Boundary Reforms

The Conservatives are up in arms about the Liberals threatening to vote against boundary reforms and accusing the Liberals of hypocracy.

The Conservatives say that boundary reform is essential because it takes more voters to elect a Conservative MP than a Labour MP – this conveniently ignores just how many voters it takes to elect a Liberal MP.  I think I smell hypocracy.  They rejected electoral reform (which would solve this issue), by putting a poor system (AV) to a referendum and then campaigning against it.  Boundary Reform will give the Cons about 20 extra seats and possibly win them the next election.

The Liberals are opposing (having previously supported) because they say we should not reduce the number of elected legislators (MPs) by 50 given the loss of their proposals to reform the unelected Legislature (The Lords).  I think I smell tit-for-tat masquearading as “principal”.  Hypocracy?

The current proposals have faults that entirely justify their rejection.  The requirement to “equalise” constituency size to within a margin of 5% means:

  • Constituencies no longer represent “natural communities” (breaking the constituency link?) because to achieve the required constituency size means borrowing (or giving) parishes to (or from) neighbouring counties.  This strikes me as stupid, we should be trying to align constituencies and local authorities – a jumble has to be the worst solution.
  • Constituencies will be in a constant state of flux as the Boundaries Commission struggles to stay within the 5% criterion (breaking the constituency link?).  We are told that the strength of the current electoral system is that voters have a relationship with a single representative and can vote them in or out at elections.  Not if you do not know if you will be in the same constituency at the next election*.
  • Constituency parties will also be in a constant state of flux.  Key workers living in out-lying parishes cannot guarantee that they will stay in the constituency. Even those in the centres cannot guarantee that their constituencies will not be abolished or radically reshaped. This will not encourage participation in the grass-roots political process and will further empower the party headquarters.
  • MPs should live in fear of losing their seats if they incur the wrath of their electorates, but not due to redrawing of boundaries.  This requires stability in the definition of constituencies.

If the size criterion for redefining constituencies was changed from 5% to 10% it is distinctly probable that constituency definitions would be considerably more stable, more likely to represent natural communities, more likely to match local authorities and last for many elections.  It would probably be also wise to permit a slightly wider margin if required to maintain a match between consituencies and local authorities.  Finally it is probably sensible to say that the disparity in size must exceed a larger margin (say 15 or even 20%) before a resizing process is triggered for a county.

* I can’t help but recall that we had police committees abolished in favour of commissioners because we, the electorate, did not know the members of those committees.  If it becomes even more difficult to know who our MP is, will they be abolished as well?

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