Thirty years since the huge Rock Against Racism gig in London's Victoria Park made a stand against the emergence of a far right challenge in the capital (then in the form of the openly fascist National Front), this weekend saw an event intended to demonstrate the unity of Londoners from all ethnic backgrounds against the politics of racism and division. The message must go out across the city - use your vote in the Londonwide list on Thursday's elections to make it harder for the British National Party to make the 5% threshold needed to get them a seat on the Greater London Assembly.
There is a real danger of the BNP gaining a platform for their message of hate. But at the same time, it is vital people understand that - even if the far right has no real presence in your locality - thanks to the proportional voting system, every registered elector in London has the chance to make their vote count.
It is difficult to make direct comparisons between how the NF was crushed and the battle to combat the BNP today - not least because Nick Griffin is attempting to conceal their vicious agenda in order to appeal to voters wanting to register a protest. The Economist claims that in the 70's "the far right was kept at bay by the electoral system", pointing to the NFs 5.3% share of the vote in the GLC elections of 1977, which was not sufficient to win them a seat under a First-Past-the-Post system. Firstly, this misses the whole point of an electoral system - which does not exist to sweep uncomfortable minority opinions under the carpet but to give representation to candidates in line with the way votes were actually cast.
And, in any case, a "like-for-like" comparison can't be made like this - under the FPTP system in 1977, Labour voters in areas like Westminster, Wandsworth or Chelsea might well have concluded that their vote would've been wasted, and so not turned out. But under a PR system they still would still have an incentive. The cumulative effect of such voters turning out would be a higher turnout, which would've made it harder for the BNP to meet a 5% threshold.
Progressives and democrats should not bemoan the fairness of the voting system and hark back to systems which skew the way candidates are elected - we should concentrate on winning the arguments, giving a positive alternative and inspiring people to get out and use their votes for democratic parties that promote unity and mutual respect.