Debunked: The latest No2AV ‘AV/BNP’ spin

Another day, another round of No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin; Left Foot Forward will explain why it isn't the case that AV helps the BNP or makes mainstream politicians appeal to them more.

Another day, another round of No2AV ‘AV/BNP’ spin. So once again, Left Foot Forward will explain why it isn’t the case that AV helps the BNP or makes mainstream politicians appeal to them more. Their latest claim is that the BNP “could get to decide our elections”, that “35 seats could be in the gift of extremists” under the alternative vote system.

Last month on this blog, Sunder Katwala comprehensively demolished the premise that extermists would fare better under AV, explaining:

“BNP votes could decide results under AV only if several extremely unlikely conditions were met.

“They would need to have more votes than the winning margin (which is very rare); their voters would need to express a mainstream second preference (which is unlikely in most cases), and even where they do, those preferences would need to break very unevenly for one major candidate over another to have the potential to be decisive (and there is no evidence that they would do so).

“The electoral geography of BNP support – strongest in heartland Labour seats – makes their ability to affect results even less plausible.

“Pandering to BNP votes would prove a self-defeating strategy under AV. The winning candidate needs to seek 50% of the vote – since the BNP have under 2% of the vote and 80% of voters very strongly disapprove of them, any association with them is going to be toxic.

“There is simply no hard evidence that BNP voters would be more likely to play a decisive role under AV than under the current system, where extremist voters could already decide to vote for one of the likely winning candidates over another.”

The No2AV briefing (pdf) also states:

“Not only does AV give extremists direct influence, but it also creates an incentive for other parties to appeal to extremist voters’ second preferences through ‘dog whistle’ tactics.”

Again, as Sunder explained, such a strategy wouldn’t really make sense – and in any case, as Will Straw pointed out on Left Foot Forward on Wednesday, there are examples of mainstream candidates pandering to extremists under the current system – among them No2AV cheerleader and Tory peer Baroness Warsi, who in 2005, sent out this disgraceful leaflet:

Which appealed to BNP voters with the tagline:

“If you vote BNP you are allowing Labour to CREEP IN with more political correctness and uncotrolled immigration and asylum.”

Labour politicians have also pandered to BNP voters under first past the post, most notably Phil Woolas, whose toxic, dog whistle campaign against a Liberal Democrat candidate saw him thrown out of parliament, having written:

“Extremists are trying to hijack this election. They want you to vote Lib Dem to punish Phil for being strong on immigration. The Lib Dems plan to give hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the right to stay. It is up to you. Do you want the extremists to win?”

Under AV, it will be next to impossible for a BNP candidate to get over 50 per cent of the vote and win – yet under the current system, not only are BNP voters being appealed to anyway, but there is a greater (though still tiny) chance of one getting in, were the anti-BNP vote to split many ways; and as has been widely reported, Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, is against AV and will be voting no in the referendum.

• The AV referendum takes place in just under five weeks’ time, on Thursday, May 5th; if you aren’t already registered to vote, click here.

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43 Responses to “Debunked: The latest No2AV ‘AV/BNP’ spin”

  1. Harry R

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  2. YES! To Fairer Votes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  3. Vote For A Change

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  4. Power2010

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  5. Make Votes Count

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  6. Take Back Eurovision

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  7. Becky Luff

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  8. Wendy Heather Wood

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  9. Anne Peat

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  10. SC

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  11. Gavin M

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin

  12. Simon Blanchard

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  13. Paula Keaveney

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  14. Chris Phillips

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  15. Al Ewing

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  16. John Symons

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  17. Kirsty

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  18. Robster

    The SPIN is from you. Voting yes2av is the most stupid thing anyone can do, perhaps you should name yourself leftfootbackwards and the end of progressive politics. Far from offering any FACTS, your debunking is what stand up as modern journalism, i.e opinion! Nothing else. Yu should be more concerned not that the BNP is against it but the Lib Dems are for it, why do you think that is? Because they believe in democracy? or a fairer society?..LMAO The yes2av gang have produced NO credible facts, NO credible evidence and NO reason to vote for it and before you cry about the no campaign they don’t HAVE TO. Your the idiots who want to change it, your the fools who are about to give away what little democracy we have left, what for, so that like Australia, the great home of AV and democracy all the deals get done behind closed doors BEFORE the election and you have less choice than ever. What is wrong with you? did you have your sweets stolen and then you stamp your foot when you don’t win? If you ideologically stupid idiots get AV through it will be the end of Labour, an chance of progressive politics and and what little democracy we have. Your so bloody arrogant that your prepared to throw away all those in history who suffered and died for what little democracy we have, what for? so you can send out leaflets with pictures of celebrities on them because you have no real arguments? Stupid, stupid people.

