Thursday, May 05, 2011


YES! To AV – 8

I’m voting YES! to the Alternative Vote today. I’ve given my top seven reasons already. There’s just one left: a wholly negative reason, like your least favourite candidate on the ballot (who you can leave blank, or have the satisfaction of putting “last”; it works the same). What’s at the bottom? Appropriately, the BNP. Choosing an electoral system just because of how it affects one party is a crappy reason. But face facts: of every voting system ever invented, AV is the best to stop the BNP ever winning; with “first past the post,” they’ve “won” dozens of council seats.

I believe in democracy. I believe AV gives fairer votes – it makes MPs more accountable by giving voters more power. And choosing a system just to stop (or benefit) one party is despicable. It’s undemocratic. It’s basically wanting to rig the election.

But against the BNP, it works.

The Facts: Which Systems Are ‘Best’ For the BNP?

If the British National Party was your sole concern, electoral systems fall into three main categories of how ‘helpful’ they are to the BNP – though, as far as I’m concerned, fighting against them in the ballot box and persuading people it’s wrong to vote for them is always better than trying to rig the system. If they get enough votes, no voting system can stop them winning; if they get too few votes, no voting system will give them a place.

In theory, the most favourable ground for the BNP would be a pure proportional system, like a party list. Give seats exactly in proportion to votes – which in many ways is the most purely democratic system – and even very small parties should get very small representation. In practice, even elections using party lists have hardly ever resulted in BNP seats: they’ve almost always been defeated even in European Parliament elections, and the one time they managed to get a couple of seats it was only by a whisker. Why? Because even in the most ‘favourable’ territory, very, very few people vote for them over an area of any size (and pure PR is only used in big, big areas). And if they don’t get the votes, they can’t get elected. So persuading people not to vote for them works best!

The electoral systems that are sort of middling for the BNP are – ironically – my favourite and my least favourite. STV, the best system, is a little bit more helpful to the BNP because it’s quite proportional… But it’s also a little bit less helpful to the BNP because it’s preferential, so people can gang up and vote for ‘anyone except the BNP’. That means the BNP get hardly any preferences except for first (from the people who actually want them) and then last / none at all (which, as I’ve said, works the same. Using your ‘last’ preference in STV and AV merely means you can be satisfyingly vindictive).

The worst system, “first past the post” or more accurately ‘biggest loser wins’, is the one we have now. And because it doesn’t need a “winner” to get a majority – because, like two thirds of the MPs we have now, most people can vote against the “winner” – the BNP can get in on a split vote as the ‘biggest loser’. And, as I show below, they do.

The very worst system of all for the BNP is the Alternative Vote. It’s simple. That’s because it’s no more proportional than “first past the post,” but it is preferential. That means it’s as hard as the current system for small parties to break through on the one hand, and much harder on the other because it lets votes gang up on the BNP. It could almost be designed to gang up on the least popular party, as I’ve pointed out before, or the least popular candidate, as I’ve shown with AV’s power to throw out crooks.

The BNP is the most hated party by almost everyone who doesn’t actually support them. That means they’re almost certain to be ganged up on and clobbered when preferences are counted under AV. With the Alternative Vote, ‘anyone but the BNP’ is almost built into the system.

The Facts: The BNP Say “No”

That’s why the BNP has been working hard for the No campaign.

I have never quoted the BNP before on this blog. I feel soiled for doing so. But if you want the facts…

Here’s BNP Deputy Chairman Simon Darby:
“We are never going to get our feet under the table under the AV system.”
And here is the latest message about today’s referendum to his supporters from BNP Leader Nick Griffin:
“AV is designed to ensure permanent left-liberal government and is aimed at stopping the BNP.”
The BNP know AV is the biggest institutional threat they will ever face. They are desperate for a “No” vote.

The Facts: “First Past The Post” Has Given the BNP Dozens of Councillors When Most People Voted Against Them

“First past the post” has given the BNP more than thirty times as many elected representatives as every other system used in the UK put together. It is “first past the post” that allows people to be elected with just a fraction of the vote. It is the current system that means that – not just some of the time, but most of the time – the ‘biggest loser wins’.

The first elected representative the BNP ever had was one local councillor, on the Isle of Dogs, in 1993. He was elected by “first past the post” – even though two thirds of people voted against him.

Sadly, they didn’t stop there.

Throughout the 2000s, the BNP made gain after gain with “first past the post”. They won dozens of council seats. Their highest number of councillors at any one time, a couple of years ago, was 58 – but they’ve won more seats than that altogether (thankfully, people often wake up at the following election and they lose them again).

