Opinion Former Article

ERS: BNP can be beaten by reform

The Electoral Reform Society has expressed concern over the election of extremist MEPs, but sees it as further evidence of people's rejection of Westminster style of politics.

According to Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society:

"Yesterday's election of BNP candidates as MEP shows the extent to which voters have been alienated by mainstream politics. The BNP are a nasty lot, but many people have voted for them because they do not feel the major parties are representing them as they should. We need a radical change in politics, and that will only happen if we change the way we elect our national parliament.

"The anti-BNP 'Hope not Hate' campaign was all very well, but if we are to give people hope that politicians will heed their concerns we need a different sort of politics. We need a more proportional system to make the Commons representative and capable of holding the Government to account, but one in which we can choose our MPs in a way that makes them accountable to us.

"The Closed List System used for the Euro Elections is the worst form of proportional system the Government could have chosen. And it shows precisely what happens when you leave choices like this in the hands of politicians. If they had used preferential systems like the Single Transferable Vote, yes parties would have enjoyed less control, but it would have been almost impossible to return so many extremist candidates.

"Like First-Past-the-Post, party lists assume, incorrectly, that when voters make their mark they hold all other parties in equal contempt. Mainstream voters don't want the BNP. Even those sympathetic to BNP policies apparently don't seem to want them. [1]

"What they currently lack is a voting system that allows them to differentiate between the candidates they are prepared to live with and ones they most certainly can't."

The Electoral Reform Society is also concerned that the use of the 'first-past-the-post' system was used for local elections, making possible the election of BNP candidates. In a ward in Coalville in NW Leicestershire, the BNP won a seat with only 27.7% of the votes, while in Burnley a BNP candidate won with only 30.6% of the votes.

Dr Ritchie added:

"In these wards people now have councillors detested by the majority of decent people. That could only have happened under our first-past-the-post system. It could not have happened in Scotland where they now use STV for local elections. It is high time England followed Scotland's example and changes to a system that gives people the representation they want."

Notes

[1] See notes on the BNP's image problem , even among those sympathetic to their politics is discussed in the forthcoming The New Extremism in 21 Century Britain, edited by Professor Roger Eatwell from the University of Bath and DR Matthew Goodwin from The University of Manchester, Routledge, September 2009 http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=4677

About us:

The Electoral Reform Society is campaigning to change the way we choose our politicians. We believe that a fair voting system will improve our democracy, allow politicians to better represent you and help them to tackle the serious issues facing our society. Fairness, accountability and a real choice for voters should not be compromised. The Society advocates the use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=48k in public elections.

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