Electoral reform

EVEN readers who support this government might agree that the current Conservative leadership election circus does not increase trust in democracy.

The antics of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as they try to appeal to a very small and very unrepresentative (elderly, southern, white, middle class) fraction of the population are not edifying.

The system is neither rational and responsible nor in any way democratic. It needs to be changed.

We have a Parliamentary system not a Presidential one.

That means MPs determine the government (including the Prime Minister) and the government falls when it is no longer supported by a majority of the MPs – as happened with both Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Therefore a new Prime Minister should logically always be elected by MPs only, and this should be put into law.

At least we might get slightly more sensible choices of prime minister from those who after all are our representatives in parliament.

We have all seen how party members of both parties have made disastrous choices of party leader in the last two decades – disastrous for the country as well as the party.

If they are in opposition their choices can at least be tested in the next election but that should not apply when in government.

Another electoral reform is needed for local government.

In May we had elections for the new county council following the abolition of district councils. Once again North Yorkshire has a Conservative controlled council – as it has every election since 1974 (when North Yorkshire was invented) indeed probably back to the 1880s when local elections were first held. Yet the Tories only secured some 40 per cent of North Yorkshire votes in 2022 (an untypically bad election for the Conservatives).

Under the First Past the Post system, the other 60 per cent of local voters are seriously under-represented, even as an opposition, let alone in having a say in how North Yorkshire is run.

It is high time to introduce proportional representation for local elections and give genuine democratic representation on local councils.

That would have the added advantage of giving people an opportunity to judge whether PR should be introduced for national elections.

RD Hildyard, Colburn.

Detached contenders

AS the Conservative Party's leadership contest nears its close, the abiding impression is the level of detachment from reality evident in the statements of both contenders.

Unable to be honest about the growing number of crises growing before our eyes, they narrate fictions.

It's as if they both imagine they are distributing promised Brexit bonuses instead of accepting they never appeared.

Since 2010 the Conservatives have had a monopoly of power to make policies, to govern the country – they have been sovereign.

Having failed every quality test of good governance the Conservatives blame fictional enemies who blocked their route to success.

With real enemies in clear sight, they prefer to lambast brilliant and qualified Civil Servants as the "Blob"; anyone who recognises the problems as "snow flakes"; everyone willing to put their shoulder to the wheel as "do gooders"; anyone who dares to point to the facts as "moaners"; and anyone with any caring motives as "woke".

Unable to govern the country well, what is needed now apparently, is to limit the power of judges ("traitors"), barristers ("lefty lawyers"), and exit from international human rights treaties.

So here is a quick analysis of facts and fictions.

There is a Cost of Living Crisis for most – we can help by cutting taxes. We have a NHS and care crisis – so let's abandon the agreed National Insurance Levy. Outside your door is a looming climate crisis – so let's cut the Green Levy recently made policy to deal with it. Brexit dividends have not arrived – so let's break our own international agreements signed last year. We have a labour shortage throughout the economy – so let's make it harder for migrant workers to assist. Having taken back control even more illegal migrants are crossing the Channel – best threaten to send them to Rwanda.

Remember the contract with a ferry firm with no ferries? The claim that Covid was not airborne so we don't need masks? Covid was like a bad cold? There won't be queues at the ports, labour shortages, there won't be problems in Ireland?

We are being asked to join these contestants in the never land of denialism.

My advice is to just believe what's in front of your eyes and avert them from malicious and dangerous untruths.

Our local candidate at least has one foot on the ground, but that's not much as we're standing on the edge of a cliff.

Dr John R Gibbins, Sowerby, Thirsk.

Wrong priorities

IMAGINE the anger and frustration felt by the residents of Leeming Bar on learning of the blatant hypocrisy demonstrated by Hambleton District Council’s refusal of planning permission for the proposed solar farm near Scruton on the grounds that it would not be right to use best and most versatile land for such a scheme (D&S Times, Aug 12).

At least a solar farm would be producing something useful, whereas the valuable farmland at Leeming Bar is about to be churned up to extend a gigantic factory producing something injurious to health – fizzy pop.

Good riddance to Hambleton District Council, you are leaving us with a shameful legacy.

Christine Redman, Leeming Bar.

Carbon dioxide

WE respond to the perspective provided by Michael Watson “Green plans” (D&S letters, Aug 12).

He points out correctly, that the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and oxygen.

He also states, in the same sentence, that carbon dioxide is both life-giving and too minimal to be important.

We would politely suggest that carbon dioxide is either life-giving or irrelevant. It simply cannot be both.

