Caution over electoral gestures and PR | Letters

13 Oct

Caroline Lucas suggests that, if other parties had been willing to work with the Greens, “Theresa May wouldn’t be sitting in No 10 today” (Effort to halt bitter split over election strategy, 10 October). The Green party stood in 461 seats in June and secured an average vote of only 1,126; a total that would have struggled to make four figures had it not been for Lucas’s 30,000-plus in idiosyncratic Brighton Pavilion. It saved only nine deposits in securing just 1.6% of total votes. It is simply not an electoral force in this country. Other parties would gain no advantage by reciprocating the Greens’ magnanimous but essential irrelevant gesture.

It is not, however, unattractive policies or lack of leadership – Ms Lucas is an otherwise admirable politician, but it’s the electoral system that makes nonsense of such small party gestures. The Greens should abandon the hopeless task of trying to persuade others of the efficacy of such illusory electoral pacts and concentrate instead on developing a nationwide electoral reform movement. The Lib Dems and nationalists would fall immediately onside as would a significant group in the Labour party, despite the current delusional triumphalism of the supposedly progressive Corbynistas, who appear to have little or no interest in working towards a more representational electoral system.
Brian Wilson
Glossop, Derbyshire

Holland has had to wait more than six months after its election to get a new government and, even then, the ruling administration has a majority of just one (Dutch leaders agree shaky coalition deal after seven months of talks, 10 October). Moreover, that coalition contains the rightwing, anti-abortion Christian Union party – which received a mere 3.4% of the vote – but has no place for either the Green Left or the Socialists, which both got more than 9%. In Germany, voters are unlikely to know the composition of their new government before Christmas, after the second largest party, the SPD, ruled out a grand coalition with the Christian Democrats. New Zealand also has a hung parliament after an indecisive election in September, with the probability that the anti-immigration New Zealand First party will play a “kingmaker” role, despite attaining just 7% of the popular vote.

The common feature of these recent elections is that they are all based on complex systems of proportional representation. Not only are these voters unclear – often for some considerable time – about who exactly will make up their governments, the governments often contain unrepresentative parties that garnered only a tiny number of seats.

Proponents of similar PR systems for this country ought to look overseas and take very careful note, otherwise situations such as the current government reliance on the DUP might become an ineluctable part of electoral structure.
Martin Freedman
London

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