Letters: Overhaul Britain’s electoral system so voters’ voices can truly be heard

A voter enters a polling station in Stalybridge, Cheshire
A voter enters a polling station in Stalybridge, Cheshire - Getty/Anthony Devlin

SIR – Tim Pope (Letters, June 16) is right about proportional representation: it would break the constituency link, put governments in hock to minority interests and let tiny extremist parties cling to power. 

Then again, the whipped party system has led to very few MPs having the independence and authority to vote according to their conscience and in the interests of their constituency. 

What we need is either Single Transferable Vote or Alternative Vote. These would turn elections into clear polls of what the public actually thinks and wants, rather than simply show to whom it reluctantly feels it must give its vote for fear of worse. 

If we had either system in place now, we’d see a surge in votes for Reform UK, because disenchanted Tory voters could express their opinion without the risk of letting Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour in by default – and, as with Brexit and despite the Left’s denials, we’d have proof that vast numbers of Labour voters also want an end to things such as unsustainable immigration and debates about whether women have penises.

The tired establishment parties would be forced to adjust their policies to win back erstwhile supporters; in the case of the Tories, the necessary return to traditional conservatism would, with any luck, see the Blairites finally slink off and become the Liberal Democrats they so clearly want to be.

Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire


SIR – With proportional representation, it can take weeks or months to form a government after an election. In this country, the horse-trading has traditionally taken place within the main parties, until they can present a coherent policy to the electorate. This has broken down – with individual MPs, from the PM down, going public on matters that ought to have been thrashed out behind the scenes. 

The system has been further damaged by faulty party machinery: in the case of Labour, allowing Jeremy Corbyn fans to pay £3 to vote for him, and with the Conservatives, letting party members appoint Liz Truss. 

Whatever the method of consultation, sitting MPs should have the final say on such matters.

Jacqueline Castles
London W2


SIR – We need to look at how parliamentary candidates are selected. True, some constituencies have candidates who were born and bred there, but why not make this mandatory for all of them? 

In recent weeks we have heard of candidates being “parachuted” in. It’s time they were chosen by their future constituents so that they truly represent their interests and can campaign with knowledge of local issues. There is much to dislike about American politics, but perhaps primaries are not a bad idea.

Diana Goetz
Salisbury, Wiltshire


SIR – Why do we not have compulsory voting, which appears to operate satisfactorily in Australia?

John Walker
Burgh Heath, Surrey


SIR – Thanks to your article on postal voting (Comment, June 19), my wife and I realised that we were still eligible. But I was horrified that I could apply on her behalf simply by supplying her name, date of birth, passport number, National Insurance number and last known address. My wife did not need to know about it. 

Clearly you can apply for any number of postal votes if you know people’s details. I find this scandalous.

James Callus
Nuenen, Holland



China’s rights abuses

SIR – In China, two activists, Sophia Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing, have been convicted of inciting subversion (report, June 15). The case is a stark reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s unremitting effort to silence its critics. 

Since Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013, the crackdown on lawyers, intellectuals and dissidents has evoked memories of the fateful period after 1949, when Mao formally proclaimed the People’s Republic of China.

But there is more. Christians have been under siege in China for decades. Churches have been demolished and believers jailed in the party’s attack on religious freedom. Even the annual commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre is now banned in China and Hong Kong. 

Little did it occur to me when I stepped on to Hong Kong’s Fenwick Pier in January 1960 that it would come to this. Then, China was still veiled in mystery behind the Bamboo Curtain. Now, Beijing can no longer hide its dismal human rights abuses from the rest of the world.

Brian Stuckey
Denver, Colorado, United States


A fix for salmon farms

SIR – As your correspondents (Letters, June 16) make clear, salmon farming provides reasonably priced nutrition, but the industry requires improvement.

The key problem with the British industry is that it uses open pens in low-saline environments such as sea lochs. This allows sea lice to infest the overcrowded pens and harm the fish. Chemicals and other means are then used to try to control the lice, and so enter the water. Being in open water also allows fish to escape, which dilutes the wild salmon gene pool. Many countries have banned open-net farming for these reasons.

The solution is to transfer the industry to either closed pens or, preferably, onshore farms, as is being done by businesses in Norway and elsewhere. Profits are certainly high enough to cope with the extra costs. 

Videos showing the conditions for open-net farmed salmon are enough to make most people switch to delicious wild Pacific sockeye salmon, which is available smoked and fresh in many supermarkets.

