Tuesday, 13 September 2016
Parliamentary Boundary Changes could lead to a Permanent Tory Government in the UK
The Boundary Commission (for England) published today their initial proposals for reducing the number of constituencies, and therefore MPs, from 650 to 600, after government instructions to equalise the size of constituencies to within 5% of 74,769 registered electors per constituency. People can contribute views on the consultation on the Boundary Commission website (for England. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters have their own Boundary Commissions).
Sam Hartley, Secretary to the Commission, said:
‘Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the Commission’s initial thoughts – during the next 12 weeks we want people to take a look and tell us what they like and don’t like about our proposals. Parliament has set us tight rules about reducing the number of constituencies, and making them of more equal size, and we now need the views of people around the country to help us shape constituencies that best reflect local areas. Use our website to tell us what you think, or come along to one of our public events to give us your views in person.’
There will be further public consultations in 2017 and 2018, with the final proposals due to be implemented in 2018, in time for general election of 2020.
Labour stands to be the biggest losers in this exercise, as their mainly urban constituencies tend to have less registered voters than suburban and more rural areas. The proposals also ignore local geographical boundary factors like particular local authority areas and individual towns or counties, in favour of purely numerical sections of voters.
However, these initial proposals could well change, as similar proposals in the last Parliament were subsequently altered, before being abandoned because Labour and the Lib Dems threatened to defeat them in Parliament, for which they had the numbers at the time.
Under these proposals, the Green Party could stand to lose its one Parliamentary seat, that of Caroline Lucas, as this seat, Brighton Pavilion, will become Brighton North, which will be a three way marginal, with the Tories just ahead of Labour, based on the results of the last general election.
All of which makes the idea of a ‘progressive alliance’ more attractive, if the Tories are to be kicked out of government in 2020. It is hard to see, at this stage, the Tories not winning in 2020, unless the opposing parties can somehow pool their resources and voters.
The changes look to be an exercise in gerrymandering to favour the Tories, at the expense of all the opposition parties, despite the government’s spin about fairness. If they were really interested in fairness, the government would take this opportunity to change the electoral system, to a more proportional one, but this would make it nearly impossible for the Tories to win an outright majority ever again (and Labour too).
Labour is the key here to getting a fair electoral system. When Labour was elected to government in 1997, their manifesto contained a commitment to a proportional voting system, and ex Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, compiled a report recommending the adoption of a Single Transferable Vote Plus, system. But with Labour winning much bigger than expected, the impetus for change dwindled, and the idea was shelved, never to see the light of day again.
It now looks like Labour, or a radical Labour anyway, will be unable win power on its own. So ultimately, the boundary changes might have a positive effect on our politics, or else, we will live in a one party state, with a permanent Tory government. That should concentrate minds in the Labour Party, but we will see.