The Methodist Church in Great Britain fears that a low turnoutcould aid extreme political parties in June's local and Europeanelections. The Church is urging all of its members to take anactive part in the elections and to make an informed vote for oneof the mainstream parties.

Methodist ministers and congregations are involved in many localprojects aimed at preventing increased electoral success forparties such as the BNP.
· The Methodist Church in Bradford is one of a group of localchurches issuing Rainbow Ribbons to all their congregations. Thesewill be worn as a statement of inclusivity and against divisivepolitics.
· The Revd Paul Flowers, Superintendent of the Bradford (GreatHorton) circuit, recently told the West Yorkshire Synod to votetactically in order to prevent any BNP gains. He said that the bestdefence against extremism is voting: "not voting only aids the BNP,but a higher turnout will hurt them."
· The North Lancashire District Synod has asked all of itschurches to prepare materials on the elections and encourage peopleto vote. The district churches will produce and distribute materialbefore postal ballots arrive in voters' homes in the week beginning23 May.
· The Revd Geoff Reid runs the Methodist Touchstone centre inBradford and has been busy alerting the area to the dangers posedby the BNP. He says, "the simple message we need to get across isthat this is not just another political party with the mainstreamparties ganging up against it. It is a political party that in itsconstitution and core beliefs is contrary to Christian gospel andhostile to the basic tenets of democracy itself."
· In Clitheroe, Lancashire, the Methodist Circuit of churcheswas part of an ecumenical and inter-faith campaign at the lastlocal election aimed at countering apathy and extremism. Thecampaign helped boost turnout to over 50% to ensure that noextremist candidates won.

Anthea Cox, Methodist Church Co-ordinating Secretary for PublicLife and Social Justice said, "Methodists across Britain are awareof the threat posed by the fielding of candidates by the BNP. The rise of parties that have a racist agenda is not confinedsolely to the north of England, where the BNP already holds 17council seats, but in many other areas.  There areconsiderable fears that the system of voting by proportionalrepresentation that is used in the European Elections and for theLondon Assembly could result in the BNP gaining seats with a verysmall percentage of the vote."

Cox added: "A key to preventing this happening is by ensuringthat there is a high turnout at the polls. Our Christianresponsibility to bring our witness to bear in politics is crucialat this time, when negative myths about asylum seekers as well asminority communities are being promoted. The web resource developedby The Methodist Church provides a source of information,activities for church groups and prayers for people to use whenconsidering these issues. With postal ballots lengthening thevoting period, it is important that people brief themselves on theissues from nominations being declared onwards."

In April the Methodist Church launched an online resource aimedat countering political extremism. It has also backed a Europeanelection guide produced by Churches Together in Britain and Irelandthat aims to inform voters of the facts behind many of the electiontopics, from economics and agriculture to immigration andasylum.