Saturday, April 1, 2000

More news on London’s mayoral election

Helle Bering provides an important service to The Washington Times’ readers in drawing attention to constitutional reforms being pursued in the United Kingdom (“Something rotten in Britain,” Op-Ed, March 29).

Given that we inherited our electoral system from the British, their moves to change their system amidst other, unrelated constitutional changes bear watching.

Miss Bering misses one important reform, however, in her discussion of the race to be mayor of London. It indeed is true that the Labor Party’s vote might be split between its nominee, Frank Dobson, and independent candidate Ken Livingstone. If that is the case, however, the mayor will be elected by an instant runoff voting system that allows such “fractured” votes to “heal.”

Instant runoff voting simulates a runoff election in a single round of voting. Londoners will be able to select a second, “runoff” choice when at the polls. If no candidate wins a majority, the bottom candidates are eliminated, and their ballots are counted for whichever of the top candidates is listed second. That simple change turns conventional wisdom on its head when considering the impact of independent and third-party candidacies. Rather than “spoiling” the mayor’s race, Mr. Livingstone’s campaign likely will ensure that a Labor-backed candidate will win, as he will generate greater turnout among Labor voters.

Instant runoff voting has no ideological bias its only bias is to favor majority rule. Imagine a John McCain independent candidacy this fall if we had instant runoff voting in the United States. He would bring voters to the polls who generally would vote Republican in congressional races (just as Jesse Ventura’s candidacy helped boost Republicans to big gains in Minnesota’s state legislature in 1998), and either he or Texas Gov. George W. Bush probably would win, depending on which candidate won more first-choice votes.

In the past year, three state legislatures in New Mexico, Vermont and Alaska have had hearings and serious debate about adopting instant runoffs for federal and statewide elections. (See for more information.) It likely is just a matter of time before this simple, pro-democracy change becomes the norm in our elections.


Executive director

Center for Voting and Democracy

Takoma Park


Helle Bering’s otherwise excellent summary of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s attempts to retain central control over a decentralized political system suffers from one slight flaw. She says that “Red” Ken Livingstone, the Labor Party rebel running for mayor of London, was “certainly not the favorite of the party.”

In fact, he was, overwhelmingly, but he was not the favorite of the party machine. The machine politicians changed the electoral system so it used an electoral college wherein Labor’s few hundred members of Parliament (MPs) and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) controlled a third of the final votes. The Labor Union and party member sections of the college voted massively for Mr. Livingstone, but the MPs and MEPs voted en bloc for his opponent, who was able to claim a razor-thin majority of the entire college. He would have lost a popular vote by a huge margin. Strangely enough, this was the system foisted on the Labor Party in the early ‘80s by Mr. Livingstone’s comrades when they were within a whisker of gaining control of the party. The American presidential primary system seems to shine with purity by comparison.

It is ironic that my country, where modern democracy took its first hesitant steps with popular revolts against the tyrant kings of the 17th century, should find itself with a democratically elected government so blatantly hostile to democracy. Mr. Blair and his colleagues have swept aside the remaining checks and balances in the British system and replaced them with powerless talking-shops. The resultant unchecked, badly balanced system is crying out, dare I say it, for a revolution. Without it, all Britain can claim to be is an elective dictatorship.



Iain Murray is a citizen of the United Kingdom.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration commended for a job well done

I applaud and commend your superb article regarding the arrest of some 2,000 reputed drug smugglers (“Caribbean bust a ‘great success,’ March 30). This excellent operation illustrates the arduous job done daily by the unsung heroes and heroines of the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Though I have no connection with law enforcement being merely a humble retired soldier my opinions are based upon common sense. All possible resources should be committed to securing our shores and streets from the scourge of drug use and abuse.

All possible honors are due to the great work in that arena being done by the DEA and Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House drug policy director. They are making a compassionate difference for future generations by fostering the war on drugs. They deserve our full and heartfelt support.


U.S. Army (retired)

Waynesboro, Pa.

Conservative leader omitted from article

I have difficulty finding credibility in an article with the headline “Conservatives have no leader to follow” (March 28) that completely overlooks the only candidate in the 2000 race that has carried the conservative banner without reservation from day one. That candidate is Alan Keyes. Whether you like the man or not, it is hard to deny that he has been unswerving in his conservative message. The very fact that he continues in the race, not because he expects to win, but because he carries a message that he believes with all his heart and soul, sets him apart from everyone in the race, regardless of affiliation.

No, the problem is not that the conservative movement lacks leaders. In fact, the article names a number of conservative leaders whom I respect greatly. The problem is that conservatives refuse to follow them.

Instead, conservatives ascribe to the assertions of the media and pollsters that only certain candidates are “electable.” They claim to be supportive of true conservatives but choose to vote for those perceived to be capable of winning. Gary Bauer made a huge mistake that confirms this when he chose to sacrifice the ideals he had been touting in his own campaign to support a viable McCain candidacy instead of consolidating his base with a more like-minded candidate such as Mr. Keyes.

Until conservatives reclaim their convictions and take a stand for them, your article will be correct: There certainly will be no conservative leader of the stature sought. But rest assured there are plenty of conservative leaders who are ready to accept that role.


Flower Mound, Texas


The Washington Times’ article “Conservatives have no leader to follow” decries the current state of affairs for conservatives. You claim there is no leader for the conservative movement. You must have missed all of the Republican primary debates. If you did watch or listen to any of them, you must have ignored the one effective voice of truth that was raised during those debates. That voice belongs to Alan Keyes.

Mr. Keyes is the perfect leader for the conservative movement. He is more effective than any Republican in expressing an understanding of the correct principles and truths that underlie conservatism. Conservatism doesn’t need another Republican Party hack looking for political power as an end in itself for its spokesman. We need someone who can effectively articulate the importance of adherence to the eternal truths on which our God-given rights as humans and Americans are based. Mr. Keyes has proved he is an able spokesman for these truths.

It does seem clear that Mr. Keyes won’t be the Republican nominee for president, but this primary campaign has shown us that he is the best and brightest leader for conservatives in the coming years. Conservatives who want a leader who is arguing from a sure foundation of truth need look no further.



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