Letter: Lib-Lab deals

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Paddy Ashdown often cites local government to prove that the politics of co-operation can succeed. He is right. As the leader of the Liberal Democrats on a county council that was "hung" for many years, I practised it with some success.

But he fails to understand that meaningful co-operation is impossible under majority rule because one party holds all the cards and the other none. On a contentious issue the majority party will always prevail. The alternative would be for it to ignore the views of its own members and side with the minority party. Would Blair ever be foolish enough to risk splitting his own party by doing that? Of course not.

We will get the politics of co-operation at Westminster when, and only when, we get rid of the absurd "winner takes all" voting system. So it is particularly depressing that the moment the prospect of PR and plurality and genuine co-operation emerges, Ashdown should undermine it by seeking to re-create a two-party line-up with a centre-left coalition versus a Conservative right.

The response of leading Liberal Democrats to criticism that PR would lead to weak government is equally depressing. "Don't worry," they say, "the Jenkins proposals will still result in majority rule most of the time." So that's all right then?

Don't we need majority rule like we need a hole in the head?

Professor ROBERT PRITCHARD

Leicester

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