Letter: Heavy cost of a divided opposition

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Marr's column entitled 'Look closely and you will see the snail moving' (12 March), says of electoral arrangements between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, 'No deal though: any shift in voting patterns to oust Conservatives would be negotiated inside the minds of individual voters, as they drew conclusions from what wasn't said.' Why?

The allegation that the Prime Minister seeks to deceive the country in order to maintain party unity is often made by both opposition party leaders. The allegation is equally true of themselves.

Both John Smith and Paddy Ashdown are perfectly well aware that the policy differences between their two parties are eminently resolvable, should the

will to resolve them be

established.

The Independent has, on several occasions, reported that senior Conservative Party figures believe they are likely to win the next general election. The plain truth is that they are right. One of the major factors in this likely Conservative victory will be the continued division of the opposition. It is the implicit assumption of both of the opposition parties that they win more votes separately than they would win collectively and opinion polls would seem to support this thesis.

The flaw in the logic, however, is that it makes no allowance for the process of persuasion. If the two parties were to put up a joint general election campaign, a central part of that campaign would be why Britain needed a broad- based progressive government and it seems reasonable to assume that this would find electoral support from areas outside those currently controlled by the two Opposition parties.

To refuse to countenance such an arrangement is effectively to consign the country to Conservative Party rule to the end of the century. However difficult reaching such an arrangement might be, the price of not reaching it is too high.

Yours sincerely,

SIMON BRYCESON

London, WC2

12 March

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