Boundaries: A better way

So what do we actually want from Parliamentary Boundaries?

  1. Geographically sensible areas – with which constituents can identify
  2. Reasonably stable areas – so that your constituency is not always changing
  3. Rough parity in terms of number of electors
  4. Not drawn up in such a way to favour or disfavour any particular party or interest

The current proposal for constituency equalisation (UK Autumn 2010) fails on (1) and (2) above, may achieve (3), but is contentious in respect of (4).  Personally I think it is a mess.

There is a better way – but it requires a conceptual jump.

That jump requires getting your mind around the idea of multiple member constituencies.  If you can do that, boundaries become less important, because a lot of the “sorting out” happens within a constituency boundary.

  1. The constituencies cover larger geographically sensible areas (with between say 3 and 6 MPs depending on their size):
    • Sensible urban areas such as cities – “Sheffield”, “Newcastle”, “Coventry”, “Stoke on Trent”
    • Smaller counties – “Northumberland”, “Dorset”,
    • London Boroughs or Areas – “Croydon”, “Ealing”, (and similar for other major metropolitan areas – “The Wirral”, )
    • Parts of larger Counties – possibly: “West Surrey”, “East Surrey”, “North Staffordshire”, “South Staffordshire”,
  2. The areas are reasonably stable because, for instance, population movement from inner cities to the inner suburbs are contained within the constituency.  More major changes in the electorate could be adjusted for by increasing or decreasing the number of members elected (for instance from 4 to 5, or from 4 to 3 etc.) without redefining the constituency.
  3. The ability to adjust the number of members can help maintain rough parity of electors per MP.
  4. Multi-member constituencies allow STV which helps ensure fuller representation of multiple points of view.  Thus medium sized parties are no longer penalised and the larger ones are no longer artificially favoured.  With bigger constituencies it is more difficult to gerrymander a constituency by moving a ward from one constituency to another.

But I suspect that adopting multi-member constituencies is a step too far for some of the political dinosaurs.  They claim that such an approach “breaks the constituency link”.  On the contrary, by ensuring that constituencies are longer-lasting and relate to more natural constituencies than some of the present single member constituencies, the link is reinforced.  In addition constituents can more easily relate to their constituency – surely “City of Sunderland” is easier to identify with than “Sunderland Central”, “Washington & Sunderland West” or “Houghton & Sunderland South”?  If constituents can more easily relate to their constituency and hence to their MPs, the link between MPs and their constituents is reinforced – and that has to be more important than any MP’s link with an artificial constituency carved out of a bit of the country.

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  • By Messing with the boundaries | Enfranchise me! on 16 September 2010 at 7:55 pm

    […] Enfranchise me! How UK Voting reform could enfranchise me Skip to content HomeAbout ← AV: The foundling of British Electoral Reform Boundaries: A better way → […]

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