by RAY FLEMING
IT'S not good manners to tell the world what one has said in a personal letter but, on the other hand, if the recipient was Tony Blair one need not bother too much about the proprieties. Yesterday's Independent newspaper published on its front page a letter to the Prime Minister from Charles Kennedy about electoral reform. It makes the familiar points about the inequality of the UK voting system whereby, “It took 26'877 voters to elect a Labour MP, 44'251 to elect a Conservative MP and 96'367 to elect a Liberal Democrat.” But it is the bluntness of the letter that is of special interest. Mr Kennedy writes: “When you were in opposition, you actively courted my predecessor with promises about reform of the voting system and a switch to proportional representative.” This reference to Paddy Ashdown is followed by another about the commission chaired by Roy Jenkins which Mr Blair set up to report on voting reform but then ignored its findings. In short, says the Liberal Democrat leader: “Prime Minister, you have failed the electorate over the issue of PR.” Mr Kennedy's decision to revive the controversy about Paddy Ashdown's involvement with Mr Blair over voting reform is interesting. There is absolutely no doubt that Tony Blair “courted” the Liberal leader before the 1997 election when he thought that he might need his support to form a government. When he found this support unnecessary he slowly detached himself from the promise he had made to hold a referendum on PR and left Mr Ashdown exposed to the charge that he had been naïve. With hindsight, it is possible to see this incident as an early example of Mr Blair's untrustworthiness. Although he makes no reference to it in the published letter, Mr Kennedy probably decided not to wait any longer for some action when he heard that John Prescott, one of the strongest opponents of PR for the House of Commons, has been put in charge of the cabinet committee on electoral reform.