  19. Jessica Asato

    #No2AV's BNP myths debunked by @leftfootfwd: #labouryes

  20. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  21. Richard Gadsden

    So, let me get this straight – AV gives power to people so disillusioned with politics that they are prepared to vote BNP, without giving any power to the BNP themselves. And this is supposed to be a bad thing? How?

  22. amy dodd

    RT @Jessica_Asato: #No2AV's BNP myths debunked by @leftfootfwd: #labouryes

  23. Anon E Mouse

    Robster – I am one of the biggest critics of many of the articles on this site and have been consistent in my opinion since it started- especially as the views expressed seem only to be aimed at the tribal group-think wonks that inhabit this place.

    I also agree that there are factual inaccuracies in Shimik’s piece here (Sunder Katwala is wrong on the 50% requirement and misses the point regarding BNP voter’s other preferences) but in fairness he is at least putting forward an argument and is not responsible for Katwala being wrong, as he often is. I have yet to see any argument from the NO to AV gang.

    But I do think that in this case you do seem to be getting too hot under the collar and going slightly over the top – remember there will be less MP’s at the next election thank goodness and that will do more to damage Labour than this voting change.

    I’m going to vote YES just to send a message to the candidates regarding people’s views but personally I feel the NO to AV will win in any event and feel you need to relax a bit and go with the flow.

    Labour ceased to be democratic on the day Gordon Brown became PM and confirmed when the union dinosaurs forced Ed Miliband on us…

  24. Anon E Mouse

    “on Labour…” I meant.

  25. Jonathan Phillips

    Mainstream parties reach out to BNP supporters already – only we don’t know who they are because all we see on ballot papers is a load of Xs. If BNP supporters show their true colours by marking the party as their first choice, we shall then be able to see, as their alternative choices are redistributed, which of the mainstream parties and their candidates have the greatest appeal to racists. Racists already influence the outcome of elections – the only difference under AV is that we would have a much better idea who they are.

  26. Anon E Mouse

    Jonathan Phillips – Unless the BNP supporters only put an X in the BNP box and no other…

  27. Labour Yes

    RT @Jessica_Asato: #No2AV's BNP myths debunked by @leftfootfwd: #labouryes

  28. Jonathan Phillips

    Robster: isn’t it a bit stupid to reject AV just because Clegg’s lot want it? Just as it would be stupid to vote against first-past-what-post just because it’s supported by the Conservative Party, the BNP and Margaret Beckett… And anyway, if there’s a party you really dislike, AV gives you a far more effective way of showing it than a cross ever could. I’ve voted Lib (Dem) since 1966 – never again! – and I want AV so I can show them exactly what I think of them. Just putting a cross against the name of the Labour or Green candidate is not emphatic enough; Green 1, Lab 2, and sod the rest of them – now that speaks volumes! See for an explanation and for a neat video.

  29. Jae Kay

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin

  30. sparklykate

    RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  31. Look Left – Referendum battle hots up | Left Foot Forward

    […] the BNP, and will force mainstream politicians to pander to BNP voters. As Left Foot Forward explained three times this week, not only will AV make it much, much harder for the BNP to get a seat, under […]

  32. Robert CP

    RT @Jessica_Asato: #No2AV's BNP myths debunked by @leftfootfwd: #labouryes

  33. Francis Hoar

    There are two significant errors in this analysis:
    1. The point about increasing the profile of extremists doesn’t merely concern their influence on the election itself but also relates to the fact that there will almost certainly be considerable increases in their first preference votes relative to their vote share now. That can’t be a positive development as it will certainly enable them to argue that they have greater legitimacy and, for example, more justification for greater press coverage, etc.
    2. Straw again repeats the error that candidates must obtain 50 % of the votes cast. That is only true where there is compulsory voting. Under the form of AV proposed, were large proportions vote for only one candidate (as happened frequently in the early years of AV in Australia, before compulsory voting was introduced), the winning candidate is likely to have less than 50 % once all preferences have been distributed. This is the biggest Yes2AV canard out there and it’s time it was addressed.