Thanks to “first past the post,” the BNP were elected in 2006 as the main opposition party on Barking and Dagenham Council. Thanks to “first past the post,” the BNP have had councillors in Oldham, Burnley, Blackburn, Calderdale, Stoke-on-Trent, Epping Forest, Solihull, Redditch, Redbridge, Pendle, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Thurrock and more!

Do you still think “first past the post” is bad for the BNP?

Of course, if people didn’t vote for them, no system would give them a seat.

But the reason the BNP love “first past the post” is that in almost every election they’ve ever “won,” most voters didn’t vote BNP. Most people voted against them. But they still “won”.

The first time BNP councillors were elected in Burnley, their average share of the vote was just 28.1%. Yes – that’s right. Nearly 72% of people voted against them – but thanks to “first past the post,” the BNP won. And that’s how they’ve got in, again and again, “winning” dozens of councillors as the biggest loser. Take a look at this chart of one election they “won”.

So how many councillors would the BNP have had – ever – under the Alternative Vote?

Just one. Ever.

AV lets ‘anyone but the BNP’ become not just a slogan, but a reality. It lets every other voter gang up against them perfectly. Under AV, the BNP need to win an absolute majority; and in a democracy, if more than half the votes are for one party, they have the right to win (again – to stop the BNP winning, you should persuade people not to vote for them).

In the Goresbrook ward of Barking in the 2004 local elections, the BNP candidate won 52% of the vote. That’s the only time they have ever won a true majority of voters. So that is the only time they would ever have won with AV.

Experts and campaigners agree – AV would lock the BNP out. And academic research shows they would get no more influence. If you want to rig the system against the BNP, vote YES! to AV.

No To All Those Lies (Part VII) – Who Is It Who Appeals For BNP Votes, Exactly?

The No Campaign have told nothing lies, more lies and a lot more lies on top of that, because they can’t come up with a case in favour of the current “first past the post” system (where usually the biggest loser “wins” when they’re nowhere near the “post” – even, dozens of times, the BNP). Here’s a useful post knocking down a lot of those different lies, including on the BNP. But there’s one lie – and one liar – it’s appropriate to deal with today.

The No-mongers’ liar-in-chief, Conservative Party “Chairman” Sayeeda Warsi, isn’t much of an expert on elections. In fact, she’s lost so many that the only way she’s managed to get into Parliament is by being made a member of the unelected House of Lords. But you may have heard the unelected Baroness Warsi claim that AV could lead to politicians “pandering to extremism” – even though it actually means parties have to appeal to a majority, not a tiny, hateful minority.

As the BNP’s history of council success shows, it’s “first past the post” that lets small, hateful minority parties “win”. Because “first past the post” doesn’t need a majority – it just needs the ‘biggest loser’.

That means that under “first past the post”, if a big party candidate needs only a bit more support to be ahead of the next biggest party – not a majority, just the ‘biggest loser’ – it pays to tell extremist voters, ‘Your nasty little party can’t win, but vote for me and I’ll be almost nasty enough to make you happy’.

Here’s the proof. Before she was unelected Baroness Warsi, she was unsuccessful candidate Sayeeda Warsi, standing for Parliament in Dewsbury in 2005. And here’s what one of her leaflets said, desperately trying to convince enough BNP voters to vote for her to get ahead:
“Are you thinking of voting BNP? Think again.”
“If you vote BNP you are allowing Labour to creep in with more political correctness and uncontrolled immigration and asylum.”
She told BNP voters the Conservatives are
“the only party that can deliver and put you first.”
Which system has let the BNP in with dozens of seats? “First past the post”. Which system encourages big parties to appeal to just a little bit more votes by pandering to vile, evil, homophobic racists like the BNP? “First past the post”. And who proved the case for AV over “First past the post” by not fighting against the BNP, but promising them more of what they wanted? Leading No-monger unelected Baroness Warsi.

Unelected Baroness Warsi was also caught lying on camera here.

Or, in the interests of political balance, Labour dinosaur David Blunkett – who also appealed to BNP voters with his strident anti-immigrant attacks and generally being an illiberal bully when he was Home Secretary – is, of course, also backing “No”. And in a flash of honesty (carefully timed to be too late to make a difference) he’s admitted today that the No-mongers’ figures are all made up. Well, I told you that already!

Not completely convinced yet to vote #Yes2AV? Try 1 of my other YES! reasons. Or 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7…!

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