Letters: Election issues

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The risks in a tactical vote

Vote Lib Dem if you agree with their policies, but do not see them as part of an anti-Tory alliance. If there were such a thing it would be a two-way process with Lib Dems voting Labour in relevant seats, and a guarantee of not supporting Cameron after polling day.

Without such guarantees, a tactical vote for the Lib Dems from voters who would usually vote Labour, Green or Nationalist does two things. It risks propping up a Tory government, and it will certainly enable Clegg to claim an inflated mandate based on borrowed votes.

If this election is as close as it appears, the total votes cast for each party will become much more important than usual and will be used during post-election negotiations. The best tactic in that situation is for each voter to vote for what they actually want.

Michele Wood


With a little tactical voting in a relatively small number of constituencies we could have had a hung parliament for decades.

Historically, the "success" of the Liberal Democrats has amounted to no more than inflicting damage on whichever of the two major parties happened to be in a weaker position at election time.

This has only served to magnify the effect of the first-past-the-post system by producing a comfortable parliamentary majority for the winning party with an ever-smaller percentage share of the vote.

Nigel Wilkins

London SW7

Are we facing the strange rebirth of Liberal England? Politically, the signs are that this could be the case. But it is worth asking how this land of ours would look under the new dispensation. Let me suggest some possibilities.

For the first time Britain would have a written constitution, and one radically different from what we have now. It would be federal, and include a Bill of Rights and a guarantee of minimum economic and social entitlements. Our economy would be geared to products and services that would earn all of us a reasonable living in the decades to come. It would also be environmentally sustainable and fair in its rewards. Our society would affirm multi-culturalism and would encourage all of us to explore our identities and those of others with care and respect.

Just a start of course, but it is what many of us hope for.

Andrew McLuskey

Staines, Middlesex

The rigging is in the post

The attack on Jerome Taylor (report, 4 May) shows ballot-rigging is now rampant. The expansion of postal ballots was introduced by New Labour when the 2001 election produced a 58 per cent turnout, only as a desperation measure. We all knew it would be abused, and so it has happened.

Postal ballots should be allowed only for people who genuinely cannot get to the polls. Otherwise, ballot-rigging will continue.

John Richards

St Ives, Cornwall

The vicious attack on Jerome Taylor reveals vividly that, amid our robust democractic culture we still have a thuggish mind-set which lurks on the margins, behind closed doors and threats. Democracy is a sacred accumulation of freedoms, rights, discourse, media scrutiny, public inquiries, dialogue, dissent, protest, freedom to agree and disagree, pluralism.

Voting and elections are but the icing on the bigger cake of an embedded democratic culture that we are privileged to have in Britain, unlike our fellow humans in parts such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and China.

Jagdeesh Singh


Can we safely assume that those who object to the importation of traditional overseas methods of managing postal votes to counteract the electoral disadvantages of the government party are bigots?

David Burton

Telford, Shropshire

More at stake than gay issues

Philip Hensher's oblique attempt to turn gay voters off the Tories flirts, by implication, with many of the old gay stereotypes he would, I am sure, reject (Comment, 3 May). A poll in a gay newspaper read by a tiny self-selected audience within the inward-looking and atypical world of the gay scene tells us nothing about how gay people in general are going to vote.

Most homosexuals lead lives as ordinary as most of their heterosexual colleagues and friends. They are not conscious of being part of a gay community, they don't read gay media, and don't have any specifically gay political axes to grind. Their personal and professional lives are as various as anyone else's, as are their political affiliations and social attitudes.

In line with psephological trends, many more of them will this time vote Tory in spite of the peripheral issue of Cameron's dubious European alliances and the silly comments of one or two Tory candidates. After all, this election has hardly been without political gaffes on all sides. Few Tory politicians have expressed views as liberal as Cameron's since he became leader, and most gay people will have the intelligence to know that there is much more at stake in this election than gay issues.

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk

Tory plan to reduce jobless

In the final televised debate between the three party leaders, new sanctions were promised against the long-term unemployed who refuse job offers and training.

