Readers’ letters - March 25

First past post is bonkers!

There are too many “points” in Brian Beck’s rant of March 18 to be completely dealt with in any reasonably sized letter, but let’s consider two. Firstly, he throws down the challenge: “From the Prime Minister down, can anyone name a minister who has lived and worked in the real world outside finance and politics and holds a position where they have relevant qualifications and experience?” Easy peasy:

Vince Cable, PhD Economics, ex-chief economist for Shell, and now Business Secretary. Unless of course you think that Shell is a finance company!

He also muses that the AV would lead to winners “only wanted by less than 40 percent. Is that fair?” This one will take a little more time but please bear with me in the following “thought experiment”. Imagine a constituency with only two candidates, A and B where B gets more votes than A. I hope we can all agree that B should win. Now imagine the same constituency and the same candidates A and B, but where a third candidate, let’s call her/him C, from a minority party decides to stand. Also imagine that C takes more votes from B than A so that under First Past The Post A now wins. Note that the relative merits of A and B haven’t changed, so why should A now win. Is that fair?

All that the AV system does is correct this deficiency of FPTP by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

Brian seems pretty cheesed off by politics at the moment. I can understand that. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that he is arguing to pass up the opportunity to give more power to the people at the expense of the professional politicians. Let’s take a real example. Imagine that you’re a “euro-sceptic” voter living in Eastbourne and the Conservative candidate is pro-Europe. What do you do? Do you vote Tory against your anti-European inclinations or UKIP and make it easier for the Lib Dem candidate to win? Under the AV system you can cast your first vote for UKIP and the second for the Conservative. Or if you’re in a safe Labour constituency with an anti-European Labour candidate and you’re pro-Europe you can cast your first vote for an independent Labour, pro-Europe candidate and your second for the official Labour candidate. The AV system takes power away from the official parties and their closed candidate selection systems and gives it back to the voters. Who thinks that’s a bad thing? Well, the Tory Party and the New Labour old-timers, and we can see why!

At least Brian didn’t trot out the claim that AV leads to weak government. Australia has used AV for most of the last century without this problem. Of course, opponents of AV trawl through history and all systems that aren’t FPTP looking for particular problems to scare us with. Unfortunately, those of us who are pro-AV cannot do the same for FPTP since hardly any other country uses such a bonkers system! And don’t let the anti-AV crowd say AV is too complicated for the Brits. Anything the Aussies can do we can do as well! Nor is it very expensive with costly counting machines. The Aussies do it with pen and paper.

Roger Oliver,

East Dean

It doesn’t add up, Norman!

I noticed that Norman Baker made some interesting comments regarding reducing the need to travel recently.

He is reported as saying: “Twenty-first century transport choices should fit a twenty-first century world where we shouldn’t just use smart cards to travel, we should be smarter about when we travel and when we use office technology for virtual travel instead.

“The results will be tangible – reduced congestion, reduced carbon emissions, improved quality of life and, if we’re all working from home, we might even start talking to our neighbours again, which can’t be a bad thing for our communities.”

While I wholeheartedly endorse these sentiments, I wonder how he can reconcile these comments with his unequivocal support for the high speed rail project (HS2).

If he really believes this, why does he think spending £34 billion on a rail link between London and the North of England is a good idea?

I also wonder if he would be happy to express these thoughts on reducing the need to travel at the forthcoming select committee hearing into HS2.

John Ford, The Lee, Bucks

Website is


To answer Paul Lovattt Smith’s letter regarding the housing development in Wealden, it’s a fine idea,

However the practicals are harder, to launch a complaint.

1. There are still a lot of people who do not have access to a PC (many rural areas do not have a library).

2. The Wealden website is very confusing and it’s difficult to locate how to comment or complain, maybe deliberately!

The letter issued to residents living near Hindslands – an area earmarked for development – is confusing to say the least. Does anyone know what an “Errata, the proposed submission core strategy” really is. It sounds very painful.

Things need to be simplified, using plain English, not legal jargon.

If they really wanted to be democratic, the best way would be to have a public meeting in all those areas, in good time, and using their access to the vast banks of the media, to tell people where and when.

This is development by the back door.

Ian Turner, Eastbourne

Capitalism is

not democracy

ANYONE who seriously questions the present capitalist system is likely to be dismissed and ridiculed as silly, eccentric, ignorant, childish and out of touch with reality.

