Lib Dems and their peers

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IN HIS column, "Paddy's 'new-found clarity' seems as muddled as ever", (24 September), Alan Watkins asserts that Liberal Democrat peers are indulging in particular "luxuriance", and that their very existence undermines our opposition to a second chamber based on selection, rather than election.

Lib Dems have accepted peerages because, although we oppose the system, it would be an abdication of responsibility not to play our part in the political process as it exists.

If Mr Watkins finds the existence of Lib Dem life peers so iniquitous, then surely he should join us in opposing the creation of a chamber based on selection by elite (Labour's plan) as being little or no better than one based on selection by chance of birth. Furthermore, he should support our plan for a second chamber that is based on election by the people - the conclusion to Paddy Ashdown's point which Mr Watkins chooses to omit.

Next, Mr Watkins turns to electoral reform. Lib Dems are critical of Mr Blair's promise of a referendum because, one, past experience gives us reason to doubt whether it will ever be delivered, and two, because it means that after 16 years of dithering, Labour still does not have anything like a clear stance on electoral reform.

We emphatically do not oppose the idea of a referendum per se, agreeing with Mr Watkins that where fundamental constitutional changes are involved - whether because of Europe or because of electoral reform - it may well be desirable to seek popular assent.

Robin Teverson

MEP for Cornwall & West Plymouth

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