Letter: The lives our MPs have to lead

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Sir: Your leading article draws attention to the pressures put on our politicians by the way the House of Commons works, a contributory factor to John Smith's death. You discuss the rites of Question Time, where our leaders habitually trade insults. Suddenly, the death of one of them stops the process in its tracks. The contrast makes the insult ritual look absurd and belies the assumption that it is all to impress us. Rather, it is sui generis to the House, deeply rooted in traditions that need some change.

In seeking effective change, there is a deeper constitutional point to make than reform of the House's day to day procedures. My proposition is that a greater focus on proportional representation (PR) would be appropriate. If, instead of two significant parties, there were four (Labour, Lib-Dem, Tory Wet and Tory Dry), destructive adversarial pressure would reduce. On any given issue, any one of the parties would be faced with three others with views differing in varying proportions from its own.

As issues for debate changed, the kaleidoscope of political tension in the House would change. It would be a less polarised place and likely to be more efficient as a workshop for sifting ideas and for arriving at something recognisable as a national will. Through such change the House might achieve more gravitas, a touch of that nobility which is rightly the mood of the moment.

Yours faithfully,


Tonbridge, Kent

21 May