15/11/2016 04:29 GMT | Updated 15/11/2017 05:12 GMT

Marr Is Right - We Need To Listen To Marine Le Pen. Only Then Can We Really Challenge Her


Like many, I was surprised to see that Andrew Marr was interviewing Marine Le Pen on his Remembrance Sunday programme. I really can't get on board with her view of the world - it's divisive, narrow, and polarised.

And many Brits clearly feel the same. There's outrage that the BBC chose to air her views on Remembrance Sunday of all days - a day when we remember those who gave their lives in the fight against fascism.

I understand the outrage about this being on Remembrance Sunday. Should someone that many would regard as a fascist be given air time on that day?

But it's important to note that this wasn't just an opportunity for Le Pen to promote her views and the Front National. Marr hardly gave Le Pen an easy time - she was defensive through much of the interview. And the BBC did balance the rest of the programme - it opened with Jeremy Corbyn, and the Le Pen interview was followed by a response from Crispin Blunt MP and a further interview with Sir Stuart Peach, Chief of the Defence Staff. All of them had the opportunity to challenge views like Le Pen's, and to acknowledge why Remembrance Sunday is so important.

So the question is - is this really about the timing? Or is it more that we don't want to hear views like Le Pen's at any time, thank you very much?

Like many, my instinct with views like hers is to shut my eyes and ears. I don't feel comfortable listening to people whose views I think are genuinely hurtful to many - especially foreign-born French citizens. In my ideal world, the Front National wouldn't exist, and people wouldn't hold those views. Or at best, it would be a tiny fringe group that no one took seriously.

But in the real world, the Front National is gaining support. Clearly, Le Pen promotes a view of the world that resonates with some people. Indeed, according to some polls, she's more popular than current president Hollande. Her's is clearly not as much of a fringe view as I would like.

I can relate to the fear that many people feel, that by airing views like Le Pen's, they spread like a pandemic and become dominant.

But the fact is, they're already spreading. Just look at what's happened in the US. National, international and social media attempted to eradicate his extreme views in every possible way: silence, ridicule, warnings. The result? President-elect Donald Trump.

As Marr rightly says, future President Marine Le Pen is well within the realms of possibility. If French people don't want that, they need to listen. If the rest of Europe and the world don't want that, we can't afford to shut our ears any more either.

The only way to tackle the rise of movements like the Front National is to listen and understand. Only when you properly understand what their views are, can you identify why they're gaining support. Only then can you address people's concerns and persuade them that the way forward is not to elect these extreme figures and parties.

In 2009 the BBC also faced controversy for featuring Nick Griffin, former MEP and leader of the British National Party (BNP), on Question Time. People were furious. But where is the BNP now? Since that appearance, during which Griffin demonstrated his astonishing ignorance, the party has lost most of its support.

We can't keep shutting ourselves off from these views and hoping they'll go away. If we do, and we try to censor them, they'll only grow, and the world will move even further away from where we want it to be. However uncomfortable we find it, it's only by listening to people with these views that we can see where they come from, understand their appeal, and ultimately defeat them.