At Sedgefield the BNP’s candidate Andrew Spence, of fuel protest fame, and previously of UKIP, won 9% of the vote. 9% is not enough to win a seat. Nor was it not enough to change the result by pulling votes from other parties.
But if the same 9% vote was cast for the BNP in a marginal seat, and the 9% had been pulled from one party more than another, such a vote could change the result very easily. UKIP, for example pulled 2% in the last general election, and thereby prevented around 30 seats from falling to the Conservatives, adding 25 seats to Labour, securing their majority, and presenting 5 seats to the Lib Dems. Without UKIP’s paltry 2% vote, Labour’s 60 seat majority might have been eliminated. (Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph)
The BNP have so far stood only in their hotspots such as in Yorkshire and East London. They have occasionally seemed close to winning a Westminster seat in Barking. They have not so far strayed out from their ‘racial fault line’ heartlands. So is the thought about whether they might be influential on the result of the next general election, only of academic interest?
They have also elected a few councillors here and there winning up to 30% in council elections, but surely they don’t have the resources to spread out any further, and go national.
If reports coming from within the Party are correct, the BNP could have an effect on the next general election of the kind I am describing, as they are setting up branches in 500 Constituencies. That would mean they will be standing in many marginals. If they start to poll 9% across these seats, the effect of the BNP standing, could be dramatic.
They have no media support, no radio, no TV but they have foot soldiers. BNP members are highly motivated and deliver literature to peoples’ homes by wearing out shoe leather. The story put out by the main media is that they are racist beasts who must be stopped. This may be true, but it allows the BNP to surprise people by the common sense sounding literature they write. Some of the facts contained in their writing might need to challenged, but as the party are blanked by the media, they can write their own narratives unopposed. They are able to present themselves as victims of unfair media coverage.
The Sedgefield by-election showed the Conservatives’ vote staying level, Lib Dem rising a little and only labour’s vote falling. It seems from Sedgefield as if the advance of the BNP is going to hurt Labour the most. This is bound to start featuring in electoral calculations, and could be the key factor that stops Gordon Brown going to the polls in a hurry. Cameron might start to feel grateful for having the pressure taken off him (for now) by the BNP.
N.B. 35% of labour voters put BNP as the party they would support next after labour in a recent poll, confirming the threat the BNP poses to labour.