Since the coalition Government’s agreement to allow a referendum on whether we should upgrade the way we vote at our General Elections to the Alternative Vote (AV), the debate about the deeply anti-immigration British National Party (BNP) & the way their supporters would vote & potentially effect any future elections ran using AV has become a little like a game of “pass the parcel” between those in the pro-AV & pro-FPTP camps. Unlike most versions of this old party favourite, neither of the opposing groups involved particularly want the rather rotten prize hidden inside- the endorsement of their campaign by a party that in many ways (rightly) is being cast as the bogeyman of British politics.
The arguments about whether AV helps or hinders minority extremist parties such as the BNP have been kicked back & forth between the Yes & No camps for a while now, & for someone who believes this debate on electoral reform is much bigger & more important than mere party-political gain I’ve found a lot of the bickering a bit insulting to the whole idea of what I thought democracy was all about- the freedom of speech, expression & to vote positively for who I want to on polling day.
Various No2AV campaigners & also some MPs (nearly all Conservatives) have all tied this disgust at the BNP to their own misguided belief that ranked preference voting equates to voters having multiple votes, hence we have this cock-eyed argument from them that minority party voters, such as BNP voters, would be getting more than one vote counted in an election. This simply isn’t true & shows a total & deliberate misunderstanding of how single transferable voting works under AV & other similar systems. It also conveniently forgets to mention that for a BNP 1st preference vote to then be transfered to it’s 2nd choice candidate the BNP candidate has been eliminated from the contest as least popular at that stage of the count, & therefore can’t win, so it’s hardly helping the BNP to gain much there.
A lot of these arguments also seem to forget that many other factors help decide the outcome of an election more than the voting system itself, & in the case of extremist parties seem to treat the people who vote for these parties as entirely new & undesirable people on the voting map, which in most cases probably isn’t true. I’d even argue that many of these people have voted for the major parties before but for various reasons have felt increasingly let-down, ignored & alienated by those parties & politics in general. They have then drifted towards the ideas & promises of the extremists.
In making the general argument that AV somehow will help the likes of the BNP, the anti-reform brigade also seem to forget that the BNP have won under FPTP in recent years at council elections in various towns & cities, partly because of that wonderful feature of FPTP- the ability to win with just 30-35% of the votes cast (or even less sometimes).
Anyway, after No campaign bloggers claimed (with precious little evidence) that the BNP were actually pro-AV & the official No2AV website even endorsed this view, the blogger Anthony Butcher over at I Support AV simply got in touch with the BNP & asked them.
He got this reply- The BNP will campaign against AV. Anthony continues-
That’s pretty emphatic. The BNP will be campaigning alongside the NO2AV campaign against AV and for FPTP, as we have said all along.
The key issue for them is that they feel close to winning a seat or two under FPTP, and AV would make that process more difficult because they would need 50% support instead of 35% locally.
The official No2Av campaign site have since removed their endorsement of the blog article by No2AV supporter Philip Cane.
I’d also like again to echo Anthony’s (& also Philip Cane’s) sentiments that the whole issue of electoral reform shouldn’t be reduced to party political point-scoring & such partisan concerns shouldn’t be at the fore at all during this campaign. You can read Anthony Butcher’s full article here