Boundary reform

Approximate equalisation of numbers of voters per seat has this consequence:

Labour, LibDems and PC lose significantly: relatively Tories win.

OK, that means the current system without approximate equalisation means the Tories lose out significantly, doesn’t it?

41 comments on “Boundary reform

  1. If Cummings stays in his position it’ll get done I’m sure. He doesn’t strike me as someone who misses simple wins like this.

  2. So what? With the support of only 44% of those who voted, the Conservatives got a large majority in the Palace of Westminster.

    The rules are what they are. Everyone played by the rules, and the Conservatives were awarded with a parliamentary majority far in excess of their share of the total vote. Next time around, there could be a majority Labour government with a similar minority share of the vote.

    That is the way the system works — it has the advantage of establishing a government with a sufficient parliamentary majority to move ahead with its agenda, but a wise government would recognize that it has only minority support and has to tread carefully. Perhaps that is why the “Conservative” agenda focuses on more money for socialized medicine, more regulations to make the UK carbon-neutral.

  3. Certainly constituencies should, as far as possible, represent equal numbers of voters. There are some corner cases like the Isle of Wight (too big if one constituency & each too small if split), but that doesn’t negate the general democratic principle. The Boundary Commission for England generated its latest report a year ago so it probably won’t need revising for legislation. Dunno about Wales, Scotland or NI. Yes, get it done ASAP as it’s long overdue thanks to Nick Clegg’s malign activities.

  4. Photo ID for all voters and stopping postal vote fraud are equally important.

    I suspect reducing the number of MP’s to 650 won’t happen but equalizing constituency boundaries should go ahead anyway

  5. Before the current ridiculous reduce-to-600 reform was brought in we had reviews every 10-to-15 years to keep up with demographic change. If they don’t get on with this or another review, we’ll be going into the 2029 elections with boundaries based on the 2010 registers. The last time it was this bad was when everything had been put on hold for the second great unpleasantness.

  6. I love the “popular vote” arguments.. Especially since the Tories didn’t gain that much in the way of Labour’s Whackening… Most of those votes shifted to the LibDems…

    But… all things being equal.. Doesn’t the “no mandate, because no absolute popular majority” argument cut both ways? Because following that logic, every party with less votes than the Tories has even less of a “mandate” to push their agenda…

    But when the “normalised” new regions show an even bigger loss for Labour, it simply shows how severe the creaming is they got.
    Which makes the wailing , gnashing of teeth, coat-turning, and brown-nosery all the more fun to watch..

  7. Murphy omits to mention the significant losses to SNP: if there were 600 equal-sized constituencies there would only be 48 or 49 in Scotland including Orkney and Zetland whose inhabitants are arguably more Norwegian than Scottish; that’s a near 20% cut in mainland constituencies and the borders are blue so even if SNP could wipe out opposition in the rest it’s seeing a minimum of a 10% cut in its Westminster MPs.

    @ Gavin Longmuir SNP got 80% of Scots MPs with 45% of the vote

  8. @John77

    As a dumbfurriner and cloggie: Even if you are a “minor” regional party, as a regional party taking that many available seats, SNP’s 80% of possible seats is an even bigger Whacking than Labour’s loss.

    People have been skirting the issue of Scotland, but the growling is pretty clear.. It’s not as if SNP is actually popular… I’ve the feeling it’s more about London v/s the Rest.
    But then again, that bit of UK politics has been a Thing since.. umm… when I was a Youf, and did the Bohemien thing having extended holidays living at friends’ places back in the 80’s/90’s.

  9. @ Grikath
    The SNP rise is partly dislike of London and the general arrogance of some english people treating the rest of the UK as not worth noticing, but it is in large party a revolt against the horrendous corruption of the Glasgow Labour party. When SNP won control of Glasgow council it exposed some of the corruption (some remained hidden for years, some almost certainly still is hidden) which provoked a desertion of Scottish Labour by millions of horrified voters.
    Then there is the demand for “fair shares” when the SNP claims all North Sea oil and gas as belonging to Scotland even if it’s off East Anglia and ignores the large ongoing subsidy to Scotland (and Wales) by the English taxpayer. The romantics solely celebrating the battle of Bannockburn are a tiny minority but they influence those who would otherwise be undecided.
    Yet the SNP is still a minority: most Unionists attend Burns’ Night suppers and can recite “Scots whae hae with Wallace bled …” so the romantics don’t drown out their commonsense.

  10. the current system without approximate equalisation means the Tories lose out significantly, doesn’t it?

    Yes, under current system:
    – Constituency sizes vary from 22,000 to 110,000 voters
    – A Labour candidate requires 15-25% fewer votes than a Conservative to be elected

  11. @John77: You’d be surprised at the following the Corries have outside Scotland…

    Romantics… most likely… But yet… They’re better known than [politician] …

  12. John77: “SNP got 80% of Scots MPs with 45% of the vote”

    That is the way the system works. Personally, I don’t think it is fair or reasonable, but that is the system Brits seem to want.

    If the UK had a fair (proportional) system, then the Conservatives would be the largest single party in the House of Commons but would not have a parliamentary majority — because the Conservatives failed to win the support of the majority of UK voters.

