which they have no cause to espouse and that includes, especially, Mr Straw giving an honest answer to the question raised about the effect of immigration policy.
I agree with Iain A D Mann, who wrote: “This Question Time was not a shining example of British fair play, freedom of speech and democracy” (Letters, October 24)
Richard A McKenzie, Giffnock, Glasgow.
I will be very surprised if Nick Griffin’s appearance on Thursday’s Question Time results in a boost to that party’s membership or support (“BNP claims big boost from Griffin Question Time slot”, The Herald, October 24).
Many of those watching the programme, including those who voted for the BNP in June’s European elections, might have expected to see in Nick Griffin a slightly sinister but charismatic demagogue, articulating their fears and reinforcing their prejudices.
Instead, they will have witnessed someone who resembled little more than a bar-room bigot who was shown to be inarticulate and evasive, and who appears to believe in the sort of dotty conspiracy theories held to by those who watch too much cable television at 3am.
I was against Mr Griffin being invited to appear on the programme. However, having watched it, I suspect the result will be that many of those in the north-west of England and Yorkshire who elected the two BNP MEPs in June will now be feeling more than slightly embarrassed and ashamed at what they have done, and quite rightly so.
Sophie L Anderson, Edinburgh.
National Front collapse
I cannot allow Aamer Anwar to peddle the myth that the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) was responsible for the demise of the National Front (NF) in the 1970s (Letters, October 24).
The ANL collapsed in March 1979, two months before the National Front put up its all-time record of 303 candidates at the General Election, after it was revealed that most crucial posts within the league were held by members of the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party.
When questioned by journalists about money raised by local ANL branches finding its way into SWP bank accounts, the leader, Tony Cliff said: “The leadership of the ANL is that of the SWP and we don’t give a damn”, prompting Brian Clough and other prominent people to disown publicly the ANL forthwith. Cross-party support for what was meant to be a united anti-racist, anti-fascist umbrella collapsed.
Ironically, the ANL’s collapse caused tremendous damage to the NF, as its regular altercations with the SWP, inflated by ANL protesters, had provided it with the headlines it craved. Denied this, it lost every deposit in the May 1979 General Election. The result was the NF collapsed as a complete laughing stock, bankrupt not only morally but politically and financially.
Mark Boyle, Renfrewshire.
Thirty years ago we were faced with the National Front targeting young people. In those days we had a mass circulation music press whose role in pushing back the tide of racism has always been underrated. Thirty years on, and here we are again, with an only slightly more sophisticated fascist threat, but this time Sounds and Melody Maker are gone.
Music is no longer the force for change it once was, so this time around it falls to politicians of all decent parties to put aside their differences and campaign together on an anti-fascist platform. But, oh for Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill or, perhaps, Bono Vox or Bob Geldof to have been included on last Thursday’s panel.
Pete Ellis, Coupar Angus, Perthshire.
I couldn’t agree more with the assertions of your correspondent Iain J McConnell (Letters, October 24) conerning the conduct of David Dimbleby.
I thought the role of chairing such a programme was to direct the questions from a neutral and unbiased stance without fear or favour. Mr Dimbleby appeared to think otherwise. He exacerbated an already highly-charged emotional situation.
However, this is not the first incidence of its kind involving the Dimbleby family on television.
I remember watching Mr Dimbleby’s father , Richard, conduct an interview on BBC Television with George Brown after the 1964 General Election when the Wilson Labour government had won by a whisker.
Richard Dimbleby just couldn’t disguise his aversion to the Labour win.
I recall George Brown admonishing him in no uncertain manner for his biased attitude and reminding Mr Dimbleby that he was, in fact, interviewing a newly appointed Minister of State and that he had better take cognisance of that fact and conduct himself accordingly.
D Bruce Maclachlan, Berwickshire.
I disagree with Iain J McConnell (Letters, October 24).
Yes, the chairman pursued his own aggressive agenda and, in doing so, rose considerably in my estimation. This was not a normal edition of Question Time. It was a circus and I did not want Mr Dimbleby to be an impartial, passionless stuffed shirt.
I wanted him to act like a decent human being faced with an unpleasant task and having to make the best of it, while making clear his disgust at Nick Griffin and everything he stands for.
This disgust is something the overwhelming majority of viewers would have shared and it was only right that it should be reflected in the way the programme was chaired.
Gavin Fleming, Grassmarket, Edinburgh.
Rail link is not required
Jim Murphy thinks the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) should be built and that the issue will be important in the Glasgow North East by-election (“Murphy enters row over airport rail link”, The Herald, October 23).
Springburn residents who can afford to fly choose public transport to go to the airport, by bus to Buchanan Bus Station or train to Queen Street and then by the frequent airport bus, which takes 25 or 20 minutes. The claim that Garl is needed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is bogus. Neither Melbourne nor Delhi airports has rail access. Yet buses between both airports and their city centres take around 45 minutes. Such projects as Garl and the Borders railway line would serve only a tiny proportion of travellers. Any funds for transport should be used to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, which are often inadequate.
Kevin Lawrie, Glasgow.
Rousing and rising
While I agree with your review (October 23) of the remarkable Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on its opening in Glasgow, I was bewildered as to why the theatre glued the audience to its seats. Even at the finale, they sat stolidly. Just what do you have to do to get a standing ovation in this town? I almost thought I was in Edinburgh.
Steve Brennan, Glenmavis.
Bad drivers put cyclists at great risk on the roads
Unlike in England and Wales, cycling on the pavement is not illegal in Scotland. What is illegal is reckless cycling on the pavement (Letters, October 23 and 24).
As a Cycle Touring Club (CTC) member, I am careful to observe good practice in cycling on the roads, such as not cycling on the road close to the gutter, but occupying your lane of traffic. For this, I have been brushed by a bus in Glasgow, threatened by a car driver that next time he would “knock me down” and narrowly avoided being run over by a bus in Union Street at traffic lights waiting for the lights to change.
Before motorists say “use the cycle lanes”, I would point out that I have been sworn at by a cab driver for using the cycle traffic lights in Gordon Street and that in Glasgow, unlike Edinburgh in my experience, vehicles park in cycle lanes all the time.
I have also had a bus driver blow the horn at me because I was using the cycle/bus lane.
In addition, using cycle lanes separated from the main road makes approaching junctions more dangerous because the cyclist has to cross at least two to four lanes of traffic as opposed to crossing fewer when in the main flow.
Yes, it is useful to have a reserved area for cyclists at traffic lights but, in my experience, many drivers, including bus drivers, ignore this and occupy the area.
This could be one reason why some cyclists feel it is better to look if the road is clear and run the red light than risk the motoring traffic-light grand prix. Not excusable, but understandable.
In Troon, I cycle almost every day. I normally cycle on the road, but on Marr College hill I always use the pavement now. Why? Because I have had so many buses, cars and vans go so close to me and sometimes force me to stop because they cut in after misjudging overtaking going up the hill. There is a high kerb and a cyclist cannot escape on to the pavement.
As for pedestrians, I have had them step off the kerb in front of me without looking.
One lady in particular shouted at me to ring the bell but I had, three times. Like many others, she was listening to an iPod or MP3 player.
By all means have the police enforce the law. That would include the driver texting while driving, the motorists parked illegally blocking cycle lanes, drivers entering reserved cycle areas at traffic lights, motorists carrying out road rage against cyclists in traffic and cyclists running red lights and cycling recklessly on pavements.
But let’s not have any more sanctimonious letters from motorists, many of whom could do their health, their bank balances and the environment a great service by literally getting on their bikes.
Bill Dale, Troon.
Divining the future
On Friday morning, as I struggled to come to life, I heard cheery news: economists and city pundits were predicting that the economy was at last going to show signs of recovery.
On Friday evening, as I arrived home, I heard that their collective noses had been put out of joint by the actual economic figures released that day.
They were surprised. Should we be? Should we not rather be reviving the ancient Etruscan art of hepatoscopy? After all, divining the future from the liver of a sacrificed sheep seems about as effective as asking an economist.
But if we could eviscerate the latter … I don’t suppose it would make much difference.
Alistair B Fulton, Glasgow.
Last week, before the clocks had even changed and geraniums were still blooming outdoors, along with second flowerings of clematis, honeysuckle and primula, South Lanarkshire Council put up the Christmas decorations in Uddingston. Although they are not switched on yet, I cannot be alone in finding this profoundly depressing. Why cannot we enjoy the autumn colours before being subjected to this artificial manipulation of the seasons?
Jennifer Semple, Uddingston.
Original suspect in Pan Am atrocity should be the starting point for further examination of evidence
After more than 20 years, the Crown Office has announced that the Lockerbie criminal investigation is to re-examine the available evidence and assess new channels of investigation.
The announcement coincides, to the day, with the public announcement by
the UK Lockerbie families group UK Families-Flight 103 that it is yet again demanding (this time of Prime Minister Gordon Brown) a full inquiry into the failure to protect the victims and to identify the perpetrators .
The ongoing criminal investigation has been used repeatedly as a reason for denying us the full inquiry into the truth as to why our families were not protected back in 1988. We are entitled under human eights law and now the Inquiries Act 2005 to an inquiry.
If further serious meaningful investigation really is to be pursued by the police and Crown Office as to who else might have contributed to the murder of our loved ones in 1988, I would be the first to applaud it. Mohammed Abu Talb, the original suspect in the bombing, has now been released from jail and, according to the Crown Office, was not granted immunity against prosecution over Lockerbie, though appearing as a prosecution witness at the Camp Zeist trial. That might be no bad place to start looking for the truth. Honest further investigation is almost bound to embarrass the Zeist verdict, on which the Crown Office’s reputation depends heavily.
The UN’s specially appointed international observer at the Lockerbie trial, Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna, found the verdict against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi incomprehensible and a travesty of justice.
That is a weighty charge which the Crown Office has not publicly contested; nor have Scottish or UK politicians.
Interested parties might like to press for the public UK showing of Lockerbie Revisited, a brilliant documentary film by Gideon Levy of the Netherlands, which has just won a major international prize, yet which no-one in the UK has yet had the guts to screen outside the privileged environs of the Scottish Parliament, under the redoubtable wing of Christine Grahame MSP.
Very serious issues still surround the conduct of the Crown Office throughout this case and the verdict against al Megrahi in particular.
Dr Jim Swire, Father of Flora, murdered at Lockerbie, Gloucestershire.