Letter: Local elections: only a period of re-evaluation in the wilderness can save the Conservatives

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Sir: The results of the local elections must end any doubt that the people of this country want, above all, that Paddy Ashdown and John Smith should act together to rescue them from any further Tory rule for years to come. The voters, by the verdict they have given on Tory policies, have commissioned the oppositon leaders to act at once to create an electoral coalition for the next general election.

We ask that the architects of that coalition would promise to dissolve it and call a fresh general election not less than two years after the completion of a basic reform programme which would protect us all from minority government by doctrinaire extremists. That programme should include:

reforms to the voting system for the House of Commons to ensure that the wishes of the majority of voters are properly reflected in its composition;

the creation of an elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords (elected to mirror very closely the proportion of party voters reckoned nationally);

establishment of four-yearly elections to curb the excessive power prime ministers now have; and

the incorporation into British law of the European Convention on Human Rights.

When that has been done they will have long years ahead to lead the British people in rational and civilised debate on policies on which they differ. They have before them, in South Africa, the magnificent example of leaders, who have been bitterly opposed in the past, acting together for the public good. We urge them to act in the same spirit - now.

Yours faithfully,



Headley, Hampshire

6 May