The historical context is that CO2 has increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the pre-industrial era to 420ppm (for every million molecules in the atmosphere 400 are carbon dioxide). This is an increase of almost 50 per cent.

Scientific research has proved that the only realistic cause for this increase is carbon emissions from human activities, mainly burning fossil fuels.

Even at low concentrations CO2 and other greenhouse gases absorb energy that is reflected from the earth preventing solar energy from escaping back into space, heating the earth.

To date, the consequence of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere has been an increase in temperatures of 1C or 1.8F.

It is important to point out that given the current costs of fossil fuels, the cost of electricity generated by renewables has long been significantly cheaper than natural gas or oil. It is unfortunate that this is not made clear in consumer energy bills.

There is no denying that currently renewables do need to have back up provided by fossil fuels. However, with the appropriate investment and research in electricity storage, we can move away from fossil fuels. This is a rapidly advancing technology.

The continuing heat waves across the planet, not just the UK, shows just one impact of global warming.

It is deeply worrying and very dangerous, so we must work fast, and together, to eliminate our carbon emissions.

Failing to do so means the future is bad for many of us and grim for our descendants.

For those wanting to improve their knowledge "The Discovery of Global Warming" by Spencer R. Weart is a good place to start.

Bridget Holmstrom, for Climate Action Stokesley and Villages.

Beck maintenance

I ASKED Brompton Town Council to cut down the sides of the beck at Water End in Brompton because of health and safety, as you can’t see where the edge is and this is dangerous especially for very young children who could easily fall in the beck.

They replied that only one child had fallen into the beck in that area so it wasn’t a risk. I was flabbergasted.

Great Ayton and Stokesley don’t have that problem as their beck sides are clear and safe.

The council said the beck and Water End "currently look amazing and certainly the best it has done for many years”.

They also said there are a considerable amount of butterflies. There is a meadow right next to the ford for butterflies and I have a lot more in my garden because I have buddleia plants!

Sue Butler Smith, Brompton, Northallerton.

Supply and demand

IF, as seems plausible, the sharp rise in energy and fuel prices is due to a reduction in available supplies, then the response of some politicians and others suggests a disregard for rationality and economics.

It may be that, under our two party system, neither can hold office without the votes of those for whom the unpalatable is unacceptable.

These parties lack the courage for speaking truth to power: that is to say to their voters. The system intentionally excludes those who might gain a few seats and a voice just from the support of voters who are prepared to face reality.

In times of shortage prices rise until demand is pulled into alignment with supply.

To frame the problem as one of how to enable everyone to go on consuming as before is to invite ever rising prices.

In a global shortage, one country might maintain its level of consumption. This would be by forcing even greater cuts on poorer countries.

Is this how sanctimonious Keir Starmer, with his trumpeted anguish over poverty, wants us to proceed?

Rather than moving the tax burden away from energy and fuel, the government should be heaping it on.

Assistance will be needed for those who cannot safely cut back further. But, unless the rhetoric of families going cold and/or hungry is completely hollow, our focus needs to shift from "relative poverty" to absolute.

Help must be directed to meeting our objective of averting these evils.

Windfall taxes would not provide the same incentive to conserve. That is unless the suppliers simply pass the cost on to consumers, in which case the proposal is no different to my own.

We need to overcome the myth that things can only get better, even for the already comfortably off, and that the status quo is a bare minimum.

There is a sense of entitlement and a feeling that cutting back in response to price is beneath one’s dignity and an affront to one’s status.

One way in which the marginal cost of consumption could be increased, without adding a penny to the total bill for customers, would be to ban standing charges and switch that cost onto the unit price.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Best kept secret?

IT’S not the white golf balls west of Harrogate, or the toaster on the hill at Flyingdales, or the underground bunker near Scarborough.

It is somewhere that people don’t really want to go to, and indeed, some go there and never come back.

There is a sign outside saying Maple Park.

So what is it?

It’s the new Hambleton Crematorium.

There is no sign outside and there is no signage anywhere – from Busby Stoop, from Thirsk or Northallerton, or from the A1(M) or A19 for anyone needing to go there coming from afar.

One might reasonably have expected that signs might have been included in the millions spent on this great and valuable project, but sadly not.

Truly it is North Yorkshire’s best kept secret.

Fred Wachsberger, Knayton, Thirsk.

Lost and found

I JUST want to express my deep felt gratitude to the kind person from Saltburn who found my driving licence and posted to me addressing me as Mr James, my second Christian name.

I hadn't realised that I had lost it! It has saved me a lot of worry.

John Watson, Darlington.