So, on the face of it things went pretty badly for the Liberal Democrats, who look set to end up with less sets than they had in 2005. However, you then start to look at how many people actually voted for the Liberal Democrats and you start to get pretty angry with the current system. The Conservatives gained 10,615,958 votes and currently have 302 seats. The Liberal Democrats received 6,781,005 votes (over 60% of the Conservative total) and currently have just 57 seats. That means the Conservatives have fewer than twice as many votes, but six times as many seats.
The results for Labour are equally unfair. Labour received 8,535,952 votes, fewer than two million more than the Liberal Democrats, but currently have exactly 200 more seats – nearly four times as many as the Liberal democrats, even though the Liberal Democrats had over 75% as many votes as Labour. The Liberal Democrats made electoral reform one of the central features of their campaign and, fittingly, the election results have more than proven their point that reform is needed.
I made these points on Twitter and someone responded with a ‘problem’: ‘ah’, they said, ‘but if you brought in Proportional Representation then UKIP and the BNP would win seats, and that is a bad thing’. I’d disagree in principle: it isn’t necessarily a ‘bad thing’, it is merely democracy in action. We need to realise the reasons why the BNP are gaining support (up 1.2% in this election) and it isn’t – as newspapers would argue – that immigration is ‘uncontrolled’ or that British people are being treated as ‘second-class citizens’.
If we want to stop the BNP gaining seats in an election we shouldn’t block electoral reform, we should actually tackle the reasons why people vote BNP. The reasons are simple: a lack of education, a lack of personal experience of immigrants – meaning that they always remain an abstract concept (the ‘other’, ‘them’, ‘they’), rather than a human being – and most importantly the constant dishonest stories run by the press that are regularly quoted on the BNP website and by BNP voters when they explain why they vote BNP. If we want to stop the BNP gaining voter share we need to tackle an unregulated, racist press that has an agenda of creating hatred towards immigrants.
As I pointed out recently, immigration is an issue that cannot be discussed whilst the current dishonest tabloid narratives remain unchallenged. Research has been conducted that has shown that BNP voter share is less in areas with a high immigrant population, precisely for the ‘access to reality’ reason I have mentioned above. When newspapers blame New Labour’s immigration policy for the rise of the BNP they are lying to cover their own complicity in the rise of the far right in this country.
This does raise an interesting dilemma for the tabloid press. Currently they can offer implied support to the BNP by printing a consistent stream of lies for BNP voters and leaders to feed on without having to overly worry about such lies having an electoral consequence. As we saw last night, most BNP candidates polled quite poorly (although in several areas – such as the almost exclusively white, immigrant-free Blaenau Gwent – they got well over 1,000 votes) and not even party leader Nick Griffin could win a seat. However, if PR was brought in then the tabloid press would be well aware that the current BNP vote could win the party seats. Then when the inevitable recrimination starts after such a result the press wouldn’t be able to avoid their own complicity in creating the very lies that drives people to vote BNP.
Essentially, PR would demonstrate just what a evil influence the tabloid press has over poorly educated or poorly integrated voters. Currently a lot of people understand that the tabloid press is the biggest recruiter for the BNP, but because of our electoral system we can all be content with just a quiet boo when the low polling results are announced for each BNP candidate. I cannot help but think that if BNP votes turned into BNP seats we’d all have to be a lot more vociferous about just who is to blame.