History appears to have forgotten the scheme that was operated by the Tories in the late Eighties and early Nineties called Employment Training or ET. The scheme promised to train the workers without jobs to do the jobs without workers. People could work night-shifts for benefit plus £10.

It was not compulsory, but pressure was often applied through JobCentres to get people to join the scheme. I personally preferred the scheme rather than JobCentres and job clubs. Many disabled people became permanent trainees. ET rarely led to employment with an income.

Peter J Brown


Every time I listen to the radio news I hear David Cameron saying that if he becomes leader and you are unemployed, you will not be able to refuse a job that you are able to do when offered it by the JobCentre.

I wasn't aware that you are able to refuse it now, as existing rules preclude claimants refusing to accept employment that they are able to do.

Trust a multi-millionaire like Dave to focus on the poorest in our society. It must be in their genes.

Henry Page

Newhaven, East Sussex

Climate change tops the list

Your leading article ("The unfinished green revolution", 27 May) rightly points out that all the main political parties acknowledge the importance of tackling climate change but that none of their manifestos goes far enough on this crucial issue.

The next few years are crucial if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, and that is why the starting point for the next government must be a more ambitious 2020 climate-change target.

If the UK is to play its fair share in tackling global warming it must slash its greenhouse emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020, and do so without carbon offsetting. This is the size of cuts that climate scientists say is required.

Of course, other policies are urgently needed too. These include a local carbon budget for every local council to cap emissions and ensure that they play their part in tackling climate change, a new law to cut the major emissions and deforestation caused by the UK's dependence on imported feeds for livestock, and an international agreement on reducing emissions where those responsible make the deepest cuts first.

Creating a low-carbon future will also bring huge economic opportunities. Developing the UK's vast renewable energy potential and slashing energy waste will generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs, reduce our reliance on overseas gas and oil and help fight the scourge of fuel poverty.

Martyn Williams

Parliamentary Co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth, London N1

Haggling is part of political life

David Cameron says: "Proportional representation doesn't put power in the hands of people; it puts power in the hands of politicians. They can haggle and scheme and negotiate. That's not what it should be about. Elections should be decisive events."

Does he really think the present system puts power in the hands of the people? Clearly, it doesn't.

"Haggling" and "negotiating" is exactly what politics should be about. Elections should not be "decisive events" producing an elective dictatorship, however much that may suit the two old parties; they should be democratic events.

Keith Davies

Fareham, Hampshire

The advocates of pure PR should be careful what they wish for. In the 2009 European elections, the BNP achieved 6.2 per cent against 15.7 per cent for Labour and 13.7 per cent for the Lib Dems.

Would they really want 40 BNP MPs, possibly holding the balance of power and with increasing numbers as it became more "acceptable" over the whole of the UK to vote for them?

On many issues, the population appears to be more right-wing than any major party, for example on the EU, immigration, capital and corporal punishment, prison sentencing, school discipline, climate change and welfare "scroungers".

So PR may not deliver the permanent Labour/Lib Dem coalition that many pundits expect, and which in any case would also be bad for democracy.

At least FPTP keeps our more extreme elements within "broad-church" parties or outside mainstream politics; and the first law of politics is the law of unintended consequences.

John Birkett

St Andrews, Fife

Miriam Clegg deserves respect

With reference to Russell Pillar's rather blimpish letter (3 May), I must confess disinterest in whether or not our would-be leaders are "telegenic" or sufficiently "personable". But I do object to the misogyny that underpins his observations.

Clearly, David Cameron has his vote because of Samantha Cameron's politic display of loyalty and support. Nothing wrong with a politician deploying his partner to impress on voters that he is a fully paid-up member of that group he so venerates: "hard-working families". But to denigrate Miriam Clegg for adopting a lower profile is somewhat offensive. As she has herself observed, it is not easy for responsible workers to take a lengthy leave of absence.

I am not sure why Miriam Clegg's professionalism makes her less "real" than the Camerons, but I take comfort from her obvious confidence in her husband's ability to do the job effectively without her having to act as both prop and appendage.

