Sayeeda Warsi plays the race card to campaign against electoral reform


10:50 am - March 30th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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I really wish Sayeeda Warsi did not plumb to such depths. She is being wheeled out by the Conservatives to say that Alternative Voting ‘will bring in fascism‘.

Generations have been served well by the British system because fascists and extremists have consistently been excluded from Parliament.

This is really desperate stuff.

I happen to think that we avoided fascism and extremism because most Britons are fairly sensible people who are averse to fascism and racism. If Sayeeda Warsi wants to insult vast swathes of the population then that is her prerogative, but this is about the worst case against the Alternative Voting system.

The other major flaw in her reasoning is this: by depriving people of feeling that voting is empowering and useful, we drive even more into extremism.

I have a problem with voting BNP – but the best response to that should be to deal with the deprivation, helplessness and lack of economic security that drives those people to extremists in the first place. You don’t write them off and devise a political system that shuts out views you don’t like.

Sayeeda Warsi’s argument against AV is in fact the best argument for it – that it gives us a measure of how people feel about other issues (though it still means the main parties win through transferred votes).

It’s disgusting that she’s playing the race card like this. But it also illustrates the contempt that Conservatives have for views they don’t like.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Ouch, nice take down Sunder.

Wonder what the Tories would make of a repeat of the Battle of Cable Street these days?

And of the handful of BNP who are elected, how many are elected with more than 50% of the vote?

“Sayeeda Warsi’s argument against AV is in fact the best argument for it”

Indeed it is. Very silly.

Worst argument – permanent coalitions.

4. NeoCon Clegg

Keep in mind this is the same Warsi who was the right of the Conservative Party’s fall ‘guy’ for their Oldham collapse.

This smacks of desperation and her trying too hard to avoid that fate for the AV referendum if it doesn’t go her way.

Are the antis ignorant, stupid or dishonest? AV is absolutely the best electoral system for keeping out extremists! See http://bit.ly/fgHxR0.

6. Shatterface

I support AV – at least over FPTP, which is the only other choice we are being offered – and Warsi certainly hasn’t been adverse to playing the race card in the past – but she’s not doing so here.

AV very likely WILL allow parties otherwise marginalised by FPTP to be represented in Parliament – thats the bloody point of it.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ 5

“Are the antis ignorant, stupid or dishonest? ”

I pick option 3. This is absolutely pathetic.

8. Flowerpower

AV itself may not let in extremist parties, but if as some supporters of AV are arguing (including many Lib Dems) a Yes to AV would be the “first step towards full proportionality” – then Warsi may have a point.

Agree completely, its not much of a democracy if we have a system set up where by we can only vote for people the current rulers think we should eb allowed to vote for.

Ps. Please sort the tab order out on the submission form, its goes in the right order but alternates between the above and below form

Shatterface –

“AV very likely WILL allow parties otherwise marginalised by FPTP to be represented in Parliament”

Yes – but only parties that are likely to pick up significant numbers of second and third preference votes. Lots of Labour voters might give second or third preference votes to the Greens or Lib Dems, and lots of Tory voters might give second or third preference votes to UKIP or the Lib Dems, so parties like the Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP will do OK. But *extremist* parties are different; you tend to be either firmly for or firmly against them. The BNP might get 5% or even 10% of first preference votes in a particular seat under AV, but they’re never going to get 50% of people ranking them first, second or third.

11. Flowerpower

One thing AV would do is to turn every Labour candidate in Lancs and Yorks into little Phil Woolases – desperate to attract the support of local racists. Not an attractive prospect.

5/Jonathan Phillips: AV is absolutely the best electoral system for keeping out extremists!

It’s pretty good at it, but it can still let extremists in if there are two separate extremist candidates both with substantial local first preference support (especially if they’re at opposite extremes). Rare in practice, but it could happen in theory.

Condorcet is the best for keeping extremists out. It’s just not possible for them to win even in that situation. Actually, it’s quite difficult for anyone more extreme than the Lib Dems to win under Condorcet.

(AV is certainly the best for keeping out extremists while still allowing moderate non-centrists a reasonable chance, though)

7/Chaise: Well, there certainly is dishonesty, but AV is not a completely straightforward system to understand – I’ve seen Yes campaigners make about as many mistakes through misunderstanding as I’ve seen No campaigners make through misunderstanding and dishonesty.

