BNP's deputy chairman: "We are never going to get our feet under the table under the AV system."

This was Keith Vaz MP on FiveLive this morning:

(Under AV) the supporters of these groups like the BNP will have the second bite of the cherry. They will be out but of course their second, third and even fourth preference can then transfer to someone else and allow those that are eliminated at an early stage to influence the result in a disproportionate way

Blimey! Where to start?

There’s a subtext here that the Really Scary Party will win elections under AV.

But what Vaz seems to be doing here is to conflate voters and candidates. Where he says “those that are eliminated at an early stage”, who is he talking about? It would seem to be the candidates from the BNP. After all, they are the ones who are “eliminated” under AV if they come last. However, he then goes on to imply that those candidates “can influence the result”. This inference is common amongst NotoAV spokespeople. But those “eliminated” candidates cannot “influence the result”. They are out of it.

It is, of course, voters who influence the result. The logical extension of Vaz’s argument is that people who vote for the BNP should have their votes buried in the outer reaches of Hell. 

But the truth is that the second preferences of these voters will be for a moderate party, such as Conservative, Labour or LibDem. So basically, by using the second preferences of these voters, we are including their more moderate wishes in the electoral process.

Vaz thinks that is a bad thing. In fact, it is probably the best way to include those people in the process and stop them feeling isolated and getting even more desperate and extreme.

As for “second bite of the cherry”, Channel 4’s FactCheck blog explains:

If no one gets 50 per cent of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

Then voters who backed the eliminated candidate have their second choice put forward instead. (But it’s worth pointing out that voters whose candidates are still in the race also have their votes counted again – for that same No1 preference).

Here’s the Institute for Public Policy Research on the wider point:

Even if we assume all BNP preferences go to a single candidate (which they wouldn’t) they would still require more than twice the number of BNP supporters to win under AV. BNP voters cannot therefore single-handedly change a result.

Channel 4’s FactCheck concludes:

AV is highly unlikely to help the BNP win any seats, and the secondary votes of BNP supporters alone wouldn’t swing a seat for any other party – going on last year’s results.

In fact, in a very divided constituency, the BNP arguably has a better chance of winning a seat under First Past the Post than under AV…

“AV is a retrograde step – it’s worse than what we’ve got now,”(BNP’s deputy chairman Simon) Darby told FactCheck. “We are never going to get our feet under the table under the AV system.”

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