Sunday, May 31, 2009

Open letter to William Hague: Time to take proportional representation seriously

Dear Mr Hague

BBC Question Time is one of my favourite TV programmes these days, and on 21 May I attentively watched another very interesting episode.

I found myself in agreement with virtually all your statements and sentiments, but I'm afraid I felt that your credibility as a potential future foreign secretary was somewhat undermined by your off-the-cuff remark about proportional representation.

Look at Germany, for example. Modern Germany is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. Far from "one party being in office all the time", Germany has had a range of different coalition constellations, and the special proportional representation election system that was implemented there after the war is working very well indeed.

The German system was developed based on previous experience and with a view to avoid the problems and mistakes of the past. In simple terms, half the seats are elected on a first past the post basis, while the rest are distributed proportionally. Crucially, the system has a so-called "5% hurdle" that prevents fringe parties from entering parliament.

It is high time for Britain to take proportional representation seriously and move away from the present system of "elected dictatorship", where a party can end up with a massive majority in parliament with little over 30% of the vote and can then basically do what it wants for the next 4 or 5 years, with little scope of intervention by the opposition parties.

Yours sincerely

Herbert Eppel, Leicester