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October 21, 2009

Comments

Giles Wilkes

There is one critical difference. My mother in law has no intention of joining Cage & Aviary Birds magazine or watching Huddersfield play.

botogol

harrumph.. . a more meaningful context would be to compare the number of its members with the membership of other UK political parties.

Francis Sedgemore

I would say that the "none of the above" party is amply represented by the BBC and other media outlets. The BNP may indeed be a mere spot on the hairy arse of the body politic (or smegma on the dick of the petite bourgeoisie), but a few thousand actual activists is the equivalent of many times that number of "can't be arsed" types.

But as long as the BNP's more intellectually able members spend their waking hours making fools of themselves at Harry's Place, I'm happy.

Statistically Speaking

botogol:

The figure of 11,811 BNP members sounds about right, a House of Commons library standard note (http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf) gives a figure of 9,800 in 2007. It also contains membership data for the major parties since 1928. If you want to compare recent figures, membership of political parties looks like this:

2005 Electorate: 44.2 million

MEMBERS OF:
Conservative: 300,000 [0.7% of electorate]
Labour: 198,000 [0.4% of electorate]
Lib. Dem.: 73,000 [0.2% of electorate]
UKIP: 19,000
SNP: 11,000
Green: 7,100
BNP: 6,500

(All figures taken from 2005 data, since this was the last accurate figure for conservative membership - membership of all the major parties has dropped considerably over the last few years, whilst SNP, Green and BNP membership has been generally rising).

Rev Priest

Indeed, every single week the NOTA party is represented by an actor or a comedian or other non-aligned celebrity. There's usually some non-aligned member of the press there too.

Rob

Statistically Speaking's comment reveals that in 2005 the BNP were only just behind the Greens in membership levels. On the new figures, the BNP have probably overtaken the Greens and may even have overtaken the SNP.

The influence of the Green party is not felt purely in their electoral representation (which is weak due to the electoral system), but within the wider political discourse. If the BNP influence political rhetoric in the next decade as much as the Greens have in the last one, then we have a problem.

More importantly, the Conservatives are at least rhetorically committed to 'localism', as are the Lib Dems which virtually guarantees a Westminster majority in favour of devolving power to provincial England. And here the comparison with the SNP (in purely numerical terms; I'm not comparing SNP nationalism to BNP nationalism) is even more worrying. Might the BNP realistically hope to win the mayorships of deprived towns and cities where racial strife has been present recently? Would regional assemblies feature a permanent BNP presence?

The NOTA party is biggest, but it will still end up being affected by the votes of those who do still turn out. Putting the BNP on Question Time is, presumably, an attempt to educate more people about what the consequences might be.

The Great Simpleton

Just to be topical, the BNP has more members than we have troops in Afghanistan.

The BBC justifies putting the BNP on QT because they did the same for the Greens when they made a breakthrough in EU elections. If the BNP aren't to be allowed on QT can we also be spared the smug, ill informed, Greens that are on every week?

botogol

@Statistically Speaking
thanks - that's much more meaningful than comparisons with magazine circulations.

So, by membership, the BNP might be the fifth biggest party in the UK. That's worrying, but it tends to support the BBC's position.

Elsewhere the UK Pirate Party recently reached 500 members just six weeks after forming. Not bad ( @chris - that's fewer than the number of people living in my road, but more than the number who read my blog :-) )

FWIW the Pirate Party also has (it says) the largest facebook group of any political party in UK.

http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/

So.. stepping back .. are we seeing the decline of the big-three class-based all-rounder be-one-of-us parties, and the rise of specialist parties focussing on small set of issues? could be.

Are the BBC actually picking up a trend?

chris

I chose not to compare BNP to other political parties for a good reason - to show that active interest in the BNP is puny compared to so many other things, such as bird-keeping, scouting or supporting League One football teams.
If BNP membership compares well to other political parties, it is only because few people take an active interest in party politics.
My comparison was intended precisely to show the relative unimportance of party politics - a point lost on the political class and (often) the BBC.
Yes, QT usually has someone who's not attached to a party. But such people are often sympathetic to one or the other, and they rarely take the view that all the parties are wrong.