@10 From what I can gather about av, those parties are more likely to eliminated first rather than the main three. If your first choice is labour or conservative the likelihood of your second choice even being glanced at would be low. Ymmv depending on which constituency you’re in though.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 G.O.

“The BNP might get 5% or even 10% of first preference votes in a particular seat under AV, but they’re never going to get 50% of people ranking them first, second or third.”

They might, but you’re right in saying it wouldn’t be from second preferences – it would be from the first preference votes of people who previously saw no point in voting for the 5th or 6th most successful party in the area.

On the other hand, I suspect that a disproportionate number of BNP supporters either a) are too ignorant to understand how voting works anyway or b) are zealous enough to vote BNP regardless of their chances of achieving power (or are protest voters, with the same effect).

A politician once said On someone being deselcted and replaced by someone of different skin colour”If people aren’t allowed to stand for parliament ,they will find other ways of getting their vews across such as Violence” It was Bernie grant in 1989 after a Black labour party prospective M.P was changed in Favour of kate hoey,as roy Hattersley on Labours NEC beleived thr Black person in question had links to anti white raicsts, there’s one example of FPTP nearly encouraging racists to get elected

Source “Snatching deafeat from the jaws of victiory ,How labour lost the ’92 elelction (heffenan and Marqusse)

12. cim “AV is not a completely straightforward system to understand – I’ve seen Yes campaigners make about as many mistakes through misunderstanding as I’ve seen No campaigners make through misunderstanding and dishonesty.” The Yes accounts are often incomplete or excessively compressed, but these explanations – http://bit.ly/eddJWZ and http://bit.ly/fgHxR0 – seem to me to be easy to understand and perfectly unambiguous (albeit the real electoral-systems expert could detect a couple of fudges).

“Worst argument – permanent coalitions.”

Ken Clarke and Norman Tebbit are both in the Tory Party. We already have permanent coalitions, they are just organised in private, not public.

13. Cylux – here’s a slightly different angle on the point you make. To do well under AV a party must be popular enough both to win plenty of first or second places in the initial tally and to secure the second and later preferences of supporters of lower-placed candidates. A party which fails in either respect is likely to do badly.

The question is: how many of the votes currently cast for each party are tactical and would therefore go elsewhere under AV? It is likely that all parties benefit in some measure from tactical voting in particular constituencies, but the general assumption seems to be that the biggest beneficiaries are the Lib Dems. So if a loss of tactical support due AV pushed them down into third place or worse in the initial tally they will lose seats; and if general unpopularity meant they couldn’t secure the second and later preferences of supporters of lower-placed candidates they would lose even more.

16/Jonathan Phillips: Yes, those explanations seem entirely accurate (and for the avoidance of doubt, my comment to Chaise wasn’t referring to you). It’s not so much explanations about how to vote or how the vote is counted that go wrong – those are fairly straightforward – it’s when people start talking about the implications of that:
“no more safe seats” or “every candidate needs 50% support” or “much less proportional than FPTP” or “will lead to permanent coalitions” that it all gets rather dubious – on both the Yes and No sides.

Now you know why she’s a “Minister without Portfolio”

Am i the only one to notice the “No to AV” google ad on this page?

well said @17

23. Shatterface

The case for AV has to be made on the basis it more accurately reflects the wishes of the electorate – and on that basis alone.

Defeating the BNP is about persuading people not to vote for them not maintaining a system that excludes them by a built-in bias against any party other than the main three.

What mandate does she think she has to lecture us on democracy. As far as I can see she has never been elected to anything in her life.

She is Cameron’s token ethnic female in the establishment and, in the wake of such garbage, it is reasonable to ask what value we get for the £50k of taxpayers money she claims from the Lords.

19 cim. “No more safe seats under AV” is simply wrong – I think someone was copying from an account of the benefits of STV. “Permanent coalition” is also wrong, though AV might perhaps make coalition or minority govts more likely in UK – but see Canada and India for examples of FPTP doing the same thing only more so. “Even less proportional” is certainly true – if only because AV lets people vote honestly, and seats won are likely to be even further out of line with first preference votes than they are with all those Xs. AV would bring out just how “unfair” any system is under which all MPs are elected from single-member constituencies – hence need for small “leavening” of additional members as suggested by Jenkins (AV+) – not so much proportional as mitigated majoritarian.

26. Chaise Guevara

“The case for AV has to be made on the basis it more accurately reflects the wishes of the electorate – and on that basis alone.

