From the BBC today:
Thanks to the version of proportional representation used in London, the [BNP] gained one of the 25 London Assembly seats after winning 5.3% of the vote.
Of course, there have been two elections to the GLA under the same system prior to Thursday. The BNP won no seats at either of them. The system is similar to that in operation in Scotland - the difference being that there's one giant list for London rather than electoral regions - where the BNP have never had an MSP. The Welsh system works in a similar method, and there has never been a BNP AM either. PR is used in the European elections, and there has never been a BNP MEP. Oh, and the STV system in Scotland's Council elections saw no BNP Councillors elected.
In that opening clause, the BBC have implicitly asserted that the electoral system is the primary cause of a BNP London Assembly Member. The fact that - whether we like it or not - 130.714 Londoners saw fit to vote BNP has been mentioned only in passing: the fact that the first thing the BBC mention in relation to the election result is the electoral system, you can see what's coming: PR will be blamed for the election of a fascist.
But what opponents of PR will neglect to mention when they accuse the voting system of letting fascists into politics is that there were Council elections in England and Wales on Thursday as well. They were carried out under FPTP, and the BNP won 37 Council seats in England. They were defending 27 seats which they had won in 2004. Ten BNP Councillors were elected last year (up from nine in 2003). 32 BNP Councillors were elected in 2006 - up from five in 2002. Therefore, FPTP has seen the far Right elected as well, on a far more regular (and increasing) basis. Based on the current electoral cycle, we can expect there to be 79 BNP Councillors scuttling around town halls across England.
So here's a thought... maybe it's not the voting system. Maybe it's because mainstream politicians don't quite know how to deal with them. Maybe taking the huff when the BNP turn up, refusing to debate with them and flouncing off, leaving the BNP to fill a vacuum in places where people feel cut off from politicians anyway, isn't working. Maybe, just maybe, it's time for our politicians to have the guts to stand up where the BNP are, and rip them to shreds, which anyone with half a brain who is willing to challenge their propaganda could do in their sleep.
As for this election? Well, it's not the vanguard of a BNP tidal wave. Richard Barnbrook is no right-wing version of Tommy Sheridan, and the electoral system mitigates against a 2003-style take-off for the BNP anyway. The GLA results would not produce a BNP MEP in London - there would have to be 15 London MEPs for just one of them to be BNP - and a seat at Westminster is still a long way off. And now, hopefully, Barnbrook and the BNP will face actual scrutiny. Taking the huff with the BNP, not reporting on them, not challenging them, is playing into their hands. Let's shine a spotlight on them. I want to see Barnbrook on the news, spouting his hatred and showing his party's true colours night after night. Let's see the likes of Navid Shah and Murad Qureshi take Barnbrook on and win inside City Hall, showing them to be better at representing London - and Londoners - than the party that claims to put 'Local People First', by threatening to put many of them on a boat out of the country.
With luck, this will be the end of the BNP for a generation. We can but hope.
03 May 2008
From the BBC today: