Mr John Cartledge objects to the term ‘first past the post’ but is happy to use ex-post facto arguments to prove that the Conservatives’ election win in Hertsmere (and by implication nationally) was no triumph (‘Electoral system found wanting again’, Your Views, May 28).

If I understand him correctly, he asserts that only the few thousand votes constituting the Tory candidate’s overall majority had any real effect on the outcome, and that all the other votes were “wasted, in the sense that if they had not been cast the outcome would have been no different”. Which is like saying that all the losing horses might as well not have taken part since the result would have been the same in either case. Undeniably true, but also nonsensical.

This is in fact the mindset of the bad loser in all walks of life; the response of the sulky child who deliberately falls down when he sees he is losing the race.

So far as the General Election is concerned, the votes for the disappointed candidates (who of course included a great many Conservative candidates) were very far from wasted. First, the voters had the satisfaction of performing a civic duty. Second, they had the rare opportunity of giving public expression to their ancestral loyalties or political antipathies. Third, they had the pleasure of knowing that they were in the right-thinking minority. Fourth – most obviously in the case of the UKIP vote – they were able to demonstrate the depth of popular feeling on a single issue. Fifth, they provided the bad losers of this world with a superficially plausible topic of grievance and consolation. And, finally, in the particular case of Hertsmere (I’m assuming Mr Cartledge’s figures are correct) they demonstrated that the successful candidate or party was locally more popular than all the other candidates or parties put together.

Martin R Maloney

Hamilton Way, Finchley