Letter: Avoiding confusion over false candidates

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The Independent Online
Sir: Lesley Whittaker's piece on the Liberal Democrats' frustrations over their near miss in the European election in Devon (22 June) is understandable enough, but she fails to explain why, in a prime target seat for her party, her candidate's name was not so widely known and her party's campaign was not sufficiently targeted as to ensure that the 'Literal Democrat' candidate's vote did not cause fatal electoral damage to the Lib Dems.

After all, in arguably more confusing circumstances, an 'E Heath', standing as the 'Conservative and Consult the People' candidate in 1970 against Edward Heath polled less than 1,000 votes, and in the 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election a second 'Roy Jenkins' stood as 'Social Democrat' candidate against the then SDP leader, and polled precisely 282 votes.

Those who argue for the registration of political parties may well be right, but the implications of this should be carefully considered. - particularly by the Liberal Democrats who, after all, went through three different names in little more than a single year.

A political carve-up by the existing major parties could well lead to draconian qualifications being required for the registration of a national party, leading to consequent ossification of parties at a time when more flexibility could well be beneficial. It would also be likely to lead to the electoral law requiring formal endorsement of a local candidate by a national party, thus enhancing and entrenching central office hegemony, which, depending on the party's national view, could enforce or inhibit realignment and electoral alliances.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL MEADOWCROFT

President,

The Liberal Party

London, SW1

23 June

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