Letter: The Archer lessons

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The selection of candidates for mayor of London and the Archer affair demonstrate that the democratic process can be messy. For some, these events will bolster the case for less rather than more democracy. In fact they illustrate some of the virtues of democracy, even for those who do not enjoy the more rumbustious side of it.

Secret patronage, not democratic processes, gave Lord Archer his seat in the House of Lords and the title that goes with it. The deceptive quality of such titles has again been exposed. But because the voters have no say in who should legislate for them in the Lords, Archer may keep his seat for as long as he lives.

It has been the need to win votes and the public scrutiny that goes with that process that has excluded Archer from the office of mayor of London, however. And it was a wish to minimise voter disapproval that obliged the Conservative Party to withdraw the whip from their erstwhile candidate.

Democracy can indeed be untidy. It does not always work as we would wish. But it can still winnow some of the chaff from the grain.

JOHN PRATT

Centre for Citizenship

London SE23

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