Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 14:29 UK

Basildon boxer to fight election as 'None Of The Above'

By Ben Bland
Political Reporter, BBC Essex

Terry Marsh
Ex-boxer Terry Marsh has changed his name by deed poll

Voters in parts of Essex will see a line on their ballot papers enabling them to vote for "None Of The Above".

But it is NOT a new official way of abstaining - it is the new name of the ex-boxer formerly known as Terry Marsh.

He has changed his name by deed poll to "None Of The Above X", and is standing as a parliamentary candidate in South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Electoral law bans parties from using the name, but not individuals.

World champion

Mr X, as he is now known, became a household name in March 1987 when he won the World Light Welterweight title.

The former world champion said he is "legitimising the election in this constituency," but claimed he will not take the seat in Parliament if he wins at the ballot box.

The Law
In the UK a political party cannot be registered with the name "None of the Above". The ban was brought in by The Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) (Amendment) Order 2005.
In a memorandum, the reasoning given was that the phrase was "misleading and liable to cause confusion among voters and might potentially undermine the electoral process".
But while the ban applies to the name of a party, there is no equivalent law to stop a person changing their own name by deed poll and appearing on the ballot paper as "None Of the Above".

He told BBC Essex: "I don't take it for one moment that it would be a vote for me.

"I'm doing what I think the Electoral Commission should be doing and what should be on every ballot paper in any electoral process."

If Mr X won the most votes he would be entitled to take the seat if he later changed his mind. If he chose not to, people in South Basildon would not be represented in the House of Commons.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said its role was to make sure the election was fair and that it would be for Parliament to legislate on any changes to the ballot papers.

Basildon District Council is running the election in the constituency. Paul Burkinshaw, manager of democratic services, said: "Candidates can ask for a commonly used name to be included on the ballot paper.

"The Returning Officer has the discretion whether to permit the use of this commonly used name depending on whether it is likely to confuse the voter," he added.

But Mr Burkinshaw said this situation was different: "The Returning Officer has no discretion on the use of a person's actual name and must take the nomination at face value."

Crucial votes

The move could divert crucial votes in South Basildon and East Thurrock, where boundary changes make it a close race. Based on 2005 results, Labour has a notional majority of 905 votes (2.14%) over the Conservatives.

Some voters in Pitsea were confused about the addition to the ballot paper.

One of them, Phil who lives in the constituency, said: "Fundamentally I think it's sound. The establishment - in other words the three main parties - need to wake up to the fact that they cannot assume everybody's going to vote for them and that we have an alternative.

"But this might be confusing for some people."

The Electoral Commission's advice is that people should read the ballot paper carefully and make sure they cast a vote for the candidate they really want to represent them.

Candidates declared for South Basildon and East Thurrock include: Conservative: Stephen Metcalfe; BNP: Chris Roberts; Labour: Angela Smith; UK Independence Party: Kerry Smith; Lib Dem: Geoff Williams; Independent: None of the Above X.

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