11 OCTOBER 2003, Page 38

From IV Carter Sir: The very grievous truth of Peter

Hitchens's article on the Tory party springs, I suggest, from the conversion of formal politics into an equal-opportunity professional career. To the perks that always came with political power is now added a handsome salary even for performance as a back-seat nonentity. Consequently, the path ahead for aspiring politicians lies under the flag of the dominant political party. Electioneering consists of espousing the narrow causes that the media and those ridiculous unending opinion polls proclaim to be nationally dominant — even when they are mutually incompatible. The long Conservative reign led to the parliamentary party being infiltrated by self-seekers for whom an ideological standpoint is an unnecessary encumbrance. By 1997, coherent party principles were non-existent.

Have no doubt that the same process is infecting New Labour. The clashes between the Brown and Blair camps show just as many directly opposed popularity-seeking opinions as Mr Hitchens lists in Tory ranks. An elector looks to support a candidate who will, as closely as possible, represent his beliefs. The steady fall in the number of people who bother to vote in elec.

tions and the increasing contempt for politicians reflect, I suggest, a growing awareness of their unprincipled concentration on self-interest.

The Athenians started to pay members of their Assembly in 400 BC. Within 80 years, the second Athenian empire was dead and Athenians were under Macedonian dominance. England started to pay its MPs in 1911 AD. The smell of national death is everywhere around us.

J.V. Carter

Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire