IoS letters, emails & online postings (2 February 2014)

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The Independent Online

There was one significant omission from Archie Bland's excellent article on sexism in parliament ("Where are all the women?", 26 January), and that was the electoral system, which is inimical to women's representation in the House of Commons. Bland refers to the problem of safe seats, but does not draw the obvious conclusion that this is a consequence of single-member constituencies. If we retain the present electoral system, the only pragmatic solution is to impose all-women short-lists for constituency parties to choose from, but this has serious democratic and political defects.

It only requires multi-member constituencies, with three or four MPs to be elected under a preferential voting system – where the elector votes one, two, three, etc – with the consequent need to present a broad-based team of candidates, to transform the opportunities for women candidates.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Everyone, rightly, condemns "benefits cheats". However, if Alan Strong's allegations are substantiated ("Social landlords cheated by repair firm, tribunal hears", 26 January), are not these companies even bigger "benefits cheats" – for they, too, are robbing the public purse? Why are they not being prosecuted?

Why do councils (and housing associations) place contracts with these national companies rather than with local tradesmen? How can it be cheaper, or more cost-effective, to pay a large company, that owns smaller companies, who sub-contract out the actual work to (usually) local traders?

Malcolm Morrison

Swindon, Wiltshire

While it is more likely than not that Ed Miliband will be prime minister in 2015, he could, as John Rentoul notes, lose and so it is reasonable to look at who his successor might be (26 January). However, probably the more pressing political question is who will be the next leader of the Tories and of the Lib Dems in the event that they fail to win next year. I wonder if Rentoul has some thoughts on this, even though I suspect he believes a Labour defeat to be certain.

Keith Flett

London N17

Jane Merrick is right to say that pensioners' benefits should be axed (26 January). The retirement age is going up so why are we paying for 60-year-olds to travel to work and to heat their homes when they are out all day? Surely state benefits should, like work pensions, start on the day of retirement.

Gillian Cook

via email

Jane Merrick (26 January) says that she can't wait for there to be a female party leader so she can write about her husband. I well remember that we had a female party leader from 1974 to 1990 and the intrusive amount of speculative comment, by journalists, about dear Denis. He even took to writing a column for Private Eye to explain himself.

John Buckman


Having castigated school-leavers as being illiterate and innumerate, Janet Street-Porter then goes on to say that high heels and so on aren't relevant (26 January). I agree with both statements.

But to say that high heels are guilty of "rending [women] fragile and vulnerable"? Really Janet? They might rend the ligaments of the foot, but surely it's rendering? Perhaps one of your well-heeled, poorly paid runners could have spotted this.

Jack Hughes

Brixham, Devon

I used to smoke in the car when on a long journey with my window down thinking it was OK. But I am sure my smoking near my eldest son contributed to him having asthma and his frequent bad chests he suffers to this day; even though he is in his thirties and has never smoked.

I agree smoking should be banned inside vehicles with children in, or any other person who doesn't want to breathe in second-hand smoke.

I wish I'd never smoked near my children and I will regret the damage I have done to their lungs for the rest of my life.

Simon Icke

Buckinghamshire via email

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