Wednesday, 29 September 2010

42 BNP Parliamentary Seats: What a Party List PR Election Would Mean

The BNP would currently have at least 42 Westminster parliamentary seats if Britain had a Party List Proportional Representation system of elections and would be one of the leading nationalist parties in Western Europe.

This simple fact is obvious from a straight analysis of election figures which I was prompted into undertaking after seeing the following ignorant remark made on the BDF forum by “Reform Group” activist Tony Ward:

[QUOTE=L= (1/2) d v2 s CL]The ineptitude of the BNP to seize the moment in what was for us a perfect storm raised my suspicions a long time ago. The dramatic rise of the right all across Europe in countries traditionally far more liberal than the UK, while we plummet to the bottom of the polls in what should have been our moment.

Is Nick Griffin state? I don't know but I will say it took someone of great skill to guide us through the last election and skilfully avoid success at every opportunity and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; even the most inept would be incapable of such good fortune![/QUOTE]

In many ways, this remark sums up why those individuals have utterly failed in their attempts to seize control of the BNP: because they simply get the most basic of facts wrong, time and time again.

There are two obvious flaws in this argument:

1. The difference in voting systems between Britain and the rest of Europe which has allowed the “right wing” to take seats in the national parliaments on the continent; and

2. The reality is that most of these parties to which Mr Ward refers are UKIP-allied civic nationalists.

To elaborate further, and because Mr Ward’s apparent ignorance warrants it, I will first explain the different voting systems.

In all but one – France – of the European nations there is have a proportional representation list system of elections.

A party list system works like this: voters vote for a list, not a candidate. Each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes it receives, using the party-determined ranking order.

This was precisely how the BNP got members elected to the European Parliament.

The nations which have list systems are as follows:

Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; Iceland; Italy; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; and Switzerland.

Nations which have mixed systems are:

Germany - Mixed member proportional (which are a mixture of a proportional system and a single seat district system);

Hungary - Mixed Member Majoritarian (which are a mixture of a proportional system and a straight first past the post system, much like regional elections in Scotland and Wales); and

Ireland - Single Transferable Vote (A complex system where each constituency elects two or more representatives and voters rank some or all candidates in order of their choice. A successful candidate must achieve a quota, which is "calculated by dividing the Total Valid Poll by one more than the number of seats to be filled, ignoring any remainder and then adding 1 vote. One could argue, only the Irish, but the system is also used in local elections in Scotland and Wales.)

The nations which do not have party list systems are as follows:

Britain: First past the post.

France: First past the post with first round runoff. This means that if a single candidate fails to gain a majority of votes, a second round of voting takes place in which only candidates who achieved above a certain percentage are allowed to take part. The idea is to force voters to select a candidate who will take an outright majority of votes.

Now, what effect do these voting systems have?

Obviously, the countries with “pure” list systems of PR automatically make it easier for smaller parties to gain representation, while at the opposite end of the scale (in Britain and France,) it is near enough impossible for smaller parties to break into parliament.

This is why it appears that the “right wing” parties in those list system PR nations appear to be doing so well, and why in Britain and France the BNP and the Front National have no parliamentary representation.

It is thus an utterly flawed argument and comparison by Tony Ward to ascribe the BNP’s failure to reach into national parliamentary politics to the party’s “image.”

Quite simply, that argument smacks of ignorance and desperation.

In fact, if Britain did have a list PR system like other European countries, the BNP would already have significant representation in parliament.

Consider two scenarios:

Firstly, what the last General Election results would have translated to in terms of Westminster seats had the election been fought on a list PR system; and

Secondly, what those results would have been if the results were adjusted to allow the entire country an opportunity to vote for the BNP (as they obviously were not at the last election, because the BNP only stood in half the number of available seats).