And any opposition to capitalism is immediately, and historically quite falsely, linked with the terror during the French Revolution, the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, and the Rivers of Blood under Stalin. So the kind of reactionary and rather patronising letter of Paul Newman did not surprise me in the least.

For his information and clarification:

1, Robespierre and the Jacobins were, of course, pro-capitalist and brutally suppressed the democratic strivings of the Sans-Culottes and the working people of Paris;

2, Stalin’s mode of politics is at present well expressed in China, which happily combines capitalism with an authoritarian and highly repressive state;

3, Mussolini moved from being an anarcho-syndicalist to a Marxist socialist, and finally embraced fascism. And fascism I’m afraid is neither democratic nor socialist, but a form of corporate capitalism;

4, Capitalism is fundamentally anti-democratic, and what semblance of democracy we now possess has been achieved through the struggles of radical Liberals like Tom Paine, socialists of all hues including William Morris and Karl Marx, as well as many trade unionists and radical feminists. Democracy, however, was opposed every step of the way by the propertied classes and the upholders of capitalism.

We need to extend democracy and that can only be done by undermining capitalism, which is essentially a utopian project, backed by coercive state power, for converting public wealth into private riches as profit.

Brian Morris,


Dangers of

Landport Fork

HOW I agree with Susie Winter and Diana Andrew about the dangerous Landport Fork. Anyone turning northward onto the A275 must do so with great care and generally with some trepidation. Some people I know take alternative routes out of Lewes just to avoid the junction.

Surprisingly ESCC Highways seem to be very relaxed about the situation. Despite three personal injury claims, including one fatality, within the past three years, the accident record is described as ‘relatively good’.

While accepting that funds are limited and road safety work must be prioritised, it would be helpful if it could at least be acknowledged that many people have very real concerns for their personal safety. Lewes Town Council and Hamsey Parish Council have both suggested an interim measure to extend the existing 30mph limit northwards from the Nevill Estate to the junction, to restrict the speed of traffic coming down the hill – current speed limit 60mph – but this has just been dismissed ‘because it was not recommended as part of our speed limit review of A and B roads’.

This would be a very cost- effective improvement and surely Highways should at least take another look?

K Froude,


Like being in

Ackbourn play

NOW that’s better! How reassuring to find that, behind the camouflage hedge from which he fires his pot shots at the Ringmer cycle path, Clive Hobden’s sense of humour remains intact (letters, 18 March).

And one of his pot shots has hit smack in the middle of its target. He’s right that I do indeed often wonder whether I was wise to swap the few hours a week of leisure time I used to devote to amateur dramatics for the thankless task of serving as a councillor.

But have I really swapped one for the other? Is it not possible that this is all a carefully evolving Alan Ayckbourn play, complete with cast of unappreciated councillors, a plot line involving a forward-looking local facility that people attack because only the first stage is complete, and the laughs provided by a misanthropic voice from the sidelines called Dr Parker who’s determined to twist and misconstrue everything his local councillors, and especially the (genuinely) admirable lead member for planning, set their hand to?

Alas I fear ’tis not. If Ayckbourn had indeed concocted the character of Tony Parker, he would have been Colonel Parker, or Squadron Leader Parker, or even Rear Admiral Sir Anthony Parker (ret’d), no doubt with handlebar moustache and lashings of gin.

Oh matron, it must be real. It’s infamy – they’ve all got it in for me.

Chris Bowers, District Councillor, Ouse Valley and Ringmer

Challenge of

a lifetime

Many readers will have watched television’s Comic Relief and been inspired by the nine brave celebrities who took part in the biggest challenge of their lives – five long, hot and gruelling days on a desert trek -– to help raise money for charity.

Taking on a lifetime challenge like this is a wonderful experience and is very rewarding as I know from personal experience, when I took part in a trek to Vietnam last year to help raise money for The Children’s Trust.

The Children’s Trust has two overseas treks taking place later in the year and would love to hear from anyone wishing to sign-up to either of these to enjoy a special adventure – Kilimanjaro, from September 1 to 11, and a trek to Peru from October 21 to 30. Both these challenges will be demanding, exciting and simply unforgettable experiences, and money raised will help to enhance the lives of some of the UK’s most severely disabled children.

If you have a taste for adventure and want to take on a special challenge and make a difference to some very special children, then please consider signing-up to one of these treks. To find out more, please visit or call the trust’s team now on 01737 364329.

The Children’s Trust is a national charity, which provides therapy, care and education for children with multiple disabilities and complex health needs, and rehabilitation to children with an acquired brain injury.

Gail Porter


The Children’s Trust