openDemocracyUK

Who will count when we vote next time?

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
25 June 2010

As some of us wonder when we will start to gear up for a referendum on the voting system, with the Coalition still unable to tell us its proposed date, the arguments over the re-drawing of constituencies still need to take place. An important and helpful analysis on Political Betting  examines what could happen if the number of constituences is reduced to 585 and they are all created equal. This would mean constituencies with 78,000 each. Here is one consequence:

The effect of reducing the number of seats by 65 is especially dramatic to the Home Countries: Wales reduces a lot - 11 or 28% of their seats would go [40 to 29] on a slavish following of the equal size rules. Scotland would lose 9 or 16% [59 to 50], Northern Ireland 3 or 17% [18 to 15] with England reducing 41 seats, but only 8% [533 to 492]. And within England, the North East and the West Midlands will lose 4 [14%] and 7 [11%] of their seats respectively, the proportionately hardest hit areas.

But would it really deliver constituencies of equal sizes? There was an exchange about this between David Lammy and Nick Clegg in the Commons on Monday. MPs represent everyone who lives in their constituency even if they are not on the electoral register. If the register is taken as the measure of population size, who gains?

Labour should never have allowed the current, utterly imbalanced and undemocratic state of affairs to develop. It gave them a hugely improper disadvantage. But does one form of gerrymandering deserve another? The Lib Dems should beware here, especially if they want to stand for a clean break and honest politics....

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