Letter: How Ashdown could play the kingmaker

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paddy Ashdown made some interesting comments in his Independent interview (12 June) on the subject of a "constructive vote of confidence", in which, "an opposition could only bring down a government ... if it could assemble an alternative by trading with political parties".

This, of course, was the West German system, which was designed to prevent the extreme left or right from bringing down a government, unless a majority of the Bundestag could agree on a successor.

There would be, of course, enormous advantages to Mr Ashdown and his party with such a system. For if a new government could be formed by, say, a smaller party switching its support in a hung parliament from Labour to Conservative, then this could be done without recourse to the electorate; such an outcome was triggered in Germany by the Free Democrats' movement from the SPD to the Christian Democrats.

In Britain if a government has no majority, or loses it, it can only be brought down if it then loses a vote of confidence. An election follows. Under Mr Ashdown's proposals, the Liberal Democrats, by moving their support, could change the government without one voter being consulted.

ROBERT KHAN

London W5

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