Labour No to AV director Joan Ryan responds to YouGov president Peter Kellner's article in the last edition of Progress

The BNP and AV

The British National Party has a total of zero members of parliament. Under our first past the post electoral system the BNP has never won a seat in the House of Commons and, as far as the future can be foreseen, is never likely to.

This one fact completely destroys the argument put forward by Peter Kellner that it is in the interests of the BNP that Britain votes to keep first past the post in the referendum in May.

Peter Kellner is being mischievous at best and hugely irresponsible at worst. Whatever arguments there are for Britain changing to the Alternative Vote, this isn’t one of them.

It’s not hard to believe that the BNP, like all small parties, could expect a higher vote under AV. Someone tempted to vote BNP now may resist doing so in favour of choosing between the top two candidates in his or her constituency. Under AV they need have no hesitation voting BNP number one and then transferring their vote to a more respectable party. Having two or three bites of the cherry is a luxury AV affords the supporters of extremist parties, but not the supporters of mainstream parties.

This does not mean the BNP would be any more likely to win a seat in the Commons under AV than it does now. But it would make the party more influential. The major parties would want to win transfers from people backing the BNP. It’s not hard to imagine how ugly that would be.

Many of the people backing Yes to AV are, by their own admission, supporters of proportional representation. They see AV as a stepping stone to PR. And if they achieved their ultimate aim it would be bingo for the BNP. Seats in the Commons would be guaranteed.

The BNP has won some council seats under first past the post but the fault for that lies with politicians, not the electoral system. Politicians were guilty of taking voters for granted. The people who were struggling with life felt neglected and looked elsewhere. They were won back when the main parties showed they were listening and were genuine about acting on their concerns.

The Labour MP Margaret Hodge showed the way in the general election in Barking last year. The BNP put all its resources into this one seat and fielded their most well-known candidate, Nick Griffin. By the time Margaret Hodge had finished with the BNP, Mr Griffin wasn’t just beaten, he was humiliated. The Labour majority was 16,000, Nick Griffin came third and all 12 BNP councillors in the borough lost their seats. It was a victory for Margaret Hodge and a victory for first past the post too.

Although Peter Kellner may like to turn logic on its head the sure way to keep the BNP out of the House of Commons is to vote No. We should proudly preserve an electoral system that keeps extremists at bay. It is for supporters of proportional representation to come clean and explain why they want to open the doors to the BNP.


For more on AV read…

A marriage of principle and politicsProgress editorial

Stephen Twigg MP: Why Labour should support AV

AV and the PLP by Luke Akehurst

Miliband should lead on AVPaul Richards

AV and reducing MPs are not the same says Denis MacShane MP

Yes to AV, no to PR says Samuel Walker 


Photo: Steve_W

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Comments: 14...

  1. On February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am Andy Farrell responded with... #

    Congratulations Joan and in fairness thanks to Progress for making the point about the BNP and AV favouring them clear. No doubt it won’t be long before the latest thing the yes campaign have resorted to namely claiming the NO campaign is all about scaremongering is mentioned, but that and the foolish, idiotic and ignorant assumption from the likes of Stephen Twigg claiming everyone who supports the NO are Tories, will hopefully now been seen for what they are.

  2. On February 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm steve responded with... #

    The British National Party are in politics for the long run, they believe that they will eventually start winning MP’s under FPTP. However PR would be a dream come true for the BNP.

  3. On February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    As a BNP supporter I find your article obnoxious and if you are as misleading in your report as you are about Margaret Hodge’s so called victory, then who can believe anything you say. The fact is that the British National Party had 12 Councillors in Dagenham & Barking, and loads of support from the downtrodden, weary electorate in the area. Anyone could see how run down this area was and how Hodge had neglected it for years safe in the knowledge she would always get re-elected as a matter of course. Even I wouldn’t have wanted to live there after seeing the state of the place and listening to people’s complaints about jobs and housing when the BNP went to talk to them. Hodge realised then that she couldn’t sit back and do nothing any longer – she had to destroy the BNP or lose her seat. She thus armed herself with unseen weapons to destroy our hopes of winning this seat. Rumour has it that Labour contrived to use the ethnic votes to drive the BNP out of the Councils which wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I believe she would have stopped at nothing to win and I would just love to know how she did it. It was certainly not by fair means. Does any recall seeing Margaret Hodge being interviewed along with Nick Griffin and other candidates? She was allowed to say her piece, but as soon as Nick Griffin tried to speak she kept interrupting him with rude and racist comments. Why did no-one stop her? She got away with it because Nick Griffin was too much of a gentleman to put her down. You conveniently forgot to mention what a witch she was didn’t you?? IWhat baffled me most of all was why the British National Party got totally trounced in Barking and Dagenham – it was unnatural to say the least. I don’t suppose it had anything to do with dumping masses of immigrants in the area prior to the election? Nothing to do with intimidating Labour Councillors if they didn’t do something to stop the BNP? And of course there was no vote rigging. How else could she have won – on her charm and charisma? I don’t think. Do me a favour and go out to Barking and Dagenham and see if the estates have now been cleaned up, and that white people are no longer second class citizens when it comes to housing and jobs. Give me a good, honest report and it may restore my faith in the gutter press. As for AV, we’ll wait and see.

