PR protest

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Brian Wilson says that proportional representation leads to the election of MEPs who are unidentifiable, have nothing to say and whom nobody hears of between elections (Perspective, 24 May). However, the parties publish lists of their candidates in order of preference (published in The Scotsman on 21 May) so we know as much (or as little) about the representatives we are voting for as in UK elections. It is true that nothing may be heard of most of them until the next election, but the same could be said of the platoons of lobby-fodder sent to Westminster. But it is not always so: Struan Stevenson, for instance, has had letters and articles in The Scotsman.

Mr Wilson’s main complaint seems to be that, because of PR, the European elections provide “the ideal platform for otherwise unelectable chancers” – in this instance Ukip, dismissed as a “party of protest”. However, in the rest of his article he stresses that Ukip’s views command wide support, so it would seem appropriate that, in a democratic system, they should win seats. And did not Labour begin as a protest movement with candidates who were unelectable until given a leg-up by the old Liberal Party?

I would suggest the reason protest movements can do well in European elections is that the European Parliament lacks the power to make or unmake the government. The same phenomenon can be seen in by-elections to Westminster. Could it be that Mr Wilson’s detestation of PR arises from the fact the first-past-the-post system for UK elections, as currently organised, gives 
Labour a built-in advantage?

S Beck

Craigleith Drive

Edinburgh