Sir: Congratulations on your leading article ("Take the long view, Tony", 15 August) urging Tony Blair to honour Labour's commitment to a referendum on voting systems for the House of Commons. It is worth reflecting that the impressive reforms effected between 1832 and 1910 were strongly supported by a section of the press that was determined to achieve its crusading aims. The active involvement of the press is a vital part of a functional political system. Throughout the 19th century, journalists' enthusiastic exposure of political scandals was matched by their commitment to positive reforming measures. In a healthy democracy, the press can not confine itself to mere muck-raking.
A referendum on voting systems for the House of Commons could help to repair the broken link which binds citizens to Parliament. John Smith's decision to promote such a referendum shifted the terrain of national politics decisively. It was a truly radical step, appropriate to the lamentable impasse in which Westminster now finds itself.
Tony Blair's mettle and high-minded principles are surely what is being tested here. The Duke of Wellington found himself urging Conservative scions to support the great Reform Bill for the good of the country. Mr Blair is capable of emulating the Iron Duke's throwing aside of partisan interests for the good of the country. But, if he declines to take the long view and opts for short-term advantages, he should not be surprised when Labour supporters of reform vote tactically for a hung parliament at the next general election.
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