BNP leader Nick Griffin 'defensive, evasive and flustered' on Question Time

The BNP leader Nick Griffin's controversial appearance on BBC's Question Time was not underpinned by any credible media strategy, senior PROs have said.

BNP leader: Nick Griffin
BNP leader: Nick Griffin

Griffin's hotly anticipated performance provoked a mass protest from anti-fascist campaigners outside the Television Centre. This morning, comms professionals provided PRWeek with their take on his media skills.
 
‘On balance, the BBC and producers Mentorn Media got it right with the panel selection, questions and audience and a normally polished Griffin was left looking seriously defensive, evasive and, at times, flustered,' said Freud Communication's consultant Clarence Mitchell.

‘If he had a media strategy beyond simply appearing to be pleased to be on the programme, then it wasn't apparent. This was no early Christmas present to the BNP,' added Mitchell, who is also PR adviser to the McCann family.
 
Band & Brown's head of public sector Simon Francis agreed: ‘What this week has shown is that the BNP can be beaten through debate. Griffin was uncomfortable, uncertain of his own policies, exposed for having no idea of British history, not even sure of his own past and branded a "thoroughly deceptive man".'

Francis asserted: 'The BNP performance, coupled with the headlines this morning, will not have helped win new support.'
 
Insight Public Affairs account director Olly Kendall said Griffin exposed himself as devoid of ideas and bereft of leadership, but Kendall said he was disappointed the questions allowed the BNP leader to ‘duck scrutiny on the key policy issues'. 

Kendall also pointed out that Griffin will no doubt delight at the universal front-page coverage today: ‘The BBC had little choice but to give Griffin a platform. Their shortcoming was in allowing the entire show to revolve around him.'
 
Porter Novelli's director of media Laurence Lee criticised the BBC for focusing too heavily on Griffin, allowing other politicians to evade questioning on other issues.
 
‘This wasn't Question Time, it was a witch-hunt, and the cherry-picked west London set made sure of it. In this, Nick Griffin did everything he could to help them. He could hardly string a sentence together, shook like a leaf and even grinned and clapped when they took turns in character assassination. He could hardly say "indigenous", let alone describe what he meant by it,' he said.
 
‘As an exercise in playground bullying they probably succeeded, but I bet if they'd held the debate in Burnley or Hull it would have been very different. They may have made Griffin look silly, but I really wonder whether they changed the minds of those who feel the need to lash out,' he said.
 
Francis praised the BBC's use of social media to maximise publicity for the show, which saw even Sky News trailing the time and the channel slot. He also said the message that the BBC is a bastion of free speech has come across clearly.

But Francis questioned whether the show managed to reach a wider audience. ‘Until we see the viewing figures, it's difficult to predict whether the controversy actually helped take Question Time itself to genuinely new audiences outside the Twitterati.'

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