It’s Confirmed – BNP to support ‘No to AV’ vote in Referendum

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

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8 Responses to It’s Confirmed – BNP to support ‘No to AV’ vote in Referendum

  1. Eamon Walsh says:

    Excellent points made about the BNP, Ben. I feel that the Yes Campaign needs to concentrate on this bogus argument about BNP supporters having a greater say under AV, before it begins to settle in people’s minds.

    As you say under FPTP, the BNP need to get just 30-35% of the poll to get a councillor/MP elected, whereas under AV, they need a minimum of 50%. I think that we also need to show specific examples of where BNP has councillor’s elected under FPTP with just 30 % or so of the poll (I’ll try to do some research) and turn this argument back on the No Campaign, before this argument begins to resonate. Add to that that the BNP does not actually believe that AV will favour them above FPTP, begins to show how shaky the argument actually is.

  2. I do some analysis of the electoral opportunties that the Alternative Vote offers to the BNP at the Fairer Votes Edinburgh blog.

    In summary, the altervative vote doesn’t help them must because, as you allude, they very rarely have enough first preferences to stay in the count long enough to pick up second preferences. In fact the BNP only finished in the top 3 in two seats at the last general election. In one seat the total votes of all the eliminated candidates was smaller than the gap between 3rd and 2nd place i.e. even if all the preferences of all the other candidates has flowed to the BNP the BNP candidate would still have finished, 3rd.

    In the other seat, Margaret Hodge won with more than 50% of the vote.

    http://fairervotesedinburgh.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/i-dont-agree-with-the-bnp-but-i-will-fight-to-the-death-for-their-right-to-lose-an-election-under-a-fairer-voting-system/

  3. Pingback: The Daily Mail, fascism and No2AV: A comedy of errors | Left Foot Forward

  4. Pingback: The Daily Mail, fascism and No2AV: A comedy of errors

  5. Pingback: Debunked: The latest No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin | Left Foot Forward

  6. Mike Marsden says:

    Surely AV would would take the fear of out of voting, people who would have liked to vote for them as a protest but could not with just one preference will now give them to the BNP. Voters will be less reticent under AV and that is more likely to be from the working class side than the liberals. Question is any potential increase worth 15 % more to anti immigration parties?

    • Chris B says:

      Thanks Mike for the comment. I think what you say is true: that a more democratic system allows people to vote more honestly. It, also, allows people to show their preferences. I think there is a big difference between say UKIP and BNP, in this regard. For the BNP to be successful, there are some big assumptions: BNP would have to get a large number of first preferences to beat main-stream parties (at least double the support they got in their best result in 2010 – 14.6%) so they don’t get eliminated early, and they would then have to get more main-stream candidates second choices than their competition (for example get Liberal Democrat voters to vote for them rather than Labour in Barking?). Do you think this is likely?

      The BNP are normally loved or hated, which is why they used the Marmite slogan, so although a few extra may vote for them, most probably do today. Also, the Alternative Vote allows others to put them last of all candidates. Personally, I don’t believe there is majority of any constituency (needed under AV to elect someone) who would want the BNP; but as a democrat first and foremost, I think we should not rig the system against those who we disagree with but show how their views are wrong. BNP local councillors have normally managed to dig their own holes, in my humble opinion.

      Leading pollster, Peter Kellner has described AV as “the most extremist-proof of all electoral systems” – because it is a more democratic system. As he pointed out the BNP normally rely on low-voter turn-out, to turn small support into victory under First-Past-The-Post (as seen in a number of local elections across the country).

      It is worth saying the change to the Alternative Vote is supported by Operation Black Vote, the Muslim Council of Britain, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and many others. They believe giving people more of a voice so the majority are heard in this country is vital to democracy and diversity.

  7. The evidence we have from where other preferential systems have been used in the UK (most from London Assembly elections, also a bit from Scotland & Wales) seems to show that very few people who give other parties their 1st preference will give the BNP any kind of preference on the ballot paper at all. In fact in the data from the 2008 London Assembly elections (which uses the more proportional Additional Member System) the BNP only managed 5% of the vote in the London-wide “top-up” members part of the ballot which is ‘freed-up’ from the type of simplistic tactical voting that occurs under the FPTP part of the ballot.

    Overall though, I wouldn’t say it’s the job of a voting system to stop extremist politics from growing. Any growth in popularity for the BNP has some of it’s roots (at the very least) in the fact that some voters feel increasingly let down, ignored, isolated & completely disillusioned with the major mainstream parties. It’s up to these big parties then to work harder to reach out to these voters so they feel less likely to turn towards the likes of the racist & xenophobic parties in future.

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