31 MAY 1930, Page 19

[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sia, -Will you allow me to comment upon the latest of the very interesting articles by Mr. G. Henderson on the position of Germany to-day ?

Your correspondent rightly emphasizes the need in a democracy of a deep'-rooted confidence in its institutions of government. But this, I suggest, can only come by slow growth. It is not a matter for surprise that such confidence, in England the development of a long period of time, should be as yet lightly marked in Germany, in which a fully demo- erotic system was introduced only in 1919. Nevertheless, Mr. Henderson testifies, in common with all other observers, to the enormous advances made by Germany during the period of self-government. This remarkable recovery has been assisted in no small measure by the system of propor- tional representation, which has safeguarded the country from dangerous oscillations in the composition of the govern- ment which would have been the almost certain consequence of an electoral system such as, for example, our own, in which there is no assured relation between popular opinion and its representation.

Further, it can hardly be said that the electoral system has failed to produce statesmen. Several German party leaders have, in fact, since the War obtained a European reputation. But again, one has to remember that parlia- mentary government in Germany has involved an adjustment to new conditions and that the solution of the problems of self-government has had to be worked out from the very beginning. These problems would have occurred whatever the electoral system.

Germany has, it is true, a considerable number of political

parties, but this is not a new phenomenon, nor can 'it be attributed to proportional representation. A greater number of distinct parties was represented in the last pre-War Reichstag elected in single-member constituencies with the second ballot, than are represented in the Reichstag to-day elected in large areas with proportional representation. I venture to say that Germany cannot escape from a multi- party system and that in these circumstances the way of statesmanship and of safety lies in assuring a fair repre- sentation to the different parties rather than through the hazard of an uncertain electoral method, giving one or more parties an unwarranted predominance over the others.

It must, however, be remembered that proportional repre- sentation, as it is practised in Germany, is something very different from the application of that principle recommended in this country. The German plan of P.R. seems to our eyes unnecessarily rigid. In Germany the elector must vote for a party list in which the names of candidates appear in an order determined by the party organization. In this respect it differs from the single transferable vote form of P.R. advocated in Great Britain, in which the electors have the fullest freedom to choose amongst the candidates. Moreover, the constituencies proposed in this country, whilA admitting of the representation of substantial bodies of opinion, are not so large as those in use in Germany. There will doubtless be modifications in the rigid form of P.R. adopted by Germany, but the present position of Germany as compared with that of 1919, the identification of the large majority of the nation with the foreign policy pursued by Dr. Stresemann, the assurance of continued progressive development in the future, are evidence of the value of an electoral system which associates the whole of the nation with its elected Parliament.—I am, Sir, &c., JOHN H. HUMPHREYS.

82 Victoria Street (Flat 24), Westminster, London, S.W.1.