January 20, 2004
Electoral System Change 'Could Stop Extremist
By James Lyons
January 20, 2004
Proportional representation could stop
extremists like the British National Party taking council seats
despite low support, campaigners said today.
A switch from first past the post to PR has traditionally been
thought to benefit minority parties.
But the current system cheats those who would rather have anyone
representing them than the BNP, according to the Electoral Reform
The party’Äôs gains on councils in the north have caused
Chief executive Ken Ritchie said PR could reverse them and break
the stranglehold the three main parties have on councils in some
parts of the country.
’ÄúThe changes we are putting forward are more likely to reduce
the representation of the Labour Party in some parts of the north
of England, in other parts it might be the Conservatives, in
another it might be the Liberal Democrats,’Äù he said.
’ÄúWe simply want to see fair representation.
’ÄúWe want to see local councils that are more representative of
the communities that they serve.’Äù
Mr Ritchie told BBC Radio 4’Äôs Today programme: ’ÄúIt might be
that a party like the BNP gets a third of the votes.
’ÄúIt may be that the other two thirds of the voters would prefer
to have anybody other than a BNP councillor.
’ÄúBut if that two thirds is spread over the other main parties
then it only needs a third of the votes to win.
’ÄúTherefore smaller parties like the BNP, if they get to this
threshold where they are winning seats, they can win a majority of
the seats on a council on very much a minority of votes.
’ÄúWe have seen that happening not with the BNP but with other
parties who win a majority on a council with a minority of the
Mr. Ritchie insisted the society, which publishes a report on the
issue today, was not out to thwart the BNP.
’ÄúWe rejected a system that would have made it almost impossible
for the BNP to win seats,’Äù he said.
’ÄúWe want all legitimate parties, all parties that are operating
and campaigning within the law, to have an equal chance.’Äù