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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
'Wrong parties' won local polls
Polling station
Voters did not always get the council they chose
Many people did not get what they voted for in this year's local elections, electoral reform campaigners say.

There were six councils in London where the party with the most votes did not take the largest number of seats.

In Barking, the BNP gained 12 councillors to the Conservatives' one, even though the Tories won more votes.

The Electoral Reform Society said: "It is no wonder so many people failed to turn out when the voting system so distorts their political voice."

The six London councils where the party with the largest share of the vote did not win were Haringey, Kingston, Islington, Camden, Brent and Hounslow.

The ERS, which campaigns for proportional representation, said the "wrong party" also gained the most seats in areas outside London, such as Birmingham and Bolton.

ELECTION SCOREBOARD
  Councillors Councils  
PARTY +/- TOT +/- TOT  
CON
316
1830
11
68
LAB
-319
1439
-17
30
LD
2
909
1
13
OTH
-2
240
0
0
NOC
-
-
6
66
After 176 of 176 councils
NOC = No control

And there were many councils where there is not a single Conservative councillor despite the party securing a significant share of the vote.

Labour suffered the same problem in Sutton, the ERS said, and the Lib Dems in Westminster, while "The Green Party continues to suffer a similar fate in many areas".

"Under the current voting system, a single party can achieve dominance on a council despite securing a minority of the votes cast.

"This is bad because it means there is no effective opposition and little proper scrutiny of the decisions being made," the ERS said.

'Desperate need'

In the London Borough of Newham Labour won 90% of the seats with less than 42% of the vote.

In many areas the result was a foregone conclusion, the ERS added.

Britain's political system is in danger of "meltdown" if major changes are not made, an independent report says

Nationally, the Conservatives took the largest share of the vote and elected 1830 councillors. The Lib Dems came second in share of the vote, returning 909 councillors. Labour, which came third in share of the vote, elected 1439 councillors.

ERS chief executive Ken Ritchie said: "These local elections once again show the desperate need for a change in the way we elect our councillors."

Scotland is moving to a system of proportional representation in the 2007 local elections but a similar move has been ruled out for England.

A cross party group of more than 60 MPs is campaigning for a referendum on changing the electoral system, at both a national and local level.

They have backed Labour MP David Chaytor's Electoral Choice Bill, launched last November, but it stands little chance of becoming law without government support.

Campaign group Charter 88 also backed the bill. Co-director Peter Facey said the local election results showed the "electoral system is longer fit for it's purpose- to reflect the views of the people".

'Unhealthy'

Of the three main parties, only the Liberal Democrats actively campaign for electoral reform.

Labour's 2005 manifesto says the party is committed to reviewing the new electoral systems which were introduced for the Scottish, Welsh, and European parliamentary elections and the London assembly.

But it adds that a referendum will be necessary before there is any change in Westminster elections.

PR wouldn't improve the system - it would be extremely unhealthy for democracy
Oliver Heald, Conservatives

The Conservatives are currently holding a policy review of democracy, chaired by former chancellor Ken Clarke, but proportional representation is not likely to be on the agenda.

Commenting on the ERS report, Oliver Heald, shadow secretary for constitutional affairs, said: "Proportional representation would lead to the wrong people being elected.

"Under such a system, candidates can be elected on a small proportion of the vote, while the most popular one can lose.

"This opens the door to extremists like the BNP, and those with a questionable democratic mandate. It also upsets the balance of executive authority, so that minority parties end up as the power brokers in government.

"PR wouldn't improve the system - it would be extremely unhealthy for democracy."


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