Defeating the BNP is about persuading people not to vote for them not maintaining a system that excludes them by a built-in bias against any party other than the main three.”

This.

I used to find Ms Warsi cute.
Now I only find her dumb.

(A development that also happens with some of my ex-girlfriends, oddly.)

The idea of Sayeeda Warsi plumping the depths is somehow more convincing than merely plumbing them, isn’t it?

It’s also factually wrong as well. The whole point of AV is that a candidate requires more than 50% of the votes (after redistribution) in an area. Truly marginal candidates will not pick up a vast number of 2nd 3rd and 4th preferences. The only thing that might happen is that redistribution will aggregate fascist votes together, so we see the actual support they get. That also assumes that all fascists don’t put a mainstream party in the 2nd or 3rd position, at which point those “fascist votes” disappear into the bulk of the non-fascist vote pool.

This is the problem, that the critics of AV are describing the negatives of PR rather than AV, and a particular brand of PR at that.

I find the argument that AV reduces the BNP’s chances more persuasive: they are less likely than other parties to pick up transfers, and unlike under FPTP they will be unable to win on a minority vote. Under FPTP, the BNP could win an election with 30% (or less) of the vote, the opposition parties being split.

I’ve heard some argue that AV will lead to a more centrist parliament; now I’ve heard that AV will lead to a more extreme parliament. The first may be closer to the truth, though I don’t find either argument particularly strong.

As for the “whole point” of AV being to give minor parties a chance – or moderate minor parties – as some commenters have asserted, if so then AV fails badly. Look at Australia, the only major country to use AV for legislative elections. Like the UK, it elected a Green MP for the first time ever last year. And in the 90s, it had a fairly large centre party – the Democrats, who were a sister-party of our Lib Dems – consistently winning 10% of the vote while failing to pick up a single seat. Generally, the Australian House of Representatives is no better at providing minor parties (moderate or otherwise) with representation than the Commons is. And nor does it lead to more frequent hung parliaments. Last year’s hung parliament was their first for a long long time.

Generally speaking, almost all of what opponents of AV say about AV is nonsense, but the great majority of what supporters of AV say about it is at best either dubious or exaggerated.

AV is an improvement over FPTP, but not a huge one I’m afraid. I’ll vote for it though (because it’s still an improvement) and hope others will. And I think a move to genuine reform is marginally more likely if AV is accepted than if it is rejected.

Sunny,

The other major flaw in her reasoning is this: by depriving people of feeling that voting is empowering and useful, we drive even more into extremism.

I have a problem with voting BNP – but the best response to that should be to deal with the deprivation, helplessness and lack of economic security that drives those people to extremists in the first place. You don’t write them off and devise a political system that shuts out views you don’t like.

Well said.

this person is insufferable…still…more reason to vote for AV methinks.

Forward to a glorious new era of ‘lukewarm politics’!
The pro-alternative vote lobby is right that AV would help to kill off political extremism – and that is precisely why we should oppose it.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10347/

The pro-alternative vote lobby is right that AV would help to kill off political extremism – and that is precisely why we should oppose it.

That is some new level of stupidity – even for Spiked. FPTP was designed precisely to keep out extremists, and its the system that most pushes people towards the centrism. AV at least allows you to express more choice and indicate marginal interests.
As I said, new level of stupid.

spiked really are full of shit arent they. what is the point of spiked? where do they get their funding? reading through their articles it all seems like some sort of weird cult with a hidden agenda.

Hidden?

Joe – Shh, you’ll make damon cry.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 Sunny

“That is some new level of stupidity – even for Spiked. FPTP was designed precisely to keep out extremists, and its the system that most pushes people towards the centrism. AV at least allows you to express more choice and indicate marginal interests.”

And the funny thing is, even if it was true, the argument would still amount to “Fairer voting won’t get the results I want! Waaaaa!”

Sunny/37: FPTP was designed precisely to keep out extremists, and its the system that most pushes people towards the centrism.

I suspect FPTP is sufficiently old that it predates concerns about extremism. Actually, I suspect it’s sufficiently old that “designed” is probably the wrong term.

At any rate, it doesn’t necessarily cause centrism – it just means that it’s difficult to get more than two viable parties. They might be near the centre, or they might – see the US Republicans, for instance – actually be quite extreme.

AV is more anti-extremist (though not necessarily pro-centrist) than FPTP.

Condorcet is considerably more anti-extremist and pro-centrist than either FPTP or AV. Ridiculously so, in some cases.

