Despite having no parliamentary majority, and do having no mandate for fundamental constitutional change, the government is permitting work to continue on the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600.
This is a fundamentally undemocratic move. I know all the arguments about supposedly delivering proportionality. If that’s the desire then my answer is simple: deliver what we really need to create that, which is proportional representation.
But if instead we are to have first past the post and the continuing pretence that one person can represent all the interests of the people in their community, even if many would never have voted for them, then at the very least there has to be a very profound dedication to the principle that constituencies must represent real communities, and not gerrymandered blocks of the population who happen to fit a geographically based, statistically consistent, model that has no bearing to the places where people live.
Amazingly we’ve been doing this for a couple of centuries now. One of the great Parliamentary irruptions of the Enlightenment being those reallocations away from the Rotten Boroughs. And today’s allocations work upon, roughly enough, the following rules:
The boundary commissions are required to apply a set series of rules when devising constituencies.
Firstly, each proposed constituency has to comply with two numerical limits:
the electorate (number of registered voters) of each constituency must be within 5% of the United Kingdom electoral quota. The electoral quota is the average number of electors per constituency, defined as the total mainland electorate divided by the number of mainland constituencies, where “mainland” excludes four island constituencies: Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles), and two on the Isle of Wight.
the area of a constituency must be no more than 13,000 square kilometres.
There are a small number of exceptions to the numerical limit on electorate which are specified in the legislation:
the four island constituencies are permitted to have a smaller electorate than the usual limit;
a constituency with an area of more than 12,000 square kilometres may have a smaller electorate than the usual limit; and
constituencies in Northern Ireland may be subject to slightly different limits under certain circumstances.
Having satisfied the electorate and area requirements, each commission can also take into account a number of other factors:
“special geographical considerations” including the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency;
local government boundaries;
boundaries of existing constituencies;
local ties which would be broken by changes to constituencies;
inconveniences resulting from changes to constituencies.
It is evident that the other factors can to an extent be mutually contradictory, and therefore each commission has discretion on how it applies them. In so doing, each commission aims for a consistent approach within a review.
We should take this whinge for what it really is, nakedly political. Labour, as has been true for many a year, has a preponderance of seats in those areas losing population. Meeting exactly Ritchie’s criteria means they lose a few safe seats.