Critical Choices: 4 June ’09 European Elections And The BNP
The 2009 European Elections on June 4 are no ordinary political exercise; this time it’s about fundamental democracy, not ‘just’ party politics. There is a real danger the BNP will gain seats, unless everyone gets out and votes strategically – especially in the NW of England, where the BNP are focusing much attention. European Parliamentary seats are allocated proportionally, so the BNP will probably gain a NW seat unless Labour receives enough support for three candidates to be successful. Essentially that means it’s Theresa Griffin (Labour) versus N. Griffin (BNP leader)…
The world (as Albert Einstein reminded us) is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
In this case, the result of doing nothing could be very unpleasant indeed. There is a real risk, if turnout in the 4 June ’09 European elections is low, that the British National Party (BNP) will gain a seat in the European Parliament.
Once a BNP member was elected, they would have the resources which are required to be allocated to each and every MEP, and the legal right to have their far-right-wing opinions heard. This frightening prospect of real power for the BNP is why they are fighting so hard to win a NW of England European Parliamentary seat.
In the 2004 European elections the BNP got 6.4% of the vote in the NW of England region, but no seat. This time they could need as little as 8% to gain one*.
[* Later: this is exactly what happened; please refer to footnote below.]
It has been calculated that only a strong vote for the Labour Party candidates (see note to follow) is likely to ensure the critical 8% level is not reached.
Keep the BNP out
As well as yourself voting against the BNP, you can help to keep the them out by supporting the non-party-political HopeNotHate campaign.
How to vote: the practicals
But actually making the effort to vote yourself is fundamentally important, whatever else you do.
The mechanics of voting are easy, but not everyone has voted before, so please bear with me whilst I do a quick run-through of what happens. Unless you already have a postal vote (which comes with its own instructions), all you need do is take some ID – preferably but not essentially your voting card – to a Polling Station on election day.
You can find out where the (many, local) Polling Stations are by phoning your town council, if needs be. They are open from 7 am till 10 pm on the day of the Election, Thursday 4 June.
At the Polling Station you will be given a voting slip which you take into a private booth, where a pen will be provided. How you vote is entirely up to you alone, but in the European elections you can only vote once, with a cross – nothing else – against the political party you have chosen. For example:
When you have made your choice, you simply fold the paper so your vote can’t be seen, and take it over to post into the nearby ballot box.
That’s it. Just a very few minutes of your day, and an infinitely smaller sliver of your life, to keep democracy alive.
How European Parliamentary seats are allocated
After polling closes, the votes will be counted, and the political parties with the most votes will be allocated seats in the European Parliament on a proportional basis.
The names of the individuals who will take these seats has already been decided in rank (preference) order by each of the political parties – you can see what this order of preference is when you look at the voting paper itself.
Most parties in the NW of England European elections have listed eight names, because that’s how many seats are allocated to this region; but no party expects to send all eight of their candidates to the European Parliament.
The allocation of European Parliamentary seats is calculated proportional to the total vote – and since there are in fact thirteen Parties contesting just eight seats, any party with over [13 party options divided by 8 seats = about] 8% will very probably gain a seat.
This is why it’s so crucially important to ensure the BNP gets an extremely low proportion of the vote – and this will only be achieved if a high percentage of the electorate actually get out to vote for the main political parties, and especially (in the NW of England particularly) Labour.
In other regions of the UK alternative ways to vote strategically against the BNP may apply.
NW Labour fights the BNP
The candidates whom the Labour Party ‘slate’ (list of candidates) emphasise are Arlene McCarthy, Brian Simpson and Theresa Griffin; the first two have already been MEPs for several years, and Theresa Griffin*, who lives in Merseyside, has also been active in local European politics for a very long time.
[*NB no relation to any other non-Labour candidate with the same surname]
You can check these candidates out, or contact them direct, through the links attached to their names as above.
But whatever you do, it’s crucial to realise that your vote can help keep the BNP out.
If you prefer other, non-Labour candidates that’s absolutely your democratic choice; but everyone needs to know that not-voting (or indeed voting – however earnestly – for small parties which cannot realistically win a seat) may end up with just the same result as actually voting for the BNP.
For me, having decided my personal politics already, it’s straightforward. I am a member of the Labour Party and will vote for its European Parliamentary candidates.
This is not however a party-political blog, and I have never written a piece just supporting a party line for the sake of it, or asking anyone to vote simply along party political lines.
If you think there are other strategically feasible and decent ways of ensuring the BNP does not blight British politics through gaining a European Parliamentary seat from the NW of England, this space is yours to make the case… and to accept the political debate, as I have done here.
Democracy in action
Caring about democracy means being open about things and exercising the freedom to discuss without fear what you believe in, and why.
Never in modern times has it been more important to do so.
Whatever your mainstream political party of choice, please be sure to exercise your democratic right to vote on 4 June 2009 – and encourage other people, every way you can, to do the same.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
P.S. 8 June 2009
Exactly what we all so much hoped wouldn’t happen has become a reality. The BNP NW candidate has gained a seat in the European Parliament.
The final results for the NW of England are:
Seats: 8 (previously, 9)
Turnout: 1,651,825 (31.9%)
Votes for main parties
Conservative: 423,174 (25.6%, up 1.5%) 3 seats (as before)
Labour: 336,831 (20.4%, down 6.9%) 2 seats (3 before, lost 1)
UK Independence Party: 261,740 (15.8%, up 3.7%) 1 seat (none before)
Liberal Democrats: 235,639 (14.3%, down 1.6%) 1 seat (as before)
British National Party: 132,094 (8.0%, up 1.6%) 1 seat (none before)
Green Party: 127,133 (7.7%, up 2.1%) no seats (as before)
To quote Nick Robinson, on his surgically precise BBC Newsblog:
Nick Griffin [British National Party: BNP] is now a Member of the European Parliament even though he won fewer votes than he did five years ago.
That’s right, fewer.
In 2004, the BNP in the North West polled 134,959 votes. In 2009, they polled 132,194 [132,094?]. So, why did he win?
In short, because of a collapse in the Labour vote from 576,388 in 2004 to 336,831 in 2009. In Liverpool, Labour’s vote dived by 15,000; in Manchester by almost 9,000; whilst in Bury, Rochdale and Stockport, its vote halved.
The switch away from postal votes for all in the last Euro election in the region also led to a fall in turnout.
Thus, the BNP could secure a higher share of the vote whilst getting fewer votes.
…. and this, sadly, is the very thing we most feared (above) might come to pass.
Read more about Political Process And Democracy.