Tuesday, June 09, 2009

On the BNP's euro election performance

2 interesting articles are linked to below, the first on the views of those who voted for the BNP in the European elections and the second looking at the BNP's performance in perspective.

Who voted BNP and why? - Channel 4 News:

``Yet the feeling is widespread that white Britons get a raw deal. Seventy seven per cent of BNP voters think white people suffer unfair discrimination these days. But that is also the views of 40 per cent of the public as a whole.

The average British voter is more likely to think that discrimination afflicts white people than Muslim or non-white people. And only seven per cent of the public think white people benefit from unfair advantages, while more than one in three think Muslim and non-white people receive unfair help.

Thus the BNP is tapping into some very widely held views, such as the desire to stop all immigration, and the belief that local councils "normally allow immigrant families to jump the queue in allocating council homes" (87 per cent of BNP voters think this, but so does 56 per cent of the public as a whole).

Yet, depending on how the term "racist" is precisely defined, our survey suggests that the label applies to only around a half of BNP voters. On their own, these votes would not have been enough to give the BNP either of the seats they won last night.

There are two telling pieces of evidence that suggest wider causes of disenchantment. Seven out of 10 BNP voters (and almost as many Green and Ukip voters) think that "there is no real difference these between Britain’s three main parties".

But perhaps the most startling finding came when we tested anecdotal reports that many BNP voters were old Labour sympathisers who felt that the party no longer speaks up for them. It turns out to be true. As many as 59 per cent of BNP voters think that Labour "used to care about the concerns of people like me but doesn’t nowadays".

What is more worrying for Labour is that this sentiment is shared by millions of voters, way beyond the ranks of BNP voters. Overall, 63 per cent of the British public think Labour used to care about their concerns – and only 19 per cent think it does today.''

(bold emphasis added)

The myth of the far right surge - Spiked Online

``The BNP’s share of the Euro-vote is certainly up - but not by much, from 4.9 per cent in 2004 to 6.2 per cent in 2009. In this election, everything was reportedly in the BNP’s favour: a recession, a political crisis, a voting system that favours smaller parties, an election that is routinely used to deliver protest votes because it is not taken seriously, and the kudos of being the one vote that was sure to get up the noses of the political establishment. Yet the BNP still barely registers in British political life except as a bogeyman to be employed by the big parties to scare us down to the polling booths. In fact, the number of votes the BNP received actually fell in the two regions where it won seats compared with the 2004 Euro elections: by almost 3,000 votes in the north-west and by around 6,000 in Yorkshire and Humber. It was the collapse of the Labour vote that allowed the BNP to win seats.

While there is little to suggest that the BNP can make a major impact on political life more generally, the fact that such a pariah party can have any success at all is indicative of the increasing isolation of the mainstream parties. As the Conservative shadow defence spokesman Liam Fox put it, ‘all politicians should be asking themselves “How did we allow this to happen?”’. The answer is that all the mainstream parties can offer is a managerial approach to solving society’s problems. There is so little difference of principle between them that they spend an inordinate amount of time jockeying for position in the febrile atmosphere of the ‘Westminster Village’ in an effort to differentiate themselves. It is no surprise that voters have chosen to give the political elite a kicking at the ballot box, if they could summon up enough enthusiasm to vote at all.

It is this loss of legitimacy - not the highly unlikely prospect of neo-fascist electoral success - which is central to the handwringing. The only way that Nick Griffin and friends will gain more support is if bankrupt mainstream politicians continue to have nothing more to offer than ‘at least we’re not the BNP’.''

(bold emphasis added)

Monday, June 08, 2009

On the UK's Euro election results

The BBC summarises the results here. The main headline results are of course that UKIP pushed Labour into 3rd place, the BNP won 2 seats and Labour was pushed into 2nd place in Wales by the Tories. The last time Labour failed to be the most popular party in Wales, David Lloyd George was the Prime Minister.

Certainly this is a truly dire result for Labour, an encouraging result for UKIP and a worrying boost for the BNP, but it seems to me there is more going on than that.

Consider the votes for the "established" parties. The Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and, (in Scotland and Wales) the SNP and Plaid Cymru, collectively got 60% of the vote.

40% has gone to UKIP, the Greens, the BNP and a myriad of small parties and independents. In 2004 (summary here), the "established" parties collectively got 66.6% of the vote. If you take just Labour + Tories + Lib Dems the percentage of the vote in 2009 was 57.1% vs 64.2% in 2004. Clearly people have become a lot less inclined to vote for the established parties in these elections.

Also, if we sum the votes for the parties that advocate withdrawal from the EU, that is UKIP + the BNP + NO2EU + the English Democrats + the Socialist Labour Party + United Kingdom First, the total is 27.1%, almost as much as the Tories achieved. Add the Tories' votes, and you have a clear majority (54.8%) voting for parties that are either EU sceptic or outright anti-EU.

Now, consider the Tory vote itself. The Tories will of course be glad to have "won" this election and to have pushed Labour into 2nd place in Wales. However, they polled fewer votes than they did in 2004. The Labour vote has collapsed, with many voters just staying at home and the rest migrating to fringe parties. This election is thus more a rejection of Labour than it is an endorsement of the Tories. The Tories clearly have some way to go to gaining the electorate's trust, though at least they can say their vote has held up well compared to Labour and the Lib Dems as the electorate sidle off to non-mainstream parties.

However, a word of caution must be raised, since the turnout, at 34.2% is very low, lower than the 38% achieved in 2004 and lower than the turnouts for general elections. Indeed this is the prime reason for the BNP's success - in both the regions where it won seats, it polled slightly fewer votes than in 2004, but the lower turnout enabled them to obtain seats as their percentage share was boosted. A high turnout might well have prevented the BNP from gaining any seats. A general election in Britain would clearly see a different picture, more like the picture in the local elections, where Labour were hammered and the Tories obtained 38% of the vote and the Lib Dems held steady.