06 June 2011

The Great Boundary Jigsaw Puzzle

Psephologist Lewis Baston has helped produce a report on what the new boundaries might look like. The report suggests that the Tories are not going to gain many seats and that the Libs are going to lose loads. Possible, but we must remember that the Tories and Lib Dems are in government making these changes and there are 2 years of wrangling ahead of where these boundaries will be drawn, so I won't be surprised if somehow the boundaries are drawn to be kind to both governing parties otherwise why would they vote it through - just you wait and see.

The four nations boundary commissions will work within the rules set and try to minimise change but as I have argued before, we are talking about completely abolishing 50 seats and moving to a less than 5% margin around an average figure to be newly set at 76,000 constituents (the margin at present works out by chance around 10% against a lower average of around 71,000). To make this new 5% margin possible, local geographical and administrative boundaries will have to be over-ridden and boundary reviews to be every 5 years instead of 10 to 15 as at present. The consequence of this will be an inevitable reduction in accountability and even a small change of adding 5-10,000 in one constituency will have massive knock on effects right across the country - most constituencies border on at least 4 or 5 others and all could be radically altered.

Just imagine MPs might have to deal with up to 6 different local authorities in their area, and the constituents they help are very likely to be under a new MP's constituency come the next election. Not exactly a very good incentive for MPs to help constituents. It makes a mockery of the so called constituency link if a voter is unable to 'throw the bugger out' because they are now in another constituency altogether. And that's even before we get on to the subject of 75% of seats being safea anyway.

This boundary review is the most far reaching constitutional change for a hundred years. Far more MPs will have their tenure ended by this boundary review than has happened in any election. If we ever needed a lesson in how our system is only a semi-democracy, then the fact that boundary reviews make more difference than voters is a salient lesson in first-past-the-post's democraticability (to invent a word). The power resides with the power brokers not the voters and this is exactly how they want to keep it. The people win concessions from the ruling class inch by grudging inch and have to fight tooth and nail to hold onto anything they have gained. Only when it becomes too much trouble for those at the top, do they throw us a crumb. This is what they call democracy, I demur.

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