Toxic ranting

Sometimes it's hard to believe Denis MacShane was once a journalist.

And not just any old hack. He spent eight years at the BBC and had a spell as president of the National Union of Journalists.

The minimum requirement for both roles, one would have thought, would be a staunch belief in the freedom of speech and a determination to defend it at all times.

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But that was then. This is now. And MacShane the MP is a far more prosaic and opportunistic creature.

He has joined that ever-growing group of elitists who believe in the right of others to express their views, providing such views are considered enlightened and agreeable.

Such shallow hypocrisy is behind the fuss MacShane has made about BNP leader, Nick Griffin's invitation to appear on Question Time next month.

He has described the decision as 'an irresponsible gimmick,' despite the fact that Griffin is the freely-elected leader of a legitimate party which has seats in the European Parliament '“ the institution of which MacShane is such a mighty advocate.

The fact that Griffin's racist policies are repellent to all decent people, does not render them invalid.

He has the right to hold those views and espouse them. And if that means getting under the tender skin of 'liberals' like MacShane, then so be it.

In any event, the MP for Rotherham is displaying remarkable naivety and lack of faith in the British people by attempting to deny Griffin his right to free expression.

Does he honestly believe voters '“ no matter how much they are disenchanted with the main parties - are going to be influenced by the toxic ranting of a bigot like this?

Does he really think we are going to flock to the BNP banner and thereby dishonour the memory of the millions who sacrificed their lives to rid the world of such putrid extremists just 70 years ago?

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.

The more people see Griffin - wreathed in sweat, eyes popping and spouting his squalid views - the more they will be disgusted by him and everything he stands for.

Extremism rarely survives close scrutiny. That's why MacShane should pipe down and leave the thinking to the rest of us.

* It had to happen, I suppose. Flintshire County Council has removed spotted dick from its staff canteen menu because the name was deemed 'offensive.'

It has been renamed spotted richard instead '“ a prissy little decision which puts a question-mark against all manner of traditional dishes.

Will we never again be able to request a piece of hot crumpet or some fruity French tarts, for fear of initiating an outbreak of embarrassed tittering (oooh matron!) in north Wales?

What will become of coq au vin? And will wild oats be banished from our larders for ever more?

What a bunch of richard-heads.

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