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AV ‘will bring in fascism’

1 April 2011

After reading the Sun piece by Baroness Warsi that I mentioned in my last post, I found the article accompanying it – which has the delightfully subtle headline of “AV ‘will bring in fascism’.” Not, could or might… nope… will.

This is rubbish.  Not just because the BNP don’t support AV. Their non-support is not mutually exclusive from any possible gain. Firstly, it is rubbish because AV does not give a vast increase in representation to minor parties (in the way that PR would). Second, a possible increase in BNP votes is not the same as ‘bringing in fascism’.  Many britons are already represented by fascist BNP members of councils and the European Parliament – so there is fascist representation.. this is not the same as ‘bringing in fascism’.  That headline is idiot to say the very least.

Just as peculiar and also quite pernicious is the idea that avoiding greater representation in our parliament is the way to stop people supporting the BNP.  It is not.  The votes are a representation of increased levels of intolerance and (just as important, and linked) a profound sense of disillusionment and injustice.

The scare tactic of saying that this will lead to dog-whistle politics as candidates seek extremists’ support (i.e. second votes) is misleading and annoying. Guido Fawkes has joined in the game (with accompanying tedious quotation from Churchill), repeating the No 2 AV assertion that 35 seats would be swayed by BNP second preferences.

The implication of this assertion is that the views of those who might consider voting BNP are inherently illegitimate, so we must do our best to exclude them.  Whether you think a preferential voting system is, er, preferable, is up to you; but this kind of suggestion misses the point of the need to re-engage with disillusioned voters.

If candidates need the second-preferences of potential BNP voters, they should be out on the streets explaining why their policies are the best way to deal with the problems or perceived injustices that lead people to consider such a hideous way of using their vote.  This is exactly the same as when people fight a FPTP race against a strong BNP candidate – as in Barking and Dagenham, where the Labour party fought and won a big electoral fight with them. There will be candidates who seek to use scare tactics to win votes – they should be outed and hounded as scaremongerers (as Phil Woolas was). The risks of scaremongering are not unique to AV, and they should not mean that serious politicians should shirk their duty to try to convince BNP voters – along with all other citizens – that their mainstream party has the answer, not the fascists.

AV is not perfect, no electoral system is.  It will not vastly increase the power of extremist parties. Attacking AV as a system should not blind people to the need to engage with disillusioned citizens.