Letters: A fairer voting system, but which one?

These letters appear in the 29th April issue of The Independent

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Your editorial of 28 April is correct; we do need to change the way we elect our MPs to reflect the wider choices available to voters.

There are several ways of generating a more representative Parliament. The system devised for Welsh Assembly elections seems to work. It combines directly elected representatives with “top-up” candidates to restore the imbalances produced by the first-past-the-post system.

That allows me to make representations to my directly elected representative and to the four other AMs indirectly elected by the local group of constituencies.

If such systems work for the devolved assemblies, why not for the UK Parliament?

Roger Knight



This election will convince many more people that the system needs to change. But we have to decide what will replace “first past the post”.

Both front-runner PR systems have their proponents and their detractors. The Electoral Reform Society could itself prove to be a barrier to change because it is wedded to the Single Transferable Vote, a “Marmite” system which is anathema to many. The additional member system is used in Scotland and Wales, but this requires a mix of constituency and “list” MPs. Excessive party control over “list” MPs, with a resulting fault line running through each parliamentary party, concerns many.

At the same time some features of FPTP are attractive. The single member constituency means a closer and clearer relationship between the MP and electorate than other systems. It has the simplest voting and the quickest and most transparent counting. Simplicity and transparency are part of a system’s democratic credentials.

How do we bring electoral reform about? We will need a UK constitutional convention. Could such a convention also tackle the House of Lords, federalism, and possibly even Europe? It should, for the sake of our democracy. We need to plan now for a referendum to coincide with the 2020 general election: “2020 – a vision for the future of the UK”?

Stephen Johnson

Chidham,  West Sussex


Are you sure that history shows the present electoral system is unfit for purpose?

For a generation after the Second World War something like 95 per cent of the population always voted Labour or always Conservative. Indeed it was usually part of their very identity: people would tell you they had been Labour or Conservative all their lives and always would be. And the result: we got single-party governments, with occasional changes from one party to the other, since there were exactly enough people in the middle who could be persuaded to change.

Since then there has been a demographic change. Now only about 60 per cent vote either Labour or Conservative. The result now is no overall majorities, and parties forced to come to arrangements with one another.

Isn’t this exactly the sort of outcome you would expect from a reasonably representative electoral system? I see no grounds for supposing a different system would do better. A system where you vote for a party list would increase the strength of the party machines in an age when most people would like that to be diminished.

Roger Schafir

London N21


For most of us outside Westminster, impatience with the 2015 UK election campaigns is palpable.

We’re impatient with the old-school, big-hitting adversarial politics that politicians still seem to find more attractive than carefully considering policy. We’re impatient with the irrelevance all of this has to the more nuanced, pluralist life most of the rest of us lead in modern Britain.

Philip Pullman (“If I were prime minister”, 16 April) is right to highlight our desperate need for root-and-branch constitutional reform. He makes an excellent proposal for broad-based popular participation in a convention for constitutional change. A forward-looking party with any sort of progressive vision for Britain would have featured this idea on its manifesto’s first page – and had my vote.

Barry Sutcliffe



That’s enough banker-bashing

The banking industry has been up there with politicians when we talk about reputation being dragged through the mud in recent years. But to say that the public are immune to the scandals associated  with the sector is a step  too far (James Moore, 24 April).

To some it might seem we can barely go a week without some new issue coming out into the public domain and the regulators imposing another fine – but we are nearing the point when relentlessly revisiting past scandals and using them to attack the industry in the present day becomes a futile exercise.

Banker-bashing is an easy sport and a quick win, especially in an election period. But we must not forget that the financial and professional services sectors are essential for Britain’s economic growth and employ over 2 million people nationwide. All those people need local services – so the “multiplier effect” could benefit 6 million people.

Stronger processes are now in place to detect and correct misbehaviour. As I have said many times, I condemn anyone who, in an act of greed, wilfully puts themselves first and their responsibility to their clients and financial stability second. Bad behaviour is not acceptable, and is not the norm. We need to apply what we have learned from the past to build a robust and healthy economic future. 

Alan Yarrow

Lord Mayor of the  City of London


Voters fear deals with extremists

You report that many voters are alarmed at the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition after the general election, evidently fearing that this might advance the cause of Scottish independence. Labour would be well advised to remove voters’ fears on that score.

But the threat of Scottish separatism is every bit as strong, if not stronger, from a different direction. Whatever the Scots want, they certainly don’t want the Tories, and if a Conservative government is formed this time, many Scots who voted against independence last year may well change their minds.

Roy Douglas

Wannock, East Sussex


Your headline of 28 April, “Fear of SNP alliance dents Labour support”, prompts me to wonder whether readers know of instances where television or radio interviewers have badgered Conservative leaders to rule out any future deal with their potential coalition partners, the DUP or Ukip?

Sally Parrott

Cranleigh, Surrey


Why do the Conservatives and Labour have to worry about extremists in the SNP or Ukip or anywhere else holding the balance of power?

If the big parties are about equal in MPs, why not just drop policies that are unacceptable to the other side (such as the Conservatives’ referendum on Europe and Labour’s rent control), compromise on areas where they have different means to achieve agreed ends (health, education), and then get on with it, without any regard to the extremists (including extremists within their own parties)? 

H Trevor Jones



Morality and legality at Auschwitz

The former SS camp guard Oskar Groening is accused of being an accessory to murder. But if, as he claims, he asked his superiors for a transfer once he discovered what was going on at Auschwitz, and was refused, what choice did he have? Would disobeying orders and facing certain execution have saved even one Jewish life?

Groening may feel morally responsible, but that does not make him legally guilty.

John Davis



King Roger back  in London

The forthcoming performance of King Roger (Jessica Duchen, 22 April; letter, 23 April) at the Royal Opera House in May will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the opera’s British premiere which took place on 14 May 1975, at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. It was a New Opera Company production conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, and there were two performances, one of which was broadcast on Radio 3.

The following March it was again performed by the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. Both productions were sung in English translation by Geoffrey Dunn.

S J Rowe



First the report, then the event

I can’t be alone in wondering why, in the run up to the election, the headline bulletins inform us of what the party leaders will be saying later on that day. They don’t need to bother saying it: it has been commented on and analysed to the nth degree before they have got out of bed. Roll on 8 May.

Angela Elliott

Hundleby, Lincolnshire