Recusant

Well the National Secular Society has, according to its accounts, just under 6,000 members, but that doesn't seem to stop Keith Porteous Wood being asked for his views any time there is a discussion of religion.

Scratch

If it were serious about allocating airtime according to electoral support, then every edition of Question Time would have two panellists who were antipathetic (or apathetic) to all the parties.

That's a seriously fantastic idea.

botogol

true, but QT is a programme *about* politics and political parties... not about sport or hobbies...

Rob

Scratch: it's entirely possible that QT's panel is meant to have eight guests on it each week, but three of them don't turn up...

Scratch

Oh, I don't know, politics can be a broader church that the classist dumb reductivism exhibited by the various franchises would suggest.

Who knows? It might even give those creatures unique to our political culture an iota of insight into why nobody would willingly give them the time of day.

Statistically Speaking

"Yes, QT usually has someone who's not attached to a party. But such people are often sympathetic to one or the other, and they rarely take the view that all the parties are wrong."

I think most people are more sympathetic towards some parties than others. You'd have an incredibly hard time finding someone who's completely unbiased unless they knew nothing about any of the UK's political parties or were entirely apathetic to politics generally.

Pick any two parties at random (with the exception of a party of which you are a member or which you normally vote for). Take the Socialist Labour party and the Christian Peoples Alliance for example. I can almost guarantee that anyone with even a slight interest in politics will favour the position one of these parties takes over the other on a majority of issues. Despite the fact that you may never vote for either, you're not a true neutral party (excuse the pun).

David

"And yet the BBC ignores this. If it were serious about allocating airtime according to electoral support, then every edition of Question Time would have two panellists who were antipathetic (or apathetic) to all the parties."

-- it doesn't have panellists according to this specific criteria, but it oes have two panellists that are outside of the main parties as a matter of regularity (occasionally they'll be from minor parties, but there are many editions of Question Time with two independent panellists).

And though I agree that party membership should be taken into account, it's in decline generally anyway AFAIK -- certainly is for the two main parties -- and it makes sense to take electoral success into account. It can't just be ignored.

"Of course, NOTA opinion is hugely diverse - but the BBC pretty much neglects every strand of it."

Hmm. The BBC have had a reasonably wide range of non-political party opinion on Question Time, from bankers to novellists, to Union representatives.

"It’s doing so for the same reason that the skirts on Strictly Come Dancing are getting shorter - as an attempt to prop up the ratings for an ailing show."

Is Question Time ailing? Your link doesn't specify that.

It seems pretty clear -- it was borderline before, but since their EU elections gain, the BBC has changed policy toward the BNP. Of course any policy about whether or not to include a party in media representation is arbitrary -- but the BBC's reasoning makes sense.

Of course, if you were to say that the debate is more complex than the No Platform/Give them rope to hang themselves sides make it out to be, I would agree -- the problem is that the BNP are going to prove difficult to undermine until people are more content with the mainstream or another minor party gains its momentum among the people it has persuaded to support it so far. Both of these will take time, and any influence Question Time has will be on the fringes.

botogol

but QT is a show ABOUT politics, FOR people interested in politics.

So for QT to feature panellists totally apathetics about politics would be bizaare indeed.

Like having soemone on Gardeners' Questions to represent all the non-gardeners.

Scratch

Ignoring the question of whether it's actually possible to be truly apathetic about politics...you missed the "antipathetic to all the parties" bit. Which includes, I suspect, most of the polity.

You done you some bad readin' there.

chris

@botogol - your anology fails. QT panellists overwhelmingly represent a very narrow spectrum of political opinion - managerialist mainstream parties. If everyone on Gardeners' Questiontime gave the advice; "put down some decking", GQ would need to have a panellist who was opposed to all the others.

