Tories: Gerrymanders R us
Today's FT carries an interview with David Cameron where he calls for a 10% cut in the number of MPs.
Fair enough, maybe we could manage with say under 600 instead of 650 given that the House of Commons is on the large side compared to other lower chambers in other countries.
But the catch is that Cameron has already decided which 50 seats he wants to chop - and guess what, they are Labour ones.
I think that is known in the trade as Gerrymandering.
He wants to cut the number of seats in Wales, which has always had a minimum number to ensure its distinctive voice as a separate nation is heard. But unlike in the recent reduction in Scottish MPs he is not linking this to greater devolved powers for the Welsh Assembly.
The articles says he also wants to scrap "inner city constituencies in places such as Liverpool ... to reflect the shift in population to the Tory suburbs". But we've only just had a parliamentary boundary review that did exactly that - and the next one isn't due for about a decade. The law already requires the Boundary Commission to aim to get constituencies of roughly equal size. And since when did politicians pre-judge and try to steer the outcomes of the strictly neutral boundary reviews conducted by the Boundary Commission?
He wants to break the current - and historic rule - whereby the Boundary Commission never cross County boundaries when they draw up constituencies, so we'd end up with absurd combinations bringing together communities that had been in different local authorities throughout their history (bits of East Lancs & West Yorks?), just to squeeze in an extra Tory seat here or there.
In the article Prof John Curtice says that a smaller Commons would in itself “improve the Tory chances of winning”.
Tory strategist Rob Hayward - who I had the pleasure of helping eject from the Commons when I worked on Roger Berry MP's campaign in Kingswood in 1992 - "said speedier boundary reviews would favour the Tories as they would reflect Britain’s shift from urban to rural areas."
But is the Boundary Commission capable of running speedier reviews in a way which allows for proper public consultation and consideration, and do voters really want the disruption of having their constituencies chopped and changed around every 5 years?
This whole scheme sounds as though it is more about partisan advantage than anything else. But what would we expect from the party that abolished the GLC and Metropolitan counties when they inconveniently elected Labour administrations?