AV system 'would give fascists more power'

A switch to the Alternative Vote for Westminster elections would give more power to fascists, Conservative co-chairman Baroness Warsi warned today.

Lady Warsi said that AV represented "a serious danger to our democracy" and urged voters to reject it in the nationwide referendum on May 5.



Ditching first-past-the-post for the AV system, under which voters rank candidates in order of preference and votes are redistributed as the least popular are eliminated, would "reward extremism and give oxygen to extremist groups" like the British National Party, she said.



But supporters of AV dismissed her claims, arguing that it was be "the most extremist-proof of all electoral systems" as it requires the eventual winner to secure the support of 50% of voters.



The Muslim Council of Britain and the Operation Black Vote campaign pointed out that the BNP are campaigning for a No vote, and argued that AV will force candidates to "reach out" to a broader constituency of voters.



Denouncing AV as a "disastrous, discredited and unfair voting system", Lady Warsi said it would encourage mainstream candidates to pander to supporters of fringe parties in the hope of benefiting from their second preferences once their first choice is eliminated.



Voters would feel free to give their first preference to extremists as a protest, secure in the knowledge that it would be transferred to a mainstream candidate in later rounds, giving parties like the BNP "more votes and more long-term legitimacy".



And with hung parliaments more likely under AV, smaller groups would often hold the balance of power and enjoy "greater stature and credibility" as they were courted by the leaders of larger parties seeking to form a coalition.



Lady Warsi warned that many supporters of AV saw it as "a stepping stone" to full proportional representation - a system which delivered the BNP two MEPs in the 2009 European elections.



Lady Warsi also said that AV would give "a second or third bite at the cherry" to backers of unpopular fringe candidates.



"It's not just the sheer unfairness of this which gets me," she said.



"It's the fact that for some completely arbitrary reason, AV gives more power to those people - fringe voters, Monster Raving Loonies, and yes, fascists - who are voting for precisely the kind of extreme policies most people want to marginalise.



"You don't need me to tell you that this represents a serious danger to our democracy.



"It means that bigots will be given more power in our politics and extremists will look to gain more influence over mainstream parties.



"The danger is that under AV, our whole political system would take a giant leap backwards, becoming more warped and disproportionate as fringe voters hold sway."



But 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."







Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said: "We believe that politics can be better.



"AV means that all voters will have a stronger say in our elections, and that all politicians will have to reach out further - and secure majority support from the communities they seek to represent.



"The BNP are campaigning for a No vote because they know what a Yes vote means - that racists who won't reach out have no future."



Simon Woolley from Operation Black Vote said: "AV means all MPs will have to reach out beyond a narrow targeted group of voters and represent people who often feel neglected by our present system.



"The fact that the BNP desperately want a No vote speaks volumes."



And Brij Mohan Gupta, chair of the Hindu Culture and Heritage Centre said: "AV will give more power to ordinary voters to decide the fate of the nation."













Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Falkner said she was "shocked and frankly appalled by the distortions being spun" by Baroness Warsi and the No campaign.



"While the BNP agree with Baroness Warsi and are calling for a 'No' vote, the Muslim Council of Britain and Operation Black Vote have strongly come out in favour of reform because to truly stop extremist parties getting elected, we need to vote Yes," said the Muslim peer.



"Under AV, no one can get elected unless the majority of people support them, which quite obviously makes it harder, not easier, for extremist parties. That's exactly why the BNP are campaigning for a 'No' vote.



"The No campaign has resorted to baseless scaremongering because they can't make any positive case for the status quo. People won't be fooled by this."



But Labour MP Keith Vaz said: "Many of the people campaigning for AV know it's a hopeless system. They readily admit what they really want is proportional representation. For them, AV is a stepping stone to that goal.



"So, what they're really telling us is they want to bring in a voting system that would guarantee the BNP seats in the House of Commons.



"The Yes campaign's ultimate goal is a system that lets the BNP in. I'm happy to stick with a system that keeps them out, that's why I'm saying No to AV."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future