11 October 2014

Blackboard Politics: UKIP and BBCQT

A good, smart, and principled friend of mine posted the below picture on his Facebook feed earlier today. It makes a case I've heard time and again over the last few years, that being that UKIP is disproportionately present on BBC Question Time when compared to, say, the Green Party, which actually won a parliamentary seat in the last election.

Now, without getting into the fact that Nigel Farage is what TV producers would describe as "good value" from a viewing standpoint, or how Caroline Lucas's vote in Brighton was a mere 31.3%, which is hardly a resounding mandate, such that it's fair to say that her victory was an odd quirk of the First Past the Post system which requires candidates not so much to be "first past the post" as to be "just one vote more popular than the next candidate", I think this is a dodgy approach to the issue.

The fact is, as I said to my friend, that I think this chart is misleading for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that MP stands for "Member of Parliament", not "Member of Panel show."

First, the unbalanced nature of the UK's demographics means that if parties aren't seriously active in England, they're basically not playing the national game. I'm not saying that parties shouldn't be regarded as serious ones unless they're present in the rest of the Union too, but the reality is that England, with 85% of the population, is key to the whole thing, and this matters when it comes to presence on a national television programme. 

Second, if the BBC site is right, the Greens (1%), Sinn Fein (0.6%), the DUP (0.6%), and Plaid Cymru (0.6%) combined got 2.8% of the national vote in the 2010 general election, compared to UKIP's 3.1%. If anything, it looks like UKIP is slightly underrepresented compared to them.

Third, given the unrepresentative nature of the British electoral system, where the typical voter is less likely to have voted for his or her MP than otherwise, using the number of MPs as a measure of anything seems unwise. 

Fourth, in the 2009 European elections, UKIP was the second party across the UK, with 16.5% of the vote, and in the 2014 elections they were the leading party, with 27.5%. Aside from beating Labour, the Tories, and the Lib Dems, that's roughly three times what the four parties on this blackboard got combined.

I think UKIP gives wrong answers -- even dangerously and stupidly wrong answers -- to things perceived as serious problems, but I think their answers, and the problems they're addressing, need to be tackled properly.

And I don't think stuff like this helps.

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