ONLY once in the 18 elections since World War Two has a representative of the Colne Valley gained a seat in Parliament on a simple majority of the votes cast – and that was in the Labour landslide that cast Winston Churchill’s government aside in 1945 and times are very different now.

Stated another way, in 17 out of 18 elections the majority of voters in the constituency were nominally unrepresented.

In 1997 when Labour were swept to power again, Mr Blair offered reform of the electoral system but did not keep his word and now Mr Brown is toying with the concept.

Looking at the numbers since this time, the majority for Labour has shrunk steadily from 4,840 to1,500 in 2005.

A similar decline in this election, when Labour are not thriving, will result in the election of a Conservative. This party came second in these years.

But this election seems to be one of those rare tipping points when the unexpected might arise.

An increasingly sophisticated electorate, more engaged than usual, might – as has H Jones, (Letters April 20 ) “a lifelong Labour supporter” who “finds the thought of a Tory government so abhorrent would vote tactically to prevent aTory win – do the same.

I am no actuary and am also aware of the old adage ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’. However, this election is more interesting than many since 1945 because of the dramatic movements of opinion recently witnessed at the expense of the two formerly major parties.

After years of voter apathy the Electoral Commission has reported a surge in voter registrations, particularly among the young which is surely welcome.

It is reported that these new voters appear to favour something different to the old established ways.The candidate criticised for imaginatively extrapolating previous election results to say that Labour cannot win in the Colne Valley is probably correct, but for more reasons than just numbers.

Given that people often vote with their hearts rather than their heads or as their parents did or as a form of tribal allegiance, the outcome cannot be predicted but guessed at by examining the entrails as is the wont in some cultures, ancient and modern.

A last look at previous years shows that since 1997 the Lib Dem vote is down by 993, the Tory by 2,409 and Labour by 5,749 which could suggest that support for the two erstwhile major parties is less stable.

Given the parlous state of the nation, I do not envy whichever party or parties takes up the reins. During the war we had a government of national unity so perhaps a hung parliament which forces a real dialogue at Westminster is not to be feared and a new examination of the electoral system welcomed.

John Berryman


An unhealthy option?

TODAY, like a few thousand others, both myself and my partner got a letter about the new health database.

There is no opt out paper in there. You have to call them.

Presumably this is so they can try and persuade us otherwise and probably do with some gullible or not well people. Apart from the sharp practice here it is conceivable this is also a delaying tactic as you are unlikely to get through and then they will say ‘sorry, you are too late.’

I called the Huddersfield number at 4.10pm and, yes, I got an answerphone which told me they were open until 4.30pm and to leave a message. It said ‘I may be on another call.’ “I? ” Only one person to take all the calls?

I left a message with my phone number.I think this is a cop-out on not sending a form and to make it as hard as possible to opt out by trying to get through ... and then cannot.

M B Fletcher