Letter:Prescott, Blair and Labour principles

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Sir: Nick Brown ("Labour to crack the whip on MPs",15 August) says "the election is fought by national political parties, and the role of the individual, although important, is subservient to the role of the party". This is only a half truth.

MPs are elected to keep a party in office but they are also elected as the only people with effective power to check a government drawn from that party. The job of a backbench MP is only possible if these two potentially divergent responsibilities can be run in tandem. If a Blair government intends that one of these responsibilities should automatically prevail over the other, it would complete the transition which began with the onset of election television, from a parliamentary to a presidential system of government. If Mr Blair intends to introduce a presidential system he must also introduce the constitutional safeguards appropriate to such a system, beginning with a written constitution.

Earl RUSSELL

Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Social Security

House of Lords

London SW1

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