  4. On February 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm Edmund responded with... #

    Frankly I doubt it will make much difference to the BNP’s level of representation, direct or indirect, but the NO campaign are trying to scare people into thinking that it somehow will give them loads of MPs, despite that fact that the BNP themselves are against introducing AV.

  5. On February 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm Duncan Stott responded with... #

    “The major parties would want to win transfers from people backing the BNP. It’s not hard to imagine how ugly that would be.” Really? I suspect that if a major party was getting a large chunk of transfers from the BNP, the other major parties would be keen to make use of that. Actively wooing BNP 2nd preferences is asking for trouble in the mainstream debate.

  6. On February 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm Jamie responded with... #

    When you say: “The major parties would want to win transfers from people backing the BNP. It’s not hard to imagine how ugly that would be.” Surely that happens to some extent under FPTP anyway? Except, that under first past the post the transfer occurs in their head before they put pen-to-ballot. It’s not hard to imagine, because it has happened. Phil Woolas?

  7. On February 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm steve b responded with... #

    Joan writes “The Labour MP Margaret Hodge showed the way in the general election in Barking last year….By the time Margaret Hodge had finished with the BNP, Mr Griffin wasn’t just beaten, he was humiliated. The Labour majority was 16,000” She is generous to a fault. If a small percentage of the Labour resource that had gone into Barking had been used in Enfield North Joan would continue to be the Labour MP there.

  8. On February 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm Barry responded with... #

    So the Labour Party believes an electoral system should be chosen not by a factor such as what serves the electorate best but by what system is best to keep an unliked minority party out. I despair. When are the Labour and Tory parties going to GROW THE HELL UP and start treating the electorate as mature adults and not as little children who have to be helped to make the ‘right’ choices? The BNP wouldn’t get any support if both Labour and Tory hadn’t ignored the issues that the BNP feed-upon. The fact they do is a damming indictment of Labour and Conservative.

  9. On February 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm dysnomia responded with... #

    The sure way to keep the BNP out of the House of Commons is to start listening to the voters.

  10. On February 23, 2011 at 10:33 pm Robert responded with... #

    Of course you could say the first pass the post favours labour and the Tories, so yes keep that so long as New labour is in opposition I could not care a dam, I was going to vote No, but I’m slowly thinking of voting yes.

  11. On February 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm Councillor Baldwin responded with... #

    As a Councillor in Barking I fully endorse (after a great deal of thought) the “No” position and fully support Margaret Hodge MP here. I am not convinced this campaign even begins to address the problems in our politics at the moment and seeing the BNP elected anywhere is certainly not a solution.

  12. On February 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm steve responded with... #

    The BNP are utterly irrellevant to this debate, they win no mp’s under fptp because no-where in the country do they have anything like the necessary concentration of supporters. They would win no mp’s under AV for the same reason as the chances of them getting over 50% on preferences is probably even less likely. AV is not a pr system, it is the only system arguably less proportional than fptp, and is designed to eliminate the extremes by moving towards consensus least hated candidates. If anyone votes either way in this referendum on account of the BNP (an insignificant organisation in 9 out of ten wards) then one must conclude that they don’t know what AV is.

  13. On March 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm Councillor Ralph Baldwin responded with... #

    @Steve Still not convinced it is anything more than a cosmetic attempt to do nothing more than distract the electorate (in vain) from the serious problems we have in our politics at the moment. I do hope you are right about the BNP not being abe to benefit from the system. If then smaller political groups do not benefit, what then does the change in voting actually achieve that is different from FPTP? How does it deal with say “safe seats”? I admit to not being an expert here, it is not a policy priority for me, issues like Housing, poverty, unemployment, ebconomic regeneration and environment are of considerably greater interest to me and the reasons/agendas behind the policy formation or lack thereof. I still remain unconvinced by the way, I do not want the least hated candidate, I want the one whose views are nearest my own or who has aknowledged the problems in society, National or Local and is most likely to sort them out.

  14. On March 1, 2011 at 10:19 pm steve responded with... #

    Generally i agree with you there are more important issues, personally i’m with the no campaign as it seems to do all the same things as fptp only potentially in a more extreme manner. Not sure it’ll really deal with safe seats as if you have in around the 40% first votes then unless a candidate is very unpopular with everyone else they’ll probably still make it past the post as it were. I’m just not keen on seeing on discussion about a bad reform made worse by paranoia particularly about the BNP, who under the most proportional system such as national list would only get two or three seats nation wide. I think if we have to worry about elections i’m more concerned with why in some constituencies a majority of people don’t vote at all.

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