04 November 2010

'Equalised' Constituencies To Be 'More Unequal'.

See the excellent ERS article here.

Set the terms of the debate - that is what the Tories and their media dominance have managed to do. When you control the agenda, what was 'spin' when Labour did it, goes unnoticed when it comes from this government.

The Tories have managed to sell 'equalised' constituencies as something perfectly natural and uncontroversial. In fact, coupled with the reduction in the number of MPs (will you lose yours?) - 50 local MPs will go, we are facing a much bigger constitutional change than the referendum on the Alternative Vote. By rights we should also get a referendum on how many MPs we should have, this should not be the decision of the government, that can and does have partizan reasons for deciding how many constituencies we get and where the boundaries are drawn.

The main problem with 'equalising' constituencies is that 3.5m potential voters are to become invisible. Instead of relying on Voting Age Population numbers, constituencies will be drawn on out of date and unreliable registration numbers. Some Labour constituencies could end up with over 110,000 voting age adults, while Tory constituencies have just 80,000. That means Labour MPs generally concentrated in poorer, more demanding areas will have an even bigger workload.

Tories will argue that apart from the Scottish highlands every constituency will have within 2,000 plus or minus of 76,000 registered voters. But this ignores registration differences which the ERS shows are dramatic. It also means that for the first time electoral wards (which average around 4,000 voters in size) will have to be split and that constituency boundaries will not be within county or council boundaries. This makes a mockery of the supposed accountable link between politician and voter.

We need to demand a referendum on fair seats as well as fair votes.

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