From Sir Fred Catherwood Sir: Maybe we should not be in a great hurry to have local government for Yorkshire or Greater London, but absolute power in Westminster is not offset, as it is in all other democracies, by local government entrenched in a written constitution.

Nor is it offset by any of the range of safeguards that other democracies have developed: an elected head of state with clear and accepted powers; the division of power which prevents government from bribing MPs by prospect of office; a democratic secondchamber representing the regions; an independent central bank which prevents them from buying elections by debasing the currency; a fixed electoral timetable which prevents them from a quick election when they are ahead at the polls.

But, above all, and most dangerously, we, uniquely, can still have governments which are elected on a minority of the popular vote.

Constitutions are a safeguard for rough weather. If, for instance, in times of rising unemployment, an English nationalist party gained a Commons majority with 35 per cent of the popular vote on a thinly-veiled racialist platform, we have to ask what would stand in their way.

And if we think that this is not plausible, we should visit some of the no-go areas on the housing estates of our great cities and wonder what would happen if a party came along which was prepared to organise the young unemployed, giving them something to live for and, if need be, something to fight for.

Yours sincerely, FRED CATHERWOOD Balsham, Cambridgeshire 13 January