Lorraine Cuming

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Ashcroft and the Tory party

The polls seem to suggest that the Murdoch Press is not going to swing this election for the Conservatives. Lord Ashcroft is another matter. Whether the Tories win an outright majority or not, what does it say about our present electoral system if one wealthy non-dom can have such influence? This is banana republic territory, and much more of a political scandal than any MP's expenses.

Any mandate David Cameron may claim, already nonsensical for any party polling little more than one third of the votes cast, will be further undermined by this discreditable process.

This election is raising fundamental questions about democratic legitimacy that the Conservative party is going to have to get to grips with sooner or later.

John Butterworth

Penzance, Cornwall

Missing poll

The election that mattered was the one that never happened, that is, for the leadership of the Labour Party a year ago. With the result now looking so tight, the party must be ruing its lack of courage. Whatever happens thereafter will be a lot too late: the tide will have gone, and the boat with it.

Malcolm Ross

Totnes, Devon

Some neck

In the Conservative poster on education, David Cameron assures us that he wants to restore discipline in schools. Why then does he encourage the rebellion he seeks to prevent by being shown not wearing his tie?

Alan O'Brien

Colne, Lancashire

Hot tip

Was the Bank Holiday weather down to a cold-hearted, right-wing front blowing in from Middle England? Hope things improve by the weekend.

Neil Hall

London SW9

Perspectives on... coalitions: No weakness with Winston

One of the predictable scares perpetrated by the Conservatives during this campaign, especially since the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, is that a hung parliament would be a disaster for Britain, because this would almost certainly lead to a coalition government. Such governments, we have repeatedly been warned, are invariably weak and thus incapable of providing strong political leadership.

Apart from the fact that much of the "strong political leadership" Britain has experienced during the past 30 years has often actually been arrogant and unlistening government, elected on 36 to 44 per cent of the vote, I would hardly say that our last coalition government, led by Sir Winston Churchill from 1940 to 1945, was weak or ineffective.

Pete Dorey

Reader in British Politics, Cardiff University

Hang it all, it's a result

Can I just explain something to our collective class of political commentators about the terminology of hung parliaments? A hung parliament, if it happens, will not be "an inconclusive result". It will be the result.

It will not mean voters "haven't been able to make a decision". It will be the decision they have made. It's not a mistake. It's not an anomaly. It's an outcome. It just happens that the country will have elected a hung parliament, rather than a majority government.

The sooner our commentators understand this and start talking responsibly about it as being a legitimate result rather than some kind of shambolic fluke, the better.

Tony Jamieson


A history of power-sharing

Many people seem to be expecting that the election will result in a hung parliament and a coalition government, yet to date not one of the half-dozen coalition governments in British history has resulted from a hung parliament.

It is true that Liberal MPs discussed an offer from the Conservatives after the very narrow Labour victory in February 1974 but it seems that was the first time a coalition to secure a Commons majority was even discussed, and on that occasion the Liberals decided to let Labour form a government on the basis of their small majority over the Conservatives.

Leaving aside instances where small groups of MPs have abandoned one party and floated, in the course of several years, over to the other side, two of the coalitions in the past were all-party governments formed, essentially at the initiative of a government that already had a Commons majority, at a time of national emergency (1915 and 1940), two others were an attempt to form an all-party government in which leading members of one or more party either voluntarily excluded themselves or were excluded because of political differences (1806 and 1931), and two involved long-standing parties uniting with centre parties of relatively recent formation, though in both cases the substantial electoral base of the smaller party was not an issue as such (1852 and 1895).

The motive in all six coalitions was to improve the calibre of the Cabinet. Today, no party politician believes that the calibre of the Cabinet would be improved by bringing in people from another party, a view probably shared by most uncommitted voters.

A D Harvey

London N16

All parties will take the blame

Maybe a hung parliament will be a good thing if it means that no one party will have to take the "blame" for the unpopular austerity measures that will surely come. Don't coalition governments do best in wartime? We are facing a war on profligate lifestyles.

Pat Ready

Newport, Isle of Wight