LETTER:The flaws of democracy

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The Independent Online
From Ms Diane Abbott, MP

Sir: Every year your distinguished columnist Andrew Marr pens a column complaining about the fact that the Parliamentary Labour Party elects its Shadow Cabinet ("Election that casts a poor shadow", 6 June). It reflects, all too obviously, the complaints that must be poured into Mr Marr's ear by people who feel soiled and demeaned by actually having to talk to fellow MPs in an effort to get elected.

Mr Marr's criticisms are all valid: people vote for trivial and venal reasons; ignorant and unlettered MPs (like the writer) vote alongside their betters and the process throws up its fair share of mediocrities.

But Mr Marr and his confidantes need reminding gently that these are the flaws of the democratic process whenever, and by whoever, it is practised. Elections to the Shadow Cabinet provide a useful corrective to patronage and cronyism. In office, Labour leaders have a free hand. But looking back at history, there is no evidence that when free to appoint who they like, any fewer mediocrities are put in key positions.



MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

6 June