How David Lammy has exaggerated the BNP’s popularity

In a posting today on LabourList, David Lammy has talked up the popularity of the BNP by misquoting and misinterpreting evidence about how many people visit their website.

The MP for Tottenham wrote:

[The BNP] it attracts more than half of all internet traffic to political party sites, according to the online monitoring firm Hitwise.

But that’s not true.

I think what has happened here is that the popularity of the bnp.org.uk domain compared with conservatives.com, labour.org.uk, libdems.org.uk and so on has been confused with “all internet traffic to political party sites”. (Thanks to Hitwise for confirming to me that looking at just these national domains is indeed how they put their data together.)

It’s true that if you look at traffic to just the central party domains, and their subdomains, then the BNP site is the most popular. But – to take the example of the Liberal Democrats – libdems.org.uk and its subdomains are only part of our “national” web presence and actually only a small part of our overall web presence. At national, regional and local level we have literally hundreds of sites in total that are not part of libdems.org.uk. Their total traffic is several times greater than that to libdems.org.uk. By contrast, the BNP’s website traffic is overwhelmingly concentrated on that domain.

In other words, if you really looked at “all internet traffic to political party websites” you get a completely different picture.

This sort of exaggeration of the BNP’s popularity (quite possibly accidental in this case, though deliberate in others such as the Labour leaflets in the Downham, Lewisham council by-election which talked of the possibility of a BNP win) only helps the BNP. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.