From Janet Oosthuysen
For the first time since I started being involved in anti fascist activity many years ago, I am seriously worried about the upcoming Euro elections. It's traditionally a low turn out election anyway but people often vote in it because there is another election at the same time and so the vote is artificially increased.
This time there is no such cushion. The European elections are on June 4th and in this area, are alone - no council, no general election at the same time.
This would be difficult enough but add to that the current disillusion with all of the main 3 parties and we have a situation that the BNP is very likely to benefit from.
I've written a leter to the HB Times on exactly this, and as usual when you send a letter off, you realise how much better you could have written it!
But I have to say it again. We must all vote, and get all our friends to vote, and get them to get their friends to vote in the Euro elctions. If we dont we risk a BNP MEP. Fascist representation. An open platform where they have even more legitimacy than they are currently given(which is more than enough). The right to go into all schools, community groups etc all over the Yorkshire and Humber region.
And make no mistake, they will use it.
In this election it is not enough to go in and spoil your ballot. You must vote, and this time it genuinely doesnt matter who you vote for. They all add up.
My friend Rowenna has spent some time working out the agregate vote for the BNP in various elections over the years (Can you post them Rowenna?) and the results are frightening. A four fold increase in some areas.
We are all disgusted by many of the antics at Westminster, and feel that the present systems don't represent us, don't help us, dont aid us in any way but please don't let you current disgust stop you from voting. Sorry to go on so much, on a topic many of you will be aware of, but I cant bear the thought of waking up the morning after in an even worse political situation than we are now.
From Rowenna McColl
The three main parties have too many MPs fiddling their expenses and it is even worse from Euro MEPs.
These three parties are all pro big business and for privatisation, they are all against trade union members having to take strike action to defend our public services and to fight for a decent living wage.
Understandable then why so many disgusted voters are thinking of not voting for anyone – or will vote BNP as a protest.
The BNP are standing in our region to become Euro MPs.
If they get say, as little as 10% of the vote in some constituencies (quite attainable on a low turn out) their party will be able to access £350,000 funding and publicity that will help them grow massively.
As usual, the BNP are pushing resentment against immigrants during this recession and cynically playing on people’s fears about job security pretending they are not racist – just ‘Putting British Workers First’. British workers are black, are white but leaked documents published by the BNP show they regard any black person born here as not and can never be British. He calls them ‘resident foreigners’ and is still committed to their ‘lawful, humane and voluntary repatriation’ (to where? – they were born here) so the BNP are not ‘just’ against immigrants they are still opposed to black people born here living here working and paying taxes.
Their recent election leaflet used pictures of US and Italian models who had not consented to the quotes attributed to their picture and the Spitfire they feature is actually of a Polish squadron based here!
There are alternatives to the big 3 such as the Greens and other non-fascist non-racist candidates people can vote for if they want to make an understandable protest vote.
We have many problems facing us to day but the BNP are not the answer.
From Cllr Tim Swift
Janet and Rowenna are right to highlight the need for people to use their votes in the Euro elections to stop the BNP, but wrong to suggest that it does not matter who you vote for.
And this is critically true with the Euro elections. Because of the system of PR used, it is not just a case of what share of the vote the BNP get - the relationship between their share of the votes and that received by other parties is critical.
There is not room to set out all the maths, but the likelihood is that if the BNP do poll enough votes to be close to winning a seat, they will be competing for the 'last' place with the second Labour candidate. Voting for a minor party will have no impact either way on this, and the best way to be certain of blocking a BNP win will be by voting Labour.
Sorry if that's not what people want to hear, but that is the reality of the electoral system used. Obvioulsy I hope people will vote Labour - particularly as the Labour MEP who would be at risk, Richard Corbett, is one with a good record on a host of important political and social issues. But if people who are passionate about the need to beat the BNP choose not to vote Labour, it's important that they understand just what the implicatons are.
From Graham Barker
Voting tactically may help stop the BNP winning seats but it doesn’t do anything to deal with the causes of the BNP. Many people who vote BNP do so out of frustration, because their experience is that other parties regard as off-limits their concerns about race, immigration and multi-culturalism. Like it or loathe it, this is the elephant in their particular room that they want their elected representatives to recognise.
At present there is a perception that frank debate on these issues is suppressed, and that anyone who speaks his or her mind, however mildly, risks being demonised as a racist. Locally, one only has to monitor the often very cynical posts on the Halifax Courier and Bradford Telegraph & Argus online reader forums to realise how deeply this ‘thought control’ is resented.
