The time I debated Nick Griffin.

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Thumbnail image for peakoil.jpgIn 2005 Mark Ballard and I went to a conference at the Chamber Street museum on the topic of peak oil. It was very informative, full of oil industry professionals as well as the renewables crowd, chaired by a BBC journalist and very alarming.

Coming out of one session Mark saw a familiar face in the crowd - the man at the centre of today's media storm, Nick Griffin. 

He had a false name and organisation on his badge (the latter was something like "Verity", but not "Veritas", I don't recall exactly), but there's no mistaking him for anyone else, not even any of the "comedy" Nazis from Allo Allo

If you're ever unsure it's him, the glass eye is the dead giveaway. It is a replacement for the one he claims he lost when he left live ammunition on a bonfire, and it always looks over your shoulder, as if he's awaiting reinforcements. 

We made our way over and engaged him in conversation, just because it seems wrong to let a fascist just stand there unchallenged. It was not a polite conversation. 

I raised two vile BNP policies, one on deporting non-British born citizens and one on providing guns to all over-18s. Effectively, he'd be telling some British citizens that their parents, also British citizens, have to be sent back to countries they may have not seen for decades, then he'd give the younger generation guns. Did he have other plans to trigger a race war? Cue some bluster and counter-assertion.

He also denied he was a racist, but a breath later said he'd obviously not let his children marry a non-white person. He then went into a massive rant about the evil Americans which I'm not planning to air here, and I ended calling him a revolting fascist.

I'm not proud of this encounter, although I'm glad there was a crowd around us, not least because the boot boy over his shoulder turned out to be a member of Combat 18 with a history of (no, you'll never believe this) racially motivated violence.

I discovered that a smarter environmentalist from the audience had also approached him later. He played dumb and just asked Griffin about his interest in the issue of peak oil.

The answer was telling - the public turn to the right when faced with economic hard times and social dislocation, he said, and the end of the easy oil economy would put him into Downing Street during the 2020s.

The consequences of imminent oil depletion are grave even before you look at the politics of it, and I've done my best with Green colleagues to raise the issue and the need to give a serious response. Preparing for the next oil price spike and the end of cheap energy will require much the same policy shift as is required to tackle climate change, so there's every reason just to get on with it. 

Those of us in mainstream parties put a lot of time and effort knocking the neo-nazi BNP, and for understandable reasons. Fine, but it'd be a lot more constructive to work together on zero-carbon energy and coincidentally make Nick Griffin's grim fantasy even more unlikely.


I remember Mark coming back into the office the next day, still astonished.

I think you're right. We need to remember that fear mongering often does turn people to the hard right. There is little evidence we'll get a "you were right all along" vote if climate change and peak oil aren't averted. Which is a scary thought...

One of the GF's friends went to school with him - Griffin was one of only 2 boys at an all-girl boarding school after using family connections because he wanted to take the Oxbridge exams.

She describes him as a "vile little boy" who tried to recruit amongst the other pupils for the National Front. He failed spectacularly by dint of the fact that none of the girls could stand being in the same room as him.

I had a similar experience, during last years Henley by election. He was in the high street, surrounded by beefy men, not talking to voters. He saw my green rosette, and called me over to talk about peak oil.

I did wonder at the time, but worked it out, he wants chaos. He also got peak oil a bit wrong, but I didnt correct him, he forgot coal!

Well, he could put his money where his mouth is and inform Prince Charles and Princess Anne (who actually do an incredible amount of good work in Scotland) that they are scheduled for deportation back to their father's birth country of Greece. Public favour for the royal family would surge up to Coronation levels and against the BNP. Tactical!

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This page was published on October 22, 2009 4:18 PM.

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