Peter Tatchell v Nick Griffin v The Queen

I imagine most people have seen the footage of heroic gay activist Peter Tatchell confronting BNP leader Nick Griffin and being bundled away by security guards.

Griffin was at the BBC’s studios in Westminster showing the press the invitation he had inviting him to Buckingham Palace which was subsequently withdrawn by the Queen. Suddenly Tatchell appears from nowhere and heckles him about his anti-semitism and homophobia.

You can catch up with the story at here .

Maybe it’s because I’ve known Peter for so long and am, therefore, highly aware of the many injuries he’s sustained over the years or perhaps it’s because I feel so uneasy about violence – but my immediate reaction to it was “oh my god, I hope they don’t hurt him”. He is still looking good but he is getting on a bit and his health hasn’t been the same since Mugabe’s henchmen did him over.

Griffin's minders charged down the steps to drag Peter out of the way without apparently pausing to think, let alone ask questions or request that he move on. I can’t say whether or not they were careless of his safety as I wasn’t there and I haven’t interviewed them about the incident – but it didn’t look good.

Aside of whatever injury they risked doing to Peter, themselves or the journalists and photographers who were there just doing their job, you have to wonder why they decided to forcibly move him in the first place. Nick Griffin was simply engaged in a publicity stunt to promote his own views. Tatchell wasn’t interfering in a public meeting or starting a riot, he was just protesting, entirely peacefully and in a way that endangered nobody – that’s the only kind of protest he ever does! So why not let him get on with it and allow him his freedom of speech?

I’m instinctively cautious around security guards. Obviously they vary but in my experience they seem far more thuggish than properly trained figures of authority, like the police. The only way I think we’re blessed is that the ones who work on the gay scene tend to be better than straight club bouncers (the big exception being gay festivals, where the security staff are often complete wankers). I worry that these people have way too much power. But I digress.

The other issue, of course, is around whether Griffin should have been invited to the palace in the first instance and whether his invitation should have subsequently been withdrawn.

The arguments on this have been given plenty of air-time and column inches, so I don’t intend to run through it all again. But I did think the whole controversy was interesting for a slightly tangential reason – that it illustrated a paradox at the heart of having a monarch rather than an elected head of state.

The Queen’s job is political but she isn’t supposed to be involved in politics. It’s simply impossible for the head of state to have a purely ceremonial role. Everything she says, every charity she supports, everyone who visits her home, every state visit she undertakes is a political statement. Not a party political one necessarily, but political nevertheless. The fact that she has never, as far as we can ascertain, made any comment regarding the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community in Britain, for example, has political ramifications. The fact that she’s head of the Church of England but hasn’t intervened to stop the renewed homophobia within that institution is also a political decision. So even what she doesn’t do matters. And that’s without touching on her more weighty constitutional duties, like signing laws and advising the Prime Minister.

I’m not saying she should be more overtly political, or that she’s not doing a good job. And I’m not saying whether or not I’m a republican. I’m just suggesting that the Griffin invite, the dismay it stirred up and the dithering which followed are an inevitable outcome of this curious constitutional situation. In other words, things like this will keep on happening.

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