Electoral reform 'would hold back BNP and give Labour fifth term'

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Indy Politics

The voting system is helping extreme political parties, senior Labour figures said last night. Labour MPs and peers warned that the first-past-the-post system was allowing "safe" seats to become a breeding ground for extremists.

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, where the BNP has gained up to 35 per cent of the vote in council elections, said the voting system "facilitates extremists". He said it was only a matter of time before the far right became a serious electoral threat.

At a Commons seminar held by the Labour Campaign for Electoral reform, Mr Cruddas argued that the current voting system meant parties focused on marginal seats, ignoring seats where the BNP was gaining. He blamed the Government for framing its policies by focus group and failing to address issues exploited by extreme groups, such as the shortage of council homes.

"The usual argument is that first-past-the-post chokes off extremists. Well my argument is that it facilitates extremists because political parties camp on the middle ground," he said.

Oona King, the former Labour MP who lost her Bethnal Green and Bow seat to George Galloway of Respect, said electoral reform would help see off the far right. She warned Labour would have little hope of a fifth term without PR and suggested Labour talk to the Liberal Democrats about the way forward.