Letter: The constitution and the economy

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Sir: In his column of 22 February, Gavyn Davies dismissed the idea that proportional representation might help to improve Britain's economic performance, using Italy as an example.

Yet the Italian constitution is not the only possible system of PR - Germany uses another version; in 1945 the Italian economy was a fraction of the size of the UK's, and now the two are about equal; northern Italy is one of the richer regions of the EC while the south is one of the poorer, although they share the same constitution. This discrepancy suggests that the link between short-term government policy and long-term economic performance is far from simple, and having 'seven wise men' to advise on the former will not necessarily improve the latter.

One of the aims of a constitution is to produce effective government. Evidently Italy's present arrangements fail to do this, but so, too, can Britain's when artificially large majorities insulate governments and enable them to impose disastrous policies heedless of wise men, the Opposition, the electorate or the future.

Yours faithfully,




23 February