David B

So if people can't be bothered to vote in an election they should be given someone to represent their (non-) views? I find this a curious view of democracy. And I'd be interested to know how you'd go about selecting that person to make sure they are representative.

Chris Allison

I think that by focusing on the actual members of the BNP misses the point. Didnt over 900,000 people vote for them in the last round of elections?

It is not the members of a party (the hard core) that politicians argue for, its the median voter, the person who is likely to switch party allegiance.

On a seperate issue I think Ken Livingstones arguement this AM on the Today Program is valid, in that it may spark a backlash against minorities by racists.

It doesnt disuade the point that democracy is about winning the arguement and this is an opportunity to finish them off.

Besides the BNP are hardly not on telly or radio ....

botogol

@chris yes, but GQT would ask some other type of gardner, they wouldn't say 'hang on there are more anglers than there are garden-ornamentalists, we'd better have a fisherman.

QT is a politics programme. BNP is a political party. It's a somewhat successful political party being about the same size - it seems - as UKIP and the Greens. I don't see how the BBC can avoid having them on.

I agree with Mark Thompson in the Guardian today - banning of political parties from the airwaves is a job for parliament, not for the BBC.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/21/question-time-bbc-bnp-griffin

Meanwhile tonight I think it's a shame that the main political parties can't do better in who they field: Labour are putting on about the only man in parliament possibly more unpleasant than Nick Griffin, and the Tories manage Baroness (snort) Warsi - who seems to thnik that the rise of the BNP i all the fault of the labour party (I bet she doesn't say that tonight)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/immigration-immigration-immigration-cameron-hoped-to-ignore-it-but-now-its-back-with-a-vengeance-403997.html (8th para - but lots of other equally inane stuff there).

The two of them together are in danger of making griffin seem pleasant and logicial.

Hune's not much better, but to give the liberals' their due, he's probably the best they have got.

I only hope Dimbleby's on form with some unsettling questions.

Tony Woolf

Clutching at straws to try to keep the BNP off the air won't achieve anything.
What is wrong is putting the BNP on Question Time whose main purpose seems to be giving people a platform to spout. Dimbleby has to keep the show moving and any politician worth the name can just use it to push their views.
The BBC should get Griffin questioned in depth by someone like Andrew Neil.

microgaming

Of course it is possible to be completely apathetic about politics. I am one of those individuals who just gives a fig about which political party is ruling because I see no difference between ones and the others. Actually they all have the same objectives and have never fixed any of my problems so why should I care? when I go to vote I pick a bunch of papers, shuffle, take one and submit it.

botogol

So in the event NOTA were well represented on the show with Bonnie Greer being far and away the most impressive person on the show, only she and dimbleby managing to keep cool.

straw managed to make himself appear almost as shifty and evasive as griffin, huhne was shrill. and warsi out of her depth.

Bruce

It's not so much the BNP being on QT that bothers me (give 'em enough rope..) but the way the BBC made this the main story of the day. The whole thing seemed like one big plug to get QT's ratings up. And the BBC's editors think the world revolves around the BBC. Protestors outside the BBC gets to be a lead story, while a protest anywhere else about anything else is lucky to get any coverage at all.


Alex

"Bonnie Greer being far and away the most impressive person on the show"

Are you serious? IMHO Greer was a complete waste of space. She made a series of inane, off-topic points, contributing nothing intelligent at all.

Glenn

Will I get kicked out of Britain if BNP gets in power? I can't really understand if I'm an indigenous Britischer, being part Irish, 2 generations ago, part Northumberland borderer, probably part Roman and something else. My son is also only partly British, my wife being from foreign climes.

Is there such a thing as indigenous British?! are the history books all wrong about our polyglot nation of celts, romans, angles, saxons, vikings, normans, hugeuonots, irish immigrants etc etc etc....!?!!?

Didn't someone do some geneological research on BNP senior members last year and find one of them was of substantial polish descendence or something!?

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