First Scenario: The Last General Election Results

The actual results of the last General Election were as follows:


Number of seats contested: 631

36.1% of the vote

10,703,754 votes


Number of seats contested: 631

29.0% of the vote

8,609,527 votes

Liberal Democrat

Number of seats contested: 631

23.0% of the vote

6,836,824 votes


Number of seats contested: 572

3.1% of the vote

920,334 votes


Number of seats contested: 338

1.9% of the vote

563,743 votes


Number of seats contested: 59

1.7% of the vote

491,386 votes


Number of seats contested: 310

1.0% of the vote

285,616 votes

Sinn Féin

Number of seats contested: 17

0.6% of the vote

171,942 votes

Democratic Unionist

Number of seats contested: 16

0.6% of the vote

168,216 votes

Plaid Cymru

Number of seats contested: 40

0.6 % of the vote

165,394 votes


Number of seats contested: 18

0.4 % of the vote

110,970 votes

Conservatives and Unionists

Number of seats contested: 17

0.3 % of the vote

102,361 votes

Working on the basis that there are currently 650 seats in the House of Commons, these results would translate to a Party List-elected Parliament in Westminster as follows:

Conservatives: 235 seats

Labour: 189 seats

Liberal Democrats: 150 seats

UKIP: 20 seats

BNP: 12 seats

SNP: 11 seats

Greens: 7 seats

(All figures rounded off).

From that, it is obvious just how flawed Tony Ward’s argument is.

However, that is not even the full picture.

In a proper Party List PR system, the entire country gets the chance to vote for a party, as happened during the European Parliamentary elections in June 2009.

Second Scenario: General Election Figures Adjusted if the BNP Had Stood Nationally

As BNP voters are probably the most determined and motivated voters in the country, it is fair to assume that at least the same number who voted for the party nationally in the June 2009 European Parliamentary elections, would have voted BNP once again if given the opportunity in a General Election.

Of course, they were not, as the BNP only stood in half the available seats. As a result, the total brought out BNP vote in the last General Election was smaller than in the June 2009 Euro Election.

The BNP polled 943,598 votes in the European Election of June 2009, or 6.2 % of the vote.

Assuming that this vote would have stayed intact had the entire country been given the opportunity to vote BNP again in a Party List General Election, this would have meant that the BNP would now have 42 seats at Westminster.

The BNP vote actually increased by 1.2% in the General Election compared to the last result, so it is tempting to say that the BNP would have actually been more, but that is speculation.

One interesting fact about the European Parliamentary elections is that UKIP polled an impressive 2,498,226 or 16.5% of the vote in June 2009.

The bad news for UKIP is, however, that although they stood in almost the entire country again in the last General Election, and therefore the “can’t vote” argument is not valid, their vote did not hold up at all and crashed by around 1.5 million.

This is, of course a reflection of the fact that UKIP is in reality a one-issue civic nationalist Tory splinter group, rather than a real party. One could speculate if their vote would have held in a PR election, but given the nature of that party and the fact that they did stand nearly everywhere in the General Election, it is unlikely.

Which brings me on to the last point, namely the civic nationalist nature of many of these European “right wing” parties.

Mr Ward has obviously been taken in by the recent media hype over “right wing advances” in Europe and is obviously heading in the direction currently in vogue amongst many in the “Reform Group” to start a new party.

In fact, Mr Ward goes on in his BDF post to say:

[QUOTE=L= (1/2) d v2 s CL] We could start a new party along the lines of the PVV in Holland who went from nothing to 15% of the vote in five years, how did they do it?[/QUOTE]

Therein lies the crunch: the PVV (Geert Wilders’s party) is a civic nationalist organisation, in formal alliance with UKIP in the European Parliament.

Actually, the PVV is not even a party, which reveals even more about Mr Ward’s ignorance. The PVV is the name under which a privately incorporated association called the Stichting Groep is run – and Geert Wilders is its sole member.

But that aside, the PVV, just like the Swedish Democrats, are in reality civic nationalists like UKIP.

Is it possible that the “Reform Group” wants to form a UKIP-style civic nationalist party?


But then they would probably be better off joining UKIP which at least has an established base, rather than trying to do it from scratch.

And, of course, it would really help if stopped getting even the most simplest of facts wrong.

Article by Professor Plonk

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