There's been much annoyance and anger on Twitter this morning over Sarah Montague's interview with EDL leader Tommy Robinson on Radio 4's Today programme.
Put to one side for a moment the vexed issue of whether 'preachers of hate' such as Robinson or Al Muhajiroun's Anjem Choudary should even be given such high-profile platforms by national broadcasters. The bigger issue with this particular interview was that there was very little probing of Robinson's background or views; his offensive and conspiratorial claims about British Muslims and Islam were left largely unchallenged; the tone of the questions was polite and - dare I say - soft, rather than tough, rigorous or challenging.
Former Ed Miliband adviser and Labour parliamentary candidate Polly Billington tweeted:
"Our communities will suffer the consequences of this legitimisation of the EDL. @BBCr4today -totally out of touch."
The director of the British Future thinktank, Sunder Katwala, added:
"Big @BBCr4today #EDL flaw to take at face value false statements from man with both violence & fraud convictions."
Was it an editorial decision by the Today programme bosses, out of fear of coming across as patronising or even 'left wing', to deliberately go soft on Robinson? Or did Montague and her team just not do their homework?
Here are ten questions which the Today programme could have put to the leader of the EDL:
1) You say you've never threatened violence against the British Muslim community and only support 'peaceful protest' - but on 3 September 2011, at your demo in London, you said: "Every single Muslim watching this... You had better understand that we have built a network from one end of this country to the other end, and we will not tolerate it, and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our citizens killed, maimed or hurt on British soil ever again." That's a pretty explicit threat, isn't it?
2) Isn't it true you served a twelve-month prison sentence for assaulting an off-duty police officer who had tried to stop a domestic incident between you and your partner? How many arrests and/or convictions for violent assaults and crimes have you personally had? Can you tell our listeners?
3) For someone who claims to want British Muslims to integrate and follow the law, you seem unable to abide by the law yourself, don't you? You're quite a violent man, aren't you?
4) Don't you feel a bit ashamed when you hear the grieving family of Lee Rigby pleading with people like yourself to stop exploiting the death of that poor soldier?
5) The EDL regional organiser Alan Spence was filmed at a recent demo in Newcastle telling a crowd of supporters to "send the black c**ts home". Those supporters all cheered. You were standing next to him and said nothing as the crowd cheered. Why?
7) You suggest that the Muslim community centre in Muswell Hill that was burned to the ground, and that had the letters 'EDL' daubed on it, was set on fire by Muslims themselves - do you have even a shred of evidence for this bizarre claim? And on your logic, doesn't that mean that the 'Islam' graffiti on the Bomber Command memorial was done by the EDL?
8) Who funds the EDL? You claim to be the voice of the working class but isn't it true that your organisation was founded in a £500,000 Barbican flat, backed by a City investment fund manager?
9) You obsess over the meat eaten by less than 5% of the population, you want to ban all 'Muslim immigration' and ban the building of new mosques, you constantly conflate 'Islamism' with 'Islam'. How are you not a far-right, neo-Nazi-style group?
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more