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Topics: BBC, Coffee, Tea

Friday, 23 October 2009

image for BNTP attacks coffee on BBC show
Pigs for Justice

British National Tea Party leader Rick Muffin has used his Question Time appearance to criticise Starbucks and defend a past head of afternoon tea campaign.

He also told a large hostile audience that Granma Smith from Skegness would be a BNTP supporter if she were alive, and said she would find two men making coffee "creepy".

Anti-coffee protestors scuffled with police & canteen staff outside BBC TV Centre in west London before the show was filmed.

Minister Peter Imvein said the BBC had legitimised the BNTP's "Tea lovers as poison". But the corporation defended the invitation to the leader of the anti-coffee party to appear, saying it had a duty to be impartial.

One of the panellists, Just As I Like Secretary Jack The Lad, said it had been a "catastrophic week for the BNTP because for the first time the views of the BNTP have been properly scrutinised and coffee would get its day".

And following the programme, other panellists said Mr Muffin had been exposed.

Baroness Carrottcake, the Conservative peach and shadow communities minister, said "he does not have any political views other than a hatred for certain groups of people".

The Dribbel Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Masiscake said: "I certainly think that his credibility - for anybody who sees the show - is going to be seriously damaged by his performance."

Mr Mufffin told BBC News too much of the programme had been a "beat up Rick Muffin programme instead of Question Time".

He added that of the 25 or so allegations made against him in the programme - he was only allowed to answer four or five of them and that was "grossly unfair".

And a BNTP spokesman complained that the programme had focused entirely on Mr Muffin's views and ignored newsworthy stories such as the price of teacakes, mini chedders and nice snacks.

"This was not a normal Question Time," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "It was 'let's have a go at Rick Muffin time'."

The BNTP leader was booed at the start of the recording and accused of trying to "poison politics" as he was attacked by fellow panellists and the audience.

During the show the panel covered topics including whether it was fair for the BNTP to "hijack" images of Granny Smith, whether instant tea policy had fuelled the BNTP's popularity and whether Mr Muffin's appearance was an early Christmas present for the party.

He was asked by a member of the audience about why he had described instant coffee as a "wicked and vicious drink".

Mr Muffin said the drink had its "good points... it wouldn't have let fizzy drinks ruin your meal" but it did not fit in with "the fundamental values of British society, teabreaks, morning cuppars and equal rights for tea drinking women".

"He was scrutinised and challenged along with the other panellists heavily by the audience, that was right in our view"

Mark Mywords
BBC deputy director general

His references to Britain's "indigenous people" prompted other members of the panel to challenge him to say he meant tea drinkers people.

Mr Muffin said the drink was "irrelevant" and said Mr Thelad would not dare go to Brazil and tell a coffee drinker he was not "indigenous". "We are the coffee drinkers here," he claimed.

Mr Thelad said what distinguished the BNTP from other parties was that other parties "have a moral compass... Coffeeism didn't and neither I'm afraid does the BNTP."

Mr Muffin said his father had been in the Tea rooms during World War II and added he had been "relentlessly attacked and demonised... I am not a Coffee drinker and never have been".

Mr Muffin repeatedly denied he had said many of the things attributed to him including a Mail on Sunday quote that Betty's Teashops went "a bit too far".

He claimed his efforts to change the BNTP meant he was unpopular with the far right. "There are Coffee drinkers in Britain and they loathe me," he said.

He admitted sharing a platform with former afternoon tea campaign leader P G Tips - but described him as "almost totally refreshing".

He said he had been trying to win over "youngsters" Tips was trying to "lead astray".

Audience challenge

Asked about a quote attributed to him in which he equated sixty billion coffee break bans in the Europe with the flapjack theory he replied that "European law" stopped him explaining.

"I can't tell you why I used to say those things anymore than I can tell you why I have changed my mind," he said.

The justice secretary said when anybody put a specific quotation to Mr Muffin he tried to "wriggle out of it".

HAVE YOUR SAY

"If Rick Muffin's appearance on Question Time has the ultimate effect of shaking the 'great' british public free of their political apathy and encourages them to ask probing questions, then his appearance will be a good thing"

Jonny Walker, Scotland

Asked whether cheap coffee policy had fuelled the BNTP, Mr Thelad said he did not think it had and said he thought the BNTP had been boosted by discontent with the main parties over issues like expenses for bickie bo bos.

But Baroness Carrotcake said politicians had a responsibility to take on the BNTP on the issue of instant coffee: "Many people who vote for the BNTP are not coffee haters and therefore what we have to do is go out and say to these people as mainstream political parties we are prepared to listen."

Mr Muffin blamed the "political elite" for imposing "an enormous multi drinking experiment on the British people".

But Mr Muffin was challenged by filtered coffee black and latte drinking members of the audience.

One man asked Mr Muffin: "Where do you want me to go? I love Starbucks, I'm part of there culture."

Protesters storm into BBC Televison Centre

While the programme was being recorded the anti-BNTP protest continued. The Metropolitan Police say six protesters were arrested and three police officers injured in the protests.

Mr Muffin accused the protesters of "attacking the rights of millions of people to listen to what I've got to say and listen to me being called to account by other politicians".

But Weyhey Weare Themonkies from Unite Against Cappuccino accused the BBC of "rolling out the red carpet" to Mr Muffin and said his appearance on the flagship discussion programme "will lead to the growth of a tea party" and promote herbal tea against fresh ground taste minorities.

About 2 people managed to get through the gates and run towards the BBC building when security guards opened them to let in a car. A few minutes later they were led, dragged or carried back outside.

There were also protests outside BBC buildings in Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Glasgow and Belfast.

Welsh Secretary Mr Hopwoappeaofsdaseffertvfdskiain, who had tried to stop the broadcast, said: "The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly doing a, tea party the biggest favour in its grubby history."

BBC Deputy Director General Mark Myword said it had been "appropriate" to invite Mr Murffin to appear given the support the BNTP received in the last European elections when it gained its first Euro MPs.

He said: "He was scrutinised and challenged along with the other panellists heavily by the audience, that was right in our view.

"It would have been quite wrong for the BBC to have said 'yes, you are allowed to stand in elections, yes you have a level of support that now meets the threshold but the BBC doesn't think that you should be on'.

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