Until other political parties are prepared to grasp this nettle and give representation to people whose views may be unpalatable to them, the BNP’s influence will grow. Its thuggery and blatant fascism will be traded off against a sense of enfranchisement.
I recall a Radio 4 interview some years ago with a voter in Halifax, the day after the first BNP councillor had been elected. Roughly verbatim, she said: ‘I hate myself for voting BNP, but I feel they’re the only party that’s talking to people like me’. On its own, voting to keep the BNP out is not a strategy likely to bring people like her back into the fold.
From Cllr Tim Swift
I take many of the points Graham is making; there's a difference between a hard core of committed racist BNP voters, and a wider group who support them, as he says, partly out of a frustration because their concerns are not being addressed.
And simply defeating them electorally is not enough - we may have beaten BNP candidates in Town ward, but it's still a concern that they can poll 15-20% of the vote.
But, there are particular reasons why stopping them getting a European seat are important and why tactical voting is worth thinking about.
Firstly, it will give them access to greatly increased resources and credibility to use to underpin their campaigning (and it's suspected they have gambled a lot on winning Euro seats)
Secondly, and specifically in Yorkshire, the character of their lead candidate, Andrew Brons, who has a long-standing track record of far right politics - please look him up on wikipedia or other sources to see just how damaging it would be if he won a seat this week.
From Janet Oosthuysen
Couldn't agree more Graham. Absolutely believe that its a failure in the major parties and vacuum created by not relating to peoples needs and seeming out of touch (to put it mildly!)that leads to the resurgence of fascism.
I've spoken to enough BNP voters in door to door canvassing to know that most are not what would be called hardened fascists. But that's not the issue here.
The issue is this: there are many more of us than there is of them. And the danger we face in places like Hebden Bridge and the upper valley is that we wont vote due to other factors. But they will.
But the issue 3 days before a Euro election with these present particular factors is to make sure the BNP don't win. After the election, join with Unity, the local anti fascist group and let's address the issue properly with all concerned.
In the mean time vote to keep them out. Whoever you vote for. Just make sure you vote.
From Susan Press
I went to bed last night shortly after the BNP won a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber. Sadly it's clear it was not enough just "not to vote for the BNP".
Labour needed our vote to stop them. I voted Labour and I wish those who vented their (justifiable) anger at MPs' expenses and national policies but not doing so had done the same.There may be widespread disappointment with Labour in Govt. But ask yourselves this question. How does it feel waking up with two fascists representing the North of England in Brussels?
From Anne H
I don't think it's fair to imply that the BNP got a seat because not enough people voted Labour. The Green Party was quite close in total number of votes to the BNP. They could have got that last seat if more people who see themselves as 'pale green' (which quite a lot of disillusioned Labour supporters do) had actually voted for the Green Party.
From Colin Fisher
I am concerned about the idea of being disgusted with how our fellow citizens choose to cast their votes in an election. They may have exercised as much thought as I did in making their choice and who am I to sit in judgement? I don't know anyone who voted for the BNP but it seems unlikely that 10% of the people of Calderdale are so far beyond the pale. One man from Burnley said on the radio that he voted that way and he sounded entirely reasonable and rational in his views.
It is a matter of fact that the present Prime Minister presided over the UK economy whilst the conditions that led to economic collapse were developing. It is a metter of fact that since 1997 the role of parliament (our MP's) in relation to the executive has been greatly weakened. It is a metter of fact that during the period that the present governing party was in office that the UK invaded another soveriegn nation in a war that may have cost a million lives and we continue to send troops to Afghanistan to kill people. Isn't there a parable about throwing the first stones?
From Rev Tony Buglass
Disgusted, that's how I feel. And ashamed at how others will see us. Which is why I signed the petition "Not in My Name" - it's at this website - go and sign it, please.
What is worst is that this is largely due to media hysteria - we've moved through credit crunch to swine flu to MP's expenses in a matter of weeks, and the impression is that it's all Gordon Brown's fault, and every MP is swilling it, and politics in this country has gone down the sewer. So folk have stayed at home, and let the idiots in.
Perhaps this will act as a shot across the bows. With any luck folk will wake up to what they've done (or allowed to happen by their apathy), and next time the fascists will be sent packing. But that also means those in power have to look to their game, and make sure that the grievances played on by the extremists are addressed.
From Anne W
Colin - Really there is no need to be concerned. The BNP are racist and sexist and they are wrong. It makes a mockery of democracy to suggest that I should not express this opinion.
I can add that democracy and citizenship involves a fundamental idea of equality which is something the BNP do not support.
Also, it is not true that 10% of people in Calderdale did not vote BNP -for one thing, the turnout was low.
On the tactics of keeping them out, I think Anne H is probably right.
From Cllr Tim Swift
Susan Press is entirely right on this one. As I said in my earlier post, you can't just vote 'against' the BNP, you have to work out how is actually going to beat them. As I said before, it was not enough just to vote - you had to vote for a candidate who was going to beat the BNP.
And tragically, my worst fears were entirely right and a very good MEP lost out to the BNP.
Ann H, I've no problems with people who voted green out of conviction. But if people did it as an easy option, then they helped the BNP to win. Even worse, almost 35,000 people voted for fringe left-wing factions that never had the slightest chance of winning a seat. They have a lot to answer for today.
From Tom Standfield
Tim Swift says that if we had voted Labour and not for minority parties that would have helped keep out the BNP, and even suggested that voting Green helped the BNP to win. Not true. If just one or two per cent more had voted Green instead of Labour, Labour would still have got their seat, but the Greens would have got the sixth seat; not the BNP.
From Graham Barker
So the Labour party is now blaming the election of the BNP MEP on everyone who didn’t vote Labour. That’s a good one. This is the Labour party that has just committed electoral suicide by backing Gordon Brown when it had the chance to replace him. It’s time the Labour party, locally and nationally, snapped out of it and started to recognise that for the forseeable future they’re not worth voting for.
From Rachel Whitwell
The BNP actually had less voters than last time but the Labour masses didn't bother. That is why BNP did so well - same as UKIP I would assume.
From Cllr Tim Swift
I don't want this thread to become tedious, so this will be my last post on the subject for the time being; I just want to make what I was saying quite clear.
Firstly, please read the context of this thread. It was about how best to make sure the BNP did not win a seat. In that context, I was making the argument that the only choice was to vote Labour and that the last seat woudl come down to a choice between Labour and the BNP.
This was to counter a popular misunderstanding that simply increasing the turnout was enough to beat the BNP. That is not correct and I believe that if people are going to vote tactically, they should do so on the basis of the full information.
It is still the case that less people would have had to switch to Labour than to the Greens for the BNP not to have won.
Of course I believe it would have been better if Labour had not got ourselves into a position where there was any likelihood of losing a seat to the BNP. But that's another story for debating another day.
From Allen Keep
For people who have finally come to the painful conclusion that the Labour Party has now proved itself, despite every chance, to be no better an alternative to any of the main parties and that they cannot in all conscience support it further in any way what else could they do?..continue to vote for it?! It would be like advising an abused partner to stay in the relationship in case someone worse came along. And what of those committed to fighting for enviromental change? Were they to have suspended their struggle to bail out Labour?
To blame those who did not vote Labour lets the Fascists, their supporters and this warmongering, corrupt and incompetent governement off the hook. To attack and blame the "fringe left" at this dreadful time is the worst sectarianism. The way forward will not be to continue to dissect and debate the failings of Labour nor to continue to attempt to breath life into its rotting corpse - but to confront and expose the BNP through unity and action. Not at the next election. Now.
Greens, the fringe left and old Labour.. time to link arms.
From Tom M
I feel as long as you've had a quick read about some political parties and voted you've done your bit.
I can understand people who choose to vote tactically but it could also damage democracy. Tactical voting could potentially allow the major parties to alienate themselves further from people and it's this that allows parties like the BNP a foothold.
Smaller parties don't necessarily need to win seats or the election for sentiments to be listened to by the larger parties, so they can help keep the major parties in check.
"Tim Swift says that if we had voted Labour and not for minority parties that would have helped keep out the BNP... Not true. If just one or two per cent more had voted Green instead of Labour, Labour would still have got their seat, but the Greens would have got the sixth seat; not the BNP. "
Agreed. I voted Green because I believe their economic views will help stop Europe becoming a damaging replacement for the Federal Reserve system.
Labour at the moment are not giving me confidence because they are not rallying against the irresponsible economic approach of recent years; one which benefits our country in the short term while damaging both us and our neighbours in the long term.
The Green party's urgency with respect to environmental issues, their stance on the constitutional reforms required (though I don't agree with PR in the typical sense), human rights, war... if my vote meant Labour were likely to take a leaf out of their book on any of those issues I'd feel it's been worth it.