John Prescott
Aberdeen


SIR – Emilie McRae (Letters, June 16) advocates salmon farming on the grounds of its low carbon footprint. But what of the critical damage fish farms do to wild migratory fish, such as seat trout, salmon and shad?

A consequence of fish farming is that sea trout in our rivers have been decimated, and salmon has become an endangered species. Perhaps if migratory wild fish were cute and cuddly, Ms McRae would have a different opinion.

Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey


Snow at the cricket

SIR – Jo-Ann Rogers (Letters, June 15) describes snow at Buxton Cricket Ground in June 1975. 

Derbyshire were playing Lancashire, and on Saturday – the first day of the match – Lancashire scored 477 for five. Sunday was a rest day, but when the players returned to the ground on Monday June 2, they found it covered by an inch of snow and play was abandoned. The snow had cleared by the next day and Lancashire declared and then proceeded to bowl out Derbyshire twice in the day on an uncovered, drying wicket, and won the game by an innings and 348 runs.

It was a remarkable match in many ways: future England player Geoff Miller made his debut in first-class cricket, Clive Lloyd hit a century and saw snow for the first time, and the umpire in charge, who always seemed to be linked with freakish incidents, was none other than Dickie Bird.

Steve Thorne
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset


Reporting rail hazards

SIR – Dr Russell Walshaw (Letters, June 16) berates road authorities for not cutting back foliage that obscures road signs. Network Rail also needs to keep trackside vegetation trimmed, so that trains do not hit uncut branches. 

On May 11 the heritage steam locomotive Clun Castle was hauling a train on a two-day special. As it left Plymouth for Bristol, one of the “butterfly” tell-tales at the end a coach – which show if the communication chain has been pulled – hit a branch hanging out over the track. 

This partially applied the brakes, bringing the train to a halt near the top of the steep gradient of Hemerdon Bank. The hoped-for breaking of the speed record between Plymouth and Bristol was thus denied. 

Countless everyday trains would have hit that branch, but no driver seems to have reported it. With the trains and the track under different ownership, there is no single chain of command through which to report such incidents. Nor is there a single chain with separate local and national authorities responsible for our roads. These gaps mean no action is taken. 

Eric Hayman
Bournemouth, Dorset


Chummy in court

SIR – Mark Solon (Letters, June 16) remembers a defendant who consistently called the judge “your majesty”. Some years ago I sat on a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court. One of the defendants kept calling the judge “mate”. Eventually the judge said that he must refer to him as “your honour”, to which he replied: “OK mate”. 

To his eternal credit, the judge broke into a broad smile of resignation. 

Philip Roberts
Caernarfon


Luggage leak

SIR – My abiding memory of luggage-in-advance (Letters, June 16) is of a school friend whose mother had packed in her trunk a large bottle of cod liver oil and malt, which broke in transit. A lot of my friend’s clothes had to be thrown away as the mess was beyond the skill of the cleaners.

Mary Whiteside
Exeter, Devon


SIR – When I was eight, my rather tatty trunk was sent off to my first boarding school labelled PLA: passenger luggage in advance. This mystified me because these were not my initials.

However, on arriving at my school I was pleased to find a different, fine-looking trunk boldly labelled with my initials ACC. I had noticed how shabbily dressed I was compared to the other new boys, so I assumed this was the school’s way of bringing my appearance up to scratch.

I was very disappointed to find out that ACC merely meant that the luggage had been travelling “accompanied” – clearly by a boy with wealthier parents than mine.

Anthony Charles Clay
Cambridge


SIR – In 1972 I sent my trunk out by ship to Ethiopia. In the bottom were pamphlets with Bible verses on them.

During the revolution, one of my students was imprisoned. The local shop used to use my old physics papers to make up bags to put bananas in. I didn’t think my student would want one of those, so I made up three paper bags from the pamphlets. I took some bananas up in one of the bags and gave them to the guard. He looked at them and took them in. 

I still have the letter the former student sent me saying how much it had meant to them during their time in prison. 

Mave Dellor
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


The verdict on beards at Trooping the Colour

Fur by fur: Guardsmen taking part in the Sovereign's birthday parade of 2024
Fur by fur: Guardsmen taking part in the Sovereign's birthday parade of 2024 - alamy

SIR – I’m afraid the bearded Guardsmen at Trooping the Colour (report, June 16) looked scruffy.

What next – jeans and trainers?

John Kennedy
Hornchurch, Essex


SIR – Trooping the Colour makes you so proud to be British. 

Can any one else do pageantry like us? Not on your life. Just brilliant.

Derek Lawton
Northallerton, North Yorkshire



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