Monday, June 08, 2009
Who is to blame for the BNP?
One of the more depressing stories (BBC) of the European elections, my phlegmatism notwithstanding, was that the BNP polled sufficiently many votes to harvest two seats, one apiece in the North-West of England, and my own region, Yorkshire and the Humber. People are asking, What went wrong? Here are a number of facts and suggestions.Firstly, the turnout was woeful. Last time round, we had about 42% turnout, which is pretty dire; this time, it collapsed to 32%. Only the Greens and the English Democrats increased the number of votes they received; everyone else, BNP included, lost votes to the "Stay at home" party. So there is a positive message here: the BNP dropped 6,000 voters between '04 and '09. But there is also a question about turnout. How can it be improved?That moves to my second point: the political turmoil. Parliamentary expenses (and the European Parliament is far worse than Westminster on this), and the continuing will-he-won't-he leadership saga in the Labour party, are sapping turnout. I suspect that the Tories' understandable reluctance to publish serious manifesto commitments until an election is more obviously visible has contributed to this. For all these reasons, we need a general election; not that we shall have one soon.Thirdly, the voting system is a complete crock. For this, we can blame Labour, and more specifically Jack Straw. The legislation governing Euro elections was passed in 1999, and the closed regional party list system is an absolute abomination. We need to be able to vote for named individuals, either on approval or with STV, and not simply stick a cross against a party. Each candidate needs to be made to work for their votes. And, by the way, notice this: PR gives the BNP a fighting chance of getting elected. So all those lefties who simultaneously want (a) no BNP representatives, and (b) PR, should give up one or the other.Fourthly, however, those voters who did not go to market, but stayed home, have their own responsibility. It may seem a pointless act to spoil a ballot, and unless "None of the above" is ever introduced as a valid option (I think we should consider it seriously) it will not actually stop the BNP from getting a seat; yet when apathy reigns, undesirable results will soon follow.Fifthly, those voters who voted for the BNP need to have their concerns listened to. It is no surprise that I do not agree that immigration needs to be curbed, or that industry needs to be protected, or indeed that I disagree with all of the other insane things the BNP stands for; yet, the debate needs to be had, and honestly.It is perhaps a little too strong to lay the blame entirely at Labour's feet, as Tim Montgomerie did, but it is reasonable to point out that they are in large part responsible for points 2 and 5, and entirely responsible for point 3. Moreover, the BNP's natural constituency is not Tories, but disaffected working-class Labour voters, for reasons I have previously outlined concerning the BNP's left-wing economic policies. Montgomerie makes this point well in a letter he proposes sending to the BBC (link).