Give the Lib Dems a fair crack of the whip | Letters

Readers on the Liberal Democrats being squeezed out of TV debates, their economic philosophy and their decisions to stand candidates against other remainers in Canterbury and elsewhere

Rafael Behr (Tactical pacts won’t turn this into a Brexit election, Journal, 13 November) says “the Tories and Labour will continue to dominate English politics”. But only because of the distortions of the first-past-the-post electoral system, which no longer reflects the political geography of the country. Nor does the bizarre decision by ITV and the BBC to broadcast head-to-head interviews only with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

This may have served when we had a more or less stable two-party system. But that started to disintegrate in the mid-1980s and has been almost destroyed in recent months by the stresses of Brexit and the plunge into extremism by the two “main” parties.

Jo Swinson’s portrayal of herself as the Liberal Democrat candidate for prime minister may be ambitious, but is a valid claim and deserves respect. Apart from that, the nationalists cannot become a UK government, but so long as they send substantial numbers of MPs to Westminster, their views will affect parliamentary decision-making, and sophisticated English voters might take that into consideration as to how they cast their ballots.

In addition, there are smaller groups and fragments of political opinion not encompassed by Labour or Tory, but even small numbers of independently minded or dissident MPs can change the decisions of parliament. Yet the BBC and ITV will not let us hear from any of them. Perhaps this a ploy by them, expecting that Johnson and Corbyn will prove themselves so unfit to be prime minister that, when they see them together, viewers will rush to find an alternative. But it is more likely that the BBC and ITV have retreated into a binary bunker because they find it easier to report politics that way. It is bad for democracy, and bad journalism.
James Cox
Former BBC political correspondent, 1978-83 and 1986-93

• In Monday’s excellent editorial on voter repression you called out attempts to restrict the right to vote. What a shame then, that a paper that prides itself on balanced journalism has not called out the decision of ITV and the BBC to exclude the Lib Dems from their leaders’ debates – a decision that is as undemocratic as seeking to restrict voting rights.

The rationale behind this would appear to be based on the outdated notion that the forthcoming election is simply a contest between the Conservatives and Labour. That these two parties have continued to return the majority of MPs in successive elections has only been possible by the absurdity of our FPTP system. Neither of the two biggest parties has managed to achieve 50% support in any recent election, but they have, with the support of both the print and broadcast media, managed to maintain a stranglehold on airtime and column inches. No wonder the smaller parties struggle to get their voice heard. So come on, the Guardian, stand up for fairness and balance, and demand equal airtime for all.
Graham Judge
Barrow, Suffolk

• In claiming that “the Lib Dem economic philosophy is cut from the same cloth as the Conservative version”, Michael Bowers (Letters, 13 November) exhibits a blinkered view of economic history. True, both Conservatives and 19th-century Liberals shared similar views on economic policy, but in 1909 the Liberal government “interfered” with the market by introducing old-age pensions and, from the Yellow Book of 1928 and Lloyd George’s slogan “We can conquer unemployment”, urged that the state should be proactive in the economy. We are proud that from 1945 the Labour government accepted the economic philosophy of John Maynard Keynes and the social policies of William Beveridge, both Liberals, which led to 30 years of unprecedented prosperity.

Sadly, Keynesian economics went out of fashion in the last quarter of the 20th century. By 2010, neoliberalism was still the prevailing orthodoxy, not just in the UK but in the EU, and advocated by the IMF. Unfortunately, our Lib Dem leaders at the time, tinged with their Orange Book, went along with the tide in spite of protests from Keynesian economists such as myself. The party is now purged of this deviation from our heritage and, when again in government, will pursue fiscal and monetary policies for the benefit of all. It is an irony that if the Tories retain power and spend money like water as they now propose, the long overdue economic recovery from 2008 could well take place.
Peter Wrigley
Honorary president, Batley and Spen Liberal Democrats

• It seems Jo Swinson is determined to stand a Lib Dem candidate against the remain Labour candidate in Canterbury who overturned a 10,000 Tory majority to win by just 187 votes in 2017. This despite the current Lib Dem candidate standing down because he recognises that standing risks handing the traditionally Tory seat to a strong Brexiter (Canterbury Lib Dem rift as candidate stands aside, 13 November). It shows that Swinson’s talk of the Lib Dems being the best bet for remain is just marketing schtick. As with putting David Cameron into Downing Street for five years from 2010, or giving Boris Johnson the election he wanted on the date he wanted, it’s always about the narrow interests of the party and nothing to do with national interest.
Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire

• As a remainer, at the beginning of the election campaign I welcomed the Lib Dems’ commitment to remain – particularly their pledge to support a further referendum if they are not able to form a government (which we all know is highly unlikely) – and seriously considered voting for them. I am now disillusioned: if they are serious about their commitment they would not put up candidates against the likes of David Gauke, Rosie Duffield and Ben Bradshaw – remainers all.

Sadly, tribalism and deluded ambition infect the Lib Dems as much as the other parties. I have no one to vote for: the choice is between an incompetent serial liar, a fantasist with good intentions but divorced from economic reality and a self-delusional leader whose ambition and “my party at all costs” approach has blinded her to the facts on the ground. Whether you are a Brexiteer or a remainer, it seems you have no leader to vote for who is genuinely interested in putting the real national interest first. Does anyone care?
Chris Hunt
Hednesford, Staffordshire

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