  34. chang mei wan

    RT @trakgalvis: RT @leftfootfwd: Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay

  35. Sayeeda Warsi does have a point about AV « Northernheckler's Blog

    […] Debunked: The latest No2AV ‘AV/BNP’ spin ( […]

  36. Daniel Pitt

    Debunked: The latest #No2AV 'AV/BNP' spin: by @ShamikDas #Yes2V @YesInMay #ConDemNation

  37. Peter Roderick

    Francis- no, it’s you who is in error. Under AV, there are two final outcomes: either one candidate gets over 50% and the ballot is over, or there are two candidates left and one, logically then ends up with over 50% (or in a statistical anomaly, both have exactly 50%). Either way, mathematically, non-compulsory AV still must produce a candidate with 50% or more. Seems this canard quacks…

  38. Colin Reynolds

    The argument over whether a candidate wins with ‘50% of the vote’ under AV is specious. Exhausted votes (ie those discarded because of a lack of preference by the voter) are discounted, therefore the winner wins with 50% of the eligible vote at that stage of the count. It’s disingenuous of the no2av campaign to keep pushing this trite non-issue.

  39. Keith Underhill

    Robster : You sent your email after noon on April 1st, but to anyone who had not spotted it this rant is so confused and ignorant that it must have been written by a yes to AV supporter. Shame on you YES campaigners I thought it was the only the noes that used such dirty tactics!

    Apparently a fairly small change in the voting system which gives voters more choice is the end of democracy and the end of the Labour party and the end of progressive politics!

    In Australia the Labour Party does not exist and was forced to change it’s name to Labor!
    If Australia had first past the post they would have had a Liberal Coalition government which is obviously more progressive than the current Labor government.
    Using ex colonial English speaking countries as exact models of how thing will go here work for me. In which case we should vote against FPTP which in Canada has produced almost perpetual minority conservative government and where the New Democrats (the closest to Labour) come forth in seats despite being third in votes.
    Conservative 38%=143 seats
    Liberal 26%=77 seats
    New Democrats 18%=37 seats
    Bloc Quebec 10%=49 seats
    Greens 7% =0 seats
    Independents 1%=2 seats

    Oh and “Your” as in “YOUR so bloody arrogant” is spelt “you’re” so if you read this comment you might at least have learned some grammar if not any common sense!

  40. Andyj

    I’ve been following this BNP/AV thing with interest.
    Firstly, PR was off the cards because no Politician wants BNP oiks in power. They are already messing up Hitler’s little EU dream to great effect in cahoots with their European friends.

    Those who do not want PR also hate AV because they never want the BNP vote to even be counted never mind re-assessed for other preferences! Some fear other parties may pander for the “BNP’ers” 2nd preference vote. I can’t see it working as most politicians use pre-election lies.

    In my constituency, the incumbent Labour vote has been dropping over the decades. When they installed someone from God knows where, the winning vote dropped nearly 20% to 50%. Here the BNP vote has increased to around 5.5%.

    Few active “BNP’ers” will ever place any of the big three parties as second choice except possibly ‘tory…. but they are now seen as a bunch of pro-EU warmongering liars and backstabbers that broke too many pre-election promises. A lot of kids voted Liberal in my area. I’m not sure the Lib-Dem dream of AV through 2nd preference will work for them any more.

    On balance, I do believe, going off the belief set in my area. We will see off Labour for the first time on the next Parliamentary vote if AV comes into force.

    What was Warsi saying. The BNP polled 1632 votes? Must of been one area only. Nationally they polled ~650,000 votes. If they represented every area the UK the vote would of increased to a little over a million votes against ~945,000 on the EU elections.

    If other parties have to pander to the opinions of a million voters. Whether we like it or not, that’s democracy. The BNP have always punched far above their weight. That is why MP’s and their war dogs are so shrill about them.

  41. Imogen Caterer

    @Act4DemocracyUK They appeal to the BNP anyway. See Baroness Warsi's 2005 leaflet

  42. Shamik Das

    @hexter8 Unspeakably vile: & – she belongs in the gutter with Griffin

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