Backlash against Warsi as she argues AV 'is a vote for the BNP'

Warsi: We would be crazy to abandon this tried and tested system
Warsi: We would be crazy to abandon this tried and tested system

By staff
Claims from Baroness Warsi that AV helps the BNP prompted a harsh backlash today.
In a speech near Cable Street, where anti-fascists fought back the march of Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts in 1936, the first Muslim to serve in Cabinet will argue that electoral reform would encourage candidates to pander to racists.
"AV could see candidates pandering to extremist voters - because to win a seat they will need to win the support of people whose first choices have already been eliminated," she said in an article for the Sun.
"It could have serious repercussions in constituencies where the BNP vote is bigger than normal.
"It's not hard to imagine where AV could lead in places like Dewsbury - more inflammatory campaigns, and policies which appeal to extremists."
Many anti-reform campaigners object to the way that AV allows voters to pick their preferred candidate from outside of the two mainstream parties while offering their preference in the mainstream race with their second preference vote.
"AV... risks giving parties such as the BNP more legitimacy," Baroness Warsi wrote.
"Under AV, voters would be able to register a protest vote without considering the electoral implications and then transfer back to a mainstream party.
"Generations have been served well by the British system, because under the first-past-the-post system fascists and extremists have consistently been excluded from parliament," she added.
"We would be crazy to abandon this tried and tested system."
But campaigners mocked Baroness Warsi for failing to mention that the BNP were campaigning for a 'no' vote.
Analysts believe this is because the fringe party relies on low turnout to get into power with a tiny minority of the vote.
Katie Ghose chair of Yes to Fairer Votes said:
"The 'no' campaign can't choose their supporters, but they can't escape the fact the BNP are campaigning for a 'no' vote. Maybe up is down and black is white, but Nick Griffin is still saying No to AV," said Katie Ghose, chair of Yes to Fairer Votes.
Liberal Democrat peer Kishwer Falkner added: "I'm shocked and frankly appalled by the distortions being spun today by Baroness Warsi and the 'no' campaign.
"Using the battle of Cable Street for her wildly inaccurate argument undermines the heroic and important action of that day, it ridicules the progress our society has made and will appeal only to the very people she says she wishes to stop."
Baroness Warsi is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and has taken a leading role in the 'no' campaign. Earlier this week, energy secretary Chris Huhne demanded she retract literature that claimed AV would cost the UK £250 million.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.