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Holger Kroll

First Past the Post and BNP

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It has been a long held belief that the first past the post / plurality electoral system keeps extremists out of power. Based on the example of the rise of the Nazi Party in the Weimar Republic the view has been that systems of proportional representation make it easier for these parties to win seats. In a report published today (20/01/04) The Electoral Reform Society has turned this argument on its head. Below a BBC article summarizing the report.

Campaigner raises BNP power fears

By Ben Davies

BBC News Online community affairs reporter

The far-right British National Party could win control in Burnley unless the voting system is changed, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

The organisation claims that under the first past the post system the BNP could end up in charge of Burnley borough council within two elections.

According to chief executive Ken Ritchie changing the voting system would hamper the party's progress.

"In Burnley there is a strong case for proportional representation," he said.

Luke Smith celebrates the beginning of his short career as a councillor

Mr Ritchie added: "Last year the BNP won six seats in the 12 wards it contested, inspite of having received little more than a third of the votes in these seats.

"If people vote the same way this year, the BNP will win a further six seats and in the following election we could see the BNP holding 100% of the seats in these wards with only a third of the vote."

In a report out on Tuesday, the Electoral Reform Society argues that supporters of mainstream parties would rather vote for "any other party than the BNP" and therefore a form of PR called STV, Single Transferable Vote, could be put to use.

Wasted votes?

"At present the votes of many people who oppose racism are wasted on losing candidates, but STV would allow those votes to be transferred to other candidates opposed to extremism. Using STV the BNP would only win those seats which its electoral strength justifies," according to the report.

The society also argues that PR would help give voters a greater sense of connection with their local authority.

The BNP was briefly the official opposition in Burnley after making gains in the local elections last May, although it lost that title to the Liberal Democrats in June.

That came when a BNP councillor, Luke Smith, was suspended from the party in August, following a brawl at its Red White and Blue festival.

He then resigned from the council, prompting a by-election which the Lib Dems won.

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Bradford, the West Yorkshire city I live in, has a recent history that is chequered with racial problems and is an area in which the political extremists are attempting to develop their support. In 2001 we had race riots, covered in depth on the BBC website. These riots were the worst Britain has seen for 20 years.

In recent weeks we have seen The White Nationalist Party apply for permission to hold a political march in the city. It, along with all other gatherings within a 5 mile radius of City hall, have been banned. See the telegraph and Argus Website for further details).

Extremist parties in the city have polled relatively well in recent elections, at the last national election over 1600 votes were cast for the BNP in Bradford North, 1100 votes went to extreme left wing parties in Bradford South. At the most recent local elections in he region of 8000 votes were cast for extremist parties.

To put things into perspective: Labour polled roughly 28,000 votes across the region, having a candidate in every constituency. The BNP stood in 9 of the 31 seats contested.

In some areas it was clear that tactical voting did occur to prevent BNP success, in the constituency I live in many Conservative and Labour supporters voted for the Liberal Democrat candidate to ensure that she, rather than the BNP, was returned:

*Ann Ozolins (Lib Dem) 2,266

Stewart Williams (BNP) 874

Harry Sissling (Con) 596

Shofiqul Islam (Lab) 497

Judith Wever (Green) 119

Majority 1,392

If the local election voting pattern was replicated in general elections the half dozen local wards that make up the Westminster constituency would return a Lib Dem candidate by a massive majority - in Westminster elections they usually come in a poor third, occasionally fourth behind the Green party.

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It has been a long held belief that the first past the post / plurality electoral system keeps extremists out of power. Based on the example of the rise of the Nazi Party in the Weimar Republic the view has been that systems of proportional representation make it easier for these parties to win seats. In a report published today (20/01/04) The Electoral Reform Society has turned this argument on its head.

You beat me to it. I intended to post this after reading this article in today’s Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics...1126820,00.html

I have started a debate on different political electoral systems at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=243

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A recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust suggests that the BNP will make considerable gains in next month’s local elections. Most will be former Labour Party voters from working class areas. A growing number do not see it as an extremist party. Its main support is coming from people who believe that the BNP really care about their concerns and see New Labour as a middle class party.

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I think that there is a case for proportional representation.

I also think that it is necessary to defeat the BNP.

I would not confuse the two!

The BNP seems to be trading on the argument that Labour has betrayed the white working class. Their appeal is simple or simplistic: jobs and homes for whites at the expense of blacks and asylum-seekers.

Unless (for example) the trade unions break with Labour and start fielding working class candidates prepared to fight for the community, there will be nobody to speak for the working class community and ppl may well turn to the BNP as an act of desperation.

The BNP also notoriously use violence and threats of violence to intimidate members of ethnic minorities from voting.

And then of course people have the same choice as the French electorate in the presidential election: "vote for the crook not the nazi"

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Nick Cohen has an article in today's observer:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/sto...1232361,00.html

He argues that:

1) the convicions (criminal convictions) of the BNP leadership alienate enough voters to neutralise their threat.

2) The respectable UKIP is far more dangerous.

3) RESPECT has been pushed into defending the muslim community and has toned down its opposition to the mistreatment of gay people as a result.

He concludes that neither RESPECT nor the BNP will win many votes.

It is a complacent article but it raises some good questions.

Any comments?

I intend to vote for RESPECT as there are no Socialist Party candidates in my area and RESPECT are at least anti-war and anti-privatisation. I share concerns about some of their policies however!

Derek McMillan

http://socialistteachers.tripod.com

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Some members have been discussing this issue here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=861

I was considering voting for Repect. However, after visiting its website, I was very unimpressed with its attempt to smear the Liberal Democrats with a completely false story about political corruption. It reminded me what an unscrupulous character George Galloway is and have now decided to vote either Green or Liberal Democrat.

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