A reader writes:

What that Rubik's cube map shows is that pretty much any part of the UK that did the heavy lifting of the industrial revolution - and which has paid the price for de-industrialization - still thinks on aggregate that the Tories don't have anything to offer them. Neither party seems to have come up with much beyond various ham-fisted attempts to subsidize local manufacturing, instead of just admitting that the old days of well-paid semi-skilled jobs aren't coming back. And neither party seems to willing to ask any serious questions about what it means that Eastern Europeans seem to be able to come to the UK and find work.

(This is where my long-departed, west-of-Scotland-working-class-Tory grandfather would have asked if it might be because they weren't a load of bloody useless work-shy idlers, but this is why he wasn't in politics, and why he didn't balk at Pakistani immigrants back in the day.)

It seems to me that if the Tories get a working majority in the coming election, it's not an epochal shift as such, because they're capitalizing on the +/- 15 years that the UK electorate is willing to give a party to become completely ossified and unelectable. There's nothing about the platform that I've noticed that says they're trying anything seriously different than tweaking their side of the political divide in policy terms.

If the Tories wanted an epochal shift, their response to work in Britain wouldn't be superficially pragmatic with nativist dog-whistles (limit immigration), it would surely involve a serious rethink about how to encourage either the creation and relocation of jobs - or of workers - in the UK. If they want to gain electoral success in the long term by means other than gerrymandering, addressing work and basic affluence would surely be a good way to go.

Until then, it's just the same old back and forth with slightly better packaging this time around. And look at Tony Blair - what could go wrong with a media-friendly centrist papering over internal party divisions?

Another writes:

Could you please explain something to me?  You've been banging away for weeks now about the British election, the new Cameron strain of Tory, then the rise of Clegg at the debates, etc.  But after noting the contrast between Lib-Dems' massive surge in popularity and the actual seats they stand to gain, you turn around and argue against election reform?

"I like clear, strong governments with clear mandates," you explain.  Is that how you would describe British politics over the past decade?  How about American politics during the 1990s?  And even after a landslide, is the incoming party's mandate really so clear?  If they owe their victory more to widespread discontent with the incumbent rather than the popularity of their own policies, what exactly can they hope to transform?  Further, citizen engagement is crucial to the survival of any participatory democracy; what could be more effective at depressing voter turnout than a two party monopoly on power?

More to the point, while the vision of a "clear, strong government with a clear mandate" may resonate emotionally, countries with PV such as Germany and Australia don't seem to be the worse off for using that instead of first past the post.  People love to point to Italy as an example of the perils of coalition politics, but is that really the fault of coalitions as a concept or simply other, uniquely Italian factors in Italian politics?

I also find your enthusiasm for seeing the Lib Dems permanently supplant Labour and ensure that "Britain can oscillate between a Whiggish Toryish and a Tory Whiggism" as a bit naive, unless you're for PV.  FPP actually makes it harder for this transformation of the political playing field to occur.  It also puts a great deal of perverse pressure on the Lib Dems once they've replaced Labour.  All of the constituencies (interest groups, not boroughs) that Labour fought for will have to look to the Lib Dems instead, and they'll expect a quid pro quo from Clegg. 

I suppose in the long run I could possibly see the sort of transformation you're looking for, but again, I think PV could give it a real boost, free up people who want just that sort of "Whiggish Toryish and Tory Whiggism" to vote their preferences rather than their fears (anything but Labour!  anything but Tory!).

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