Progressive forces of the left can win by working together | Letters

Readers on the need for electoral reform, proportional representation, and how the Tories are prolonging their dominance

Andy Beckett (The left urgently needs to lose its inferiority complex, 6 November) offers two solutions to the deadlock of rightwing dominance in our politics. The first is “to reform the electoral system”; the second is “more charismatic leaders, more effective election campaigns and more popular policies than the right”. He admits that the second is a “tall order”, and many of us shudder at the thought of charismatic leaders. Both Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have charisma. So has Boris Johnson, though it seems to be limited to winning elections.

Rather than “the left” I prefer to think of the “progressive forces” of which the Labour party is the largest. However, until the party is prepared to work with others, the chance of removing the Tories is slim. The major obstacle to such cooperation is the clause in their constitution that requires that there must be a Labour candidate in every constituency. They are not prepared to withdraw where a Liberal Democrat, Green, nationalist, independent or other has a better chance of ousting the Tory, even in return for a freer run in a Tory-held seat where they are the main contender. Given that the total “progressive” vote is almost always greater than the rightwing vote, this is crazy. Whatever the historical reason for this clause it is now an obstacle to progress and should be repealed.
Peter Wrigley
Hon president, Batley and Spen Liberal Democrats

• Andy Beckett’s call for the left to lose its inferiority complex when it comes to winning elections would certainly have appealed to Harold Wilson and Tony Blair, both of whom sought to make Labour the “natural party of government”. The problem they faced is that if overthrowing market capitalism by revolution looks hard, reforming it to make it slightly better and thereby engaging electors on a longer-term project of positive change is no easier.

While winning elections is important, achieving change and progress requires a lot more than that. Specifically a fixation on politics from above while failing to consistently mobilise energy and enthusiasm from below is not the road to success.
Keith Flett
Tottenham, London

• As a campaigner for proportional representation, I agree with Andy Beckett’s view that achieving electoral reform in the UK will be difficult. But it is definitely doable. Not only do we need the “never give up” spirit of the suffragettes, we also need a clear strategy. The priority must surely focus on winning over the Labour party to PR. Such a campaign victory would dramatically change the balance of power on this issue, as henceforth, it would be all UK parties versus the Tories.

As Labour activists keep reminding their fellow members, Labour is the only democratic socialist party in the developed world still to support the thoroughly undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system. It would be entirely possible for the overall Tory vote of 43% in 2019 to dip to 35% in the next election and, as we learned from the 2005 election, for the previous governing party to retain a Commons majority for a further five years.
Alan Story

• To his examples of Conservative tactics for prolonging their dominance, Andy Beckett might have added completing the elimination of a public state, “cementing in” the private, even in the face of a deadly pandemic. Will there be a left when that job is done?
John Airs


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