Excuse me for being a bit dim, but isn’t this point made in the Spiked article about right?

Such a set-up would have a negative impact on the kind of candidates parties put forward for elections in the first place. Which political party will risk standing a hardcore individual – a deep-blue Tory or a workerist Labourite – when it knows that if its candidate fails to secure 50 per cent of the vote in the first count then the views of other parties’ voters may become key?

The reason that these concerns don’t seem to bother pro-AV campaigners, the reason they don’t mind the inevitable drift towards lukewarm politics that AV would bring about, is because they consider hardcore political people to be unpalatable.

It says this quite explicitly on the ”Yes to Fairer Votes” website:

AV redresses the balance. AV gives voters more of a say and forces candidates to work harder to ensure they have the backing of most voters in their constituency. Divisive or complacent candidates would tend to do badly – which is how it should be.

Divisive means extremist I presume. Why that article is called a: ”new level of stupid” …. when they have made several direct quotes from supporters of the Yes campaign saying how extremists will be marginalised .. I don’t know.

It would be easier to understand this if some example constituency contests from the last election were given as examples. Like the Hammersmith constituency say:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/constituency/b98.stm

If it had been AV would it have made any difference?

40. damon If a particular candidate is heartily disliked by the majority of voters their second and subsequent preferences will cumulate against him/her and he/she will lose – and what’s wrong with that? A candidate who is interesting, personable, original, oddball, human etc. is quite likely to accumulate sufficient “alternative votes” to win, even if his/her views are well outside the centrist mainstream – cuddly Ken Livingstone, for example.

Btw, just a word on this thread title. Doesn’t ”playing the race card” have a different meaning to what Baroness Warsi actually did?

It usually means introducing race into a discussion, in a racist or underhand way.
Talking about the BNP – even in an alarmist way, is not ””playing the race card” as far as I understand it.
Is it?

“‘will bring in fascism‘.”

LMAO! Already brought in.
It’s the fastest growing portion of the UK population…Islamofacists.

Just as The Grand Mufti slaughtered Jews for Hitler while staying in Nazi luxury (in-between expecting SS troops).

Just how the Muslim Waffen SS Division carved it’s way through The Balkans.

Just as veiled Muslim women marched through London carrying “God Bless Hitler” signs.

Just as Muslims at anti-Israel rallies during the last Gaza ‘war’ gave Nazi salutes and carried signs saying “Islam will finish what Hitler Started” and “Jews are the fossil fuel”……..

So we can see the fascist are already, openly, historically, presently right in the heart of our very existence.
And so called liberals and the Left are happy to shield them with the fake argument of non-existent ‘racism’ (Islam is not a race) while attacking the likes of the powerless EDL (who have never blown up any London subway trains, set fire to airports, or called for the murder of writers and cartoonists).

Fascism doe snot have to creep in to Britain, The Left and the false liberals are holding open the door for it.

And in fact…Look how the current voting system has literally flooded the likes of Tower Hamlets with some of the most sexually bigoted, rabidly homophobic, rabidly anti-semetic, utterly intolerant local government in living (if indeed all time) memory.

Google Tower Hamlets/Islam and then ask yourselves if fascists are not already, openly, in power in the very capital of our country!

42. damon

Btw, just a word on this thread title. Doesn’t ”playing the race card” have a different meaning to what Baroness Warsi actually did?

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
Alice Through the Looking Glass.

This could be quoted a dozen times a day on this site, but that’s socialists for you.

Sunny needs to know that one doesn’t “plumb to” anything – you plumb + noun phrase.

“Playing the race card” usually means pandering to racism, attempting to frighten people who are anyway somewhat intolerant into becoming more xenophobic, with a view to achieving some kind of political advantage. What Warsi did was to play on the anti-racist feelings of people who are generally tolerant with a view to frightening them (us) into voting No to AV. So she is raising race as an issue, even though it is completely irrelevant: couldn’t that be seen as “playing the race card”?. And of course she was quite wrong about the implications of AV for the BNP anyway.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  7. Mat Flusk

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    They can, they will RT @sunny_hundal: Warsi plays race card to campaign agst electoral rfm. Can Tories get any lower? http://bit.ly/hin1DY

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  35. Tom Pollock

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  50. Sayeeda Warsi does have a point about AV « Northernheckler's Blog

    […] Sayeeda Warsi plays the race card to campaign against electoral reform (liberalconspiracy.org) […]





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