Why proportional representation helps the BNP

"All it will take for the BNP to win seats at the European Parliament," writes Andrew Gibson, "is for them to mobilise (already happening) and for UKIP to do less well (likely). In a sense, the d'Hondt voting system is too democratic. By compromising with minority parties, it gives the oxygen of publicity to fascists."

Features, Profiles - Posted on Thursday, May 21, 2009 23:29 - 10 Comments

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Andrew Gibson

BNP

Proportional representation, like freedom of speech, is a chum of demagogic racism. The BNP have aimed their sights at this alien electoral system in the June EU Parliament elections and for good reason: just 9% of the vote in the North West would give them a realistic chance of winning their first ever Parliamentary seat (they polled 6.4% last time).

The BNP have been making ground in local elections, now with 56 councillors on principle local authorities. In most by-elections they have contested this year, they have significantly increased their vote share. In an deadening victory in the formerly safe Labour ward of Swanley St. Mary’s in Sevenoaks, Kent, they increased their vote share by 41.8%. It is not uncommon to see the BNP come second or third in local elections. By combining their core vote and the raspberry (or ‘Fuck You’) vote, they have been taking a similar electoral role to the Liberal Democrats. This new popularity, combined with an electoral system that rewards minority parties, lubricates their chances of gaining MEPs in June. This matters because the more power they get, the less taboo they are. This nation of quiet racists will feel less shame at the ballot box.

There are broad similarities between local and European elections in the way they are contested and the way people vote. Traditionally, the turnout is low and the anti-government vote high. Minority parties flood pliable areas with resources, to maximise their chances of getting somebody elected. This is what the BNP are doing in the North West and West Midlands. On top of an intense, repetitive canvassing and fund raising campaign, their advertising has been audacious. This includes use of mobile adverts demanding British jobs for British workers, known as ‘Truth Trucks’, and promotional stalls in every town centre in Cumbria and the Black Country. Their Fuhrer, Nick Griffin, tops their list of candidates in the North West region and their Deputy Fuhrer, Simon Darby, tops the list in the West Midlands. Though EU enlargement means less seats to go around, they still have a healthy chance; in the former region they missed a seat in the 2004 elections by 1.5% of the vote share, in the latter their shortfall was 1.7%. Mr. Griffin has stepped down from his usual duties to concentrate solely on the European elections. This has primarily involved fund raising road shows, giving speeches comparing the BNP’s electoral campaign to the 1940 Battle of Britain. He also just released a video of himself at the Whitehall Cenotaph, conflating donation to the BNP’s campaign fund with honourable sacrifice in a World War. This hallucinatory rhetoric will resonate with some.

To conclude, all it will take for the BNP to win seats at the European Parliament is for them to mobilise (already happening) and for UKIP to do less well (likely). In a sense, the d’Hondt voting system is too democratic. By compromising with minority parties, it gives the oxygen of publicity to fascists.

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10 Comments

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Michael Calderbank
May 28, 2009 14:25

Utter pernicious nonsense – PR does no such thing. Indeed as Jon Cruddas rightly says, PR is necessary to take the ground from under the growth in far right support. The far right often grows in areas where competitive elections have effectively decayed – estates in areas that would routinely elect councillors or MPs from the same party and which have therefore been taken for granted.
This leaves a vacuum of political representation that the far right is able to fill. This is why they have had so many councillors elected under FPTP, and why in a ward like Stoke’s “Abbey Green” – all the councillors are BNP despite two-thirds of the electorate consistently voting for other parties. FPTP could soon mean that the BNP is in outright control of a local council on a minority share of the vote. This COULD NOT happen under PR.

Your approach – to ignore the rising levels of support being gained by the BNP and try instead to undermine a democratic system to prevent people noticing – is extremely short-sighted, counter-productive and self-defeating. The emphasis should be precisely the opposite – the urgent need to overhaul the whole system of electing our MPs that has brought mainstream politics to its present crisis.

JJ
Jun 2, 2009 3:21

I agree with Michael: if anything, it’s right-wing neoliberal labour-bashing ‘Labour’ parties which provide the key new supporters for the BNP. To conclude that we must reduce democracy is ridiculous. This is just like blaming democracy, rather than the horrific and prolonged suffering of the Palestinians, for the election of Hamas.

The Author
Jun 6, 2009 15:09

The article does not ignore the rising levels of support being gained by the BNP and I agree that Labour taking for granted the working class vote has contributed to this.

The Author
Jun 15, 2009 13:56

Incidentally, PR in Israel encourages mainstream parties to form coalitions with minor, often more extreme, parties. Their form of democracy forces concessions and compromises, often against the will of the majority.

Obviously, bad policy cannot be solely cured by changes to the electoral system.
Re:election of Hamas- I agree and wish that Hamas could stand in the Israeli elections and that the people of the Occupied Territories could vote in them.

icr
Jul 21, 2009 15:55

“…alien electoral system…”

Xenophobia!!!

What do you have against “alien” ideas? This is Col. Blimp stuff.

The Author
Sep 26, 2009 15:02

That was a joke, referring to the BNP’s Blimp-like attitudes.

The Author
Sep 26, 2009 15:06

By the way, the title of the piece was the work of the editors. I did not intend to suggest that PR will always work in favour of the BNP.

daniel
May 7, 2010 23:18

Funny you are against PR, which is a much fairer system. The only reason you are against it is that the BNP may geta seat or 2. Seems another case of defying the electorate based on who you agree with.

idiot.

The author
Jun 26, 2010 23:43

Dear Daniel, my rude friend.

I am ambivalent on electoral reform and the article is not about PR per se. The opening line was supposed to be playful but I recognise how it could be quite annoying. I think there are pros and cons to PR. Do you have any non-tautological reasons for thinking PR is ‘fair’?

Yours,
Idiot.

BNP’s Battle for Britain (Ceasefire, May 2009) « Andrew Gibson's Blog
Sep 30, 2010 7:50

[…] article was originally published under a different title (chosen by the Editor), here- https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/2009/05/why-proportional-representation-helps-the-bnp/ Posted in: Ceasefire magazine ← Impact Columns, 2007-2008 (Militarisation of space, […]

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