What to do about the BNP?
May 14, 2010
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Today I had a bash at explaining why I think the BNP losing a bunch of council seats in the general election isn't the cause for mass celebration* people seem to think it is. In a nutshell: actual vote numbers didn't change much, but because of the increased turnout and large switch to Labour, the BNP vote got drowned out. And not just the BNP – I think this is the phenomenon that saw all the small parties lose out, as referenced in my ranty post last week.
So here's the thing. Is it as simple as, you can either have small parties in certain elected positions – which opens the door for the BNP – or you can have a very one-sided political landscape, but one which keeps the BNP out?
The BNP seems to have a very steady core vote, one which will come out no matter what type of election we're dealing with (which in itself is interesting). If you look at Barking and Dagenham, the votes received by BNP council candidates don't differ that much between 2006 (local elections, low turnout) and 2010 (OMG it might be a hung parliament, massive turnout). So, a high turnout is needed to dilute the effect. How do you get that high turnout? I don't know. Do you only get it when people are scared, and there's a movement towards one party for whatever reason? Council and European elections don't really scare people, do they? Does a high turnout always result in a big swing towards one party? Again, I don't know. I have spent all week in the British Library already – I'm sure I could spend more time with copies of Parliamentary Affairs, but I've been driven slightly mad by being surrounded by people for five straight days yet having nobody to talk to. I need some time away.
But suppose there is only an either / or. Is it worth having the odd BNP person elected if it also means we get a wider political mixture? Is it worth knocking out all the Greens and the Independents and the Socialists just to get rid of some vile far right pillocks, who don't actually manage to have any impact on government because they're too incompetent and infighty? Does the BNP do more damage in power than it does within the community anyway? Or is the look of the thing too much for us to bear?
I would always previously have said "no! Nothing is worth the trade-off". But now, for the first time, I'm not sure what to think.
* It's worth taking a look at the post just for the guy who starts talking about the "indigenous people of Barking". I, in my privileged position, get to see his email address, and a quick Google reveals him to be a well-known BNP sockpuppet.