Tomorrow, Thursday 4th June, as you probably already know, is the European Parliament elections in the UK. I will be casting a vote, for three reasons, all, unfortunately, negative reasons.
First, and most importantly, I will be voting to stop the BNP winning seats. The BNP, whose constitution limits membership to "indigenous" "Caucasians" (seems like a contradiction to me), whose politics are driven by hatred and resentment, are likely to do exceptionally well in this election, due to the anti-political populist climate and the economic crisis.
The video above* is produced by Peter Cranie's Green campaign in the Northwest, where the odious Nick Griffin is likely to gain a seat. It claims that every single vote counts, but that's not strictly true, as you can see from the film. The UK (apart from Northern Ireland) uses the incredibly complicated and confusing D'Hondt method of Proportional Representation, which the video (and these charts) do a great job of explaining. This means that votes for the smallest parties, those who have no chance of gaining any seats in the regions, are indeed wasted. Unfortunately, this means that a vote for the Socialist Party of Great Britain is a wasted vote against the BNP. Clearly, though, a vote for the Greens does count against the BNP.
Secondly, I will be voting to stop the non-fascist right-wing populist parties from gaining seats, parties like the English Democrats, UKIP and Libertas, who between them constitute a sizeable force for reaction in Britain, again feeding of the resentment and racism the BNP feeds off. Although UKIP has been falling apart, these grouplets could get good votes, especially if turn-out is low, which is likely, especially in those areas where there are not also council elections, given widespread disengagement from the electoral process. YouGov today put UKIP as the third party nationally with 16% and "others", including the English Democrats, at 6%. Again, it seems to me that a vote for the Green Party will count against these parties.
Thirdly, I will be voting to reduce the Tory share of the vote. As Andrew puts it, "the Tories are going to get in under cover of darkness", even though the expenses issue shows them as far more corrupt and sleazey than Labour, while their policies on the economic crisis are at best pathetic and at worst outright dangerous: make ordinary people pay for the faults of the banks by cutting social services and... Well, and not much more.
Part of me wants to vote Labour, as I feel that they have been the victims of several things out of their control: the global financial crisis, the swine flu epidemic, and an orchestrated campaign against them from the chattering classes. The death of Labour as a political force, as in 1979, can only make things worse. To paraphrase Andrew again, they may not be anything more than the lesser of two evils, but the other evil is far, far worse. My reading of the YouGov polling data (and I'm not great at maths) suggests that in Yorkshire and Humber in particular a vote for Labour is the best vote against the BNP.
In London, the picture is so messy it is harder to call. On balance, therefore, I am voting Green, to ensure that our Green MEP, Jean Lambert, returns to Strasbourg and minimise the chances of a third Tory or second or even third UKIP seat.
LAST MINUTE ADDITIONS ON POLLING DAY MORNING
Who are the BNP? Don't Panic went undercover with the BNP in Essex. Their video reveals the BNP as unreconstructed racists trying hard to present themselves as slick. In one important sequence, about 4 minutes in, they talk about their links with fascist parties they are aligned with in the European Parliament, and how getting an MEP means "we'll become, , in every sense of the word, mainstream, and, more than that, we'll have funds". Because of course, being anti-Europe will not stop them taking the large dollops of tax-payer-funded gravy the EU dishes out to the parties in the European Parliament. And, don't forget, the BNP still hate Jews, even if they talk about Muslims more these days. (More videos via Jim & HP, and pics via HP.)
Vote Labour in the Southwest: Glyn Ford is the current Labour MEP for the Southwest, in fact the only one. He is, in my opinion, one of the best British MEPs. He is in real danger of losing his seat, so if you are reading this from the South west, vote Labour.
UKIP: More recent poll figures show that UKIP nationally might be second rather than third. The positive side of this the BNP vote seems to be slipping (although interviewer bias gives the BNP lower results in opinion polls than the ballot booth), but it strengthens the reasons to go and vote for the Greens or Labour.
The Tories: Another reason to vote against the Conservatives is the way that Cameron, despite his soft centrist rhetoric in Britain, has more closely aligned his party with harder right-wing parties in Europe, in fact with a number of parties who are no better than Libertas.
Populism: Talking of that unsavoury re-alignment, I just read Tony Lerman on the new populism. He quotes Bulgaria's Ivan Krastev and says: "The British mood increasingly resembles the populism taking hold across Europe. The party leaders here think they can surf the wave, but most populist politics are, in Krastev's words, "dangerous mutations". Flirting with them may well backfire."
Still confused? I am, but I'm not alone. Here's Peter The Plump.
Finally: And if you still haven't voted, read Alex Goldberg on the Second Battle of Cable Street.
*Hat tip: Jim/Greens Engage.