Switch to AV would not boost BNP

The British National Party has featured surprisingly prominently in the AV campaign so far, since their introduction into the debate by the NO campaign. The BNP are, of course, firmly positioned in the NO camp, not least because they know that they wouldn’t have a hope of winning a Parliamentary election under the system – as their deputy chairman Simon Darby acknowledged to Channel 4’s FactCheck team yesterday.

This comes on the back of a report by the IPPR think tank which analysed the claim of the NO campaign that under AV, second preferences of BNP voters would be decisive in pushing candidate’s over the 50% needed to be successful. Here’s what the Guardian says on the results of that research:

The no campaign fears the second preferences of those eliminated – likely to be those who back minority parties – could go on to have profound effects further down the reallocation process. They have published a list of 35 seats in which the BNP’s share of the vote was greater than the winner’s margin of victory.

Now researchers have looked at this assertion in two ways.

They show there to be 56 seats where the share of the BNP vote exceeds the gap between the first-placed candidate and the 50% threshold they need to cross and where, if all BNP supporters transferred their second preferences as a bloc, could help the lead candidate win.

They then show that the 2010 British election survey – which asked 13,356 people to take part in a mock election run under their AV system – found the number of seats where the second preference of those voting BNP push a winning candidate over the 50% threshold fell to 25.

However, the IPPR researchers show that in all 25 seats the second preferences of the BNP are not “decisive” and the second preferences of others just as critical. They show that in the 25, the first-placed candidate is within “spitting distance” of the finishing line and the average gap between the first and second placed candidate is 24.52%, which they say is “larger than the share of the vote of any third-placed candidate whose votes would be needed to change the result”.

“In other words there is no chance that BNP second preference votes could alter the outcome in any of these seats. In all of them the winner on first preferences will be the winner once votes have been reallocated in subsequent rounds irrespective of the role played by BNP votes.”

Yet again, a pretty conclusive debunking of the NO side’s claims, I’d say.

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  • david clayton 15th Apr '11 - 5:32pm

    The debate around AV has been the lowest quality, most unpleasant piece of politics in years. Why no debate around the reduction in number of MPs? Arguably this will have a much bigger impact on our political system.

  • “In other words there is no chance that BNP second preference votes could alter the outcome in any of these seats. ”

    I would really love if the research was robust enough to support that conclusion, but i’m afraid it really is not. Just take a look at Burnley (one of their examples), and to state that there is “no chance” that in effect the libdem majority at the next election (before counting the BNP later preferences) will be less than 4k, is sheer nonsense.

    That said, it is a terrible idea to decide one’s decision about AV based on what a bunch of racist may or may not do, and it is pretty feeble for the no campaign to use it as one of their arguements.

  • conservative 15th Apr '11 - 10:52pm

    why is the BNP even relevant? – it is quite clear that they get no seats under either system and would need a remarkable change in fortunes if they were to…we should argue between yes and no on points that are actually of relevance in the debate.

  • Nick Thornsby is correct in saying that the BNP wouldn’t win seats under AV, and I doubt if UKIP or the Green Party would. Caroline Lucas won the seat of Brighton Pavilion last year with just 31% of the vote on first preferences. It’s highly unlikely that under AV her party would have won enough second preference votes to get it past the 50% threshold. A minority party must collect enough first preferences to be placed second or at least third after the first count. In fact, it’s almost always the second placed candidate (based on first preferences) that has any chance of overtaking the leading one.

    However, the one way in which smaller parties do get an enhanced role under AV is that they can bargain with the major parties – either locally or nationally – to get policy concessions. This has happened in Australia, with smaller parties delivering the second preferences of their supporters (via how-to-vote cards) to the major party.

    I still can’t get my head round the Liberal Democrat enthusiasm for AV these days. It was only in February 2010 that Chris Huhne told us that under AV “the electoral system would continue to be like an ill-fitting corset attempting to squeeze all the diverse strands of opinion in our society into an inappropriate and deeply uncomfortable shape.”

    The ramifications of AV is just one of many issues being discussed on the website which I administer, and where we would welcome fresh input:-

  • Old Codger Chris 16th Apr '11 - 1:07am

    @David Clayton
    “Why no debate around the reduction in number of MPs? Arguably this will have a much bigger impact on our political system”.
    I’m sure that’s right – fewer back benchers will mean more party poodles. Mind you, the Lib Dem manifesto promised to reduce the number of MPs to 500 not 600 – a classic example of a policy that looks superficially attractive but proves, on examination, to be ill conceived.

  • conservative 16th Apr '11 - 11:49am

    @robert – that has to be one of the worst arguments I have ever heard in favour of AV – the Communists want STV (as do the Lib Dems) and you neglect that half the Labour party is against AV as well…please at least try to make the case for the system of AV. Your argument holds even less weight than saying Clegg wants AV therefore vote against.

  • An English Democrat Mayor was elected in Doncaster under AV. The candidate came second but won on the second preferences. For more details see http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/lentingle/2011/04/av_or_not_av_that_is_the_ques.html

    If you were the BNP would you be telling people how good AV will be for you? Few would vote for it!

    And don’t forget that in Yorkshire there are two BNP MEPs elected under the PR Party List system. It seems that the further you stray from FPTP the more likely you are to let in extremists.

  • I think that the BNP are ostensibly supporting FPTP but hoping, along with all the other smaller parties, that AV will be introduced.

  • Old Codger Chris 17th Apr '11 - 2:28pm

    “It seems that the further you stray from FPTP the more likely you are to let in extremists”.

    I don’t think that’s a reason to retain FPTP (or any other non-proportional system) assuming nobody is suggesting an over-proportional system which could hand real power and influence to all kinds of oddball parties.

    As mainstream politicians in Barking and elsewhere have realised, the concerns – both real and otherwise – of people who vote BNP, must be examined and addressed. Although little can be done about hardened racists, there are shades of opinion within the supporters of every party, even the BNP.

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