Sayeeda Warsi: The Sun, Why a vote for AV is a vote for BNP

Eighty years ago, Winston Churchill warned the House of Commons that the Alternative Vote was “the stupidest, the least scientific, the most unreal” system of voting.

He predicted that under AV elections would be decided by the “most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”.

It is no big surprise that Churchill was opposed to AV.

After all, AV flies in the face of a fundamental British principle – one that has been the cornerstone of our democracy and a beacon to the rest of the world – the principle of one person, one vote.

Look around the world and you see the legacy. Some 2.4 BILLION people use our voting system to choose their governments. It’s the most widely used system in the world.

So what on earth will all these 2.4billion people think if they discover after May 5 that Britain has turned its back on two centuries of history and brought in a voting system which no one understands?

But for me personally, there is an even bigger problem with AV: It gives more power to extremists.

Why? The whole system is so complicated the problem is all too easily obscured.

But the fact is that under AV, some people have more votes counted than others.

Too often, those people tend to be the ones who vote for extremist parties.

This means 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.

It could have serious repercussions in constituencies where the BNP vote is bigger than normal.

Take Dewsbury, which I lost by just over 4,000 votes in 2005.

The BNP vote was 5,066 – more than the difference in votes between second and first place.

It’s not hard to imagine where AV could lead in places like Dewsbury – more inflammatory campaigns, and policies which appeal to extremists.

The second big problem with AV is that it risks giving parties such as the BNP more legitimacy.

Under AV, voters would be able to register a protest vote without considering the electoral implications and then transfer back to a mainstream party.

The long-term effects of that are clear: More votes, more power, more long-term legitimacy for the BNP and other fringe parties – so it is absolutely vital that we defeat AV.

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.

It is a record we should all be very proud of.

We would be crazy to abandon this tried and tested system – and that’s why, like Churchill 80 years ago, Britain should again say no to AV.