    There are advantages in the UK’s system, and there are disadvantages. Brits seem to bitch when their favored party finds itself on the wrong side of that system, and to take pride in their democratic history when their party benefits from it.

  13. @ Gavin Longmuir
    Neither you nor I know what would happen “if …” – we can only know what has happened under the current system. Any competent psephologist will tell you that the proportion of votes cast given to each party is not a precise reflection of the support among all voters because the turnout is lower in safe seats (except mining seats) than in marginal seats. So it *was* fair when Eden in 1955 and MacMillan in 1959 got an overall majority with 49-and-a-bit % of votes cast.

    If the UK had a proportional system then there would never have been a Labour majority government in all history, we should have been plagued with coalitions for most of the twentieth century and individual constituencies would have been unable to elect someone to represent them instead of a party list. The last point is something that *I* think really matters: what’s the point of a “representative democracy” if a constituency cannot choose someone to represent them?.

    Also I do not know what you consider “fair” and you do not know what I consider “fair”.

  14. For my part i’m horrified that they propose 50 less MPs to chose minosters from. The proposal came in the wake of the expenses scandal. They’d increase wages whilst curbing the overall costs. A few years on the new expenses system seems to be working ok and the cost was always symbolic rather than significant. It makes the scenario like we’ve just had that little more likely and that little more common. A politician the electorate voted out nevertheless continues his ministerial role. Not good.

  15. Neither you nor I know what would happen “if …” – we can only know what has happened under the current system.

    This especially. Because so many votes are logged on the assumption of what is essentially a two party system where the vote is mostly otherwise wasted. Specifically at the constituency level, hence, it’s not just two national parties and nothing else.

    Without that, smaller parties, closer to that which individuals might willingly want to vote for, start to appear. It’s quite possible that under a different system the two parties of the last 100 years might not have even be major players, or players at all.

    I’m not passing a judgment, simply observing.

  16. Here in New Zealand,we have a peculiar Proportional system. I have not been able to work out yet. You have two votes, one for a particular constituency MP and another for the preferred party.If a party gets more than 5 percent of the vote it can appoint an MP from its list. You then have MPs sitting who have not been in front of the voters .It also means that all Governments are coalitions with all the horse trading and backroom dealings needed to stitch two or three parties together. That is why we have the fragrant Jacinda as PM.

  17. John77: “If the UK had a proportional system then there would never have been a Labour majority government in all history”

    Like I said, the current system has disadvantages as well as advantages. I suspect if we were chatting about this over a beer, we would find that we are in violent agreement about almost everything.

    The bee under my bonnet is it is silly to complain that the Tories were disadvantaged by the present constituency boundaries when the Tories already have a substantial parliamentary majority even though they clearly failed to win the support of the majority of those who voted. To echo Winston Churchill — Some disadvantage!

    You are exactly right that proportional representation has its problems. It leads to uncomfortable coalitions where trade-offs are made behind closed doors. On the other hand, choosing someone to represent a constituency who then behaves for the most part as a blind party loyalist (as most of them do) also has its problems. The answer? — reduce the power & scope of government; what used to be called “Conservatism”.

  18. That is why we have the fragrant Jacinda as PM.

    Yes, Jacinda is a genuine virtue signalling idiot, but one advantage of the NZ system is that it is very difficult for them to fuck the voters over without the government collapsing. NZ has come a long way since the socialism and subsidy freaks of the 1980’s.

    The problem with the UK is that every government tries to justify Gerrymandering the boundaries to suit their own particular set of voters. Labour did it under Blair / Brown with the justification that inner city constituencies needed a lower headcount per MP because of their more complex needs (which may be true), but regardless it still ends up being Gerrymandering because it means that Labour (with generally more inner city constituencies) needs less votes to win than the Tories.

    As for the reduction in the number of MP’s, they are useless bastards at the best of times, so having less piglets on the Westminster nipple sounds like a good thing to me. The boundary commission changes have been outstanding for far too long. They need to get something pushed through before 2024, even if they can’t get everything through.

    As for the changes requiring photo ID and a massive overhaul of proxy voting, it shouldn’t be required, but the abuses imported by our ethnically diverse “new Britain’s” (as evidenced by the Lutfur Rahman scandal and other shows that the ballot has become a target for the unscrupulous. It would be idiotic to ignore that, even at the cost of accusations of “Wacism” from the usual suspects.

  19. Here in New Zealand,we have a peculiar Proportional system.

    For a meaning of “peculiar” that apparently involves something quite common around the world. Germany has it. Scotland and Wales have it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_electoral_system

    You get basically true PR, except that many of the MPs are elected for a constituency, so you do have a local MP as well.

    I reckon it’s a good system for small countries. It gets away from the only two parties thing. Bigger countries don’t need it because they have enough internal variation that you get multiple parties anyway. (And really big countries like the UK have tons of internal variation inside each party — which you don’t get if you only have 40 MPs).

    You then have MPs sitting who have not been in front of the voters.

    Some, yeah, it’s PR. You can’t have PR and 100% constituency — they’re opposites.

    It also means that all Governments are coalitions

    There’s coalitions and coalitions. Most of the NZ ones have been quite amicable partnerships, with no more instability than the British Labour or Conservative parties have internally. John Key wasn’t worried that ACT was going to give him any grief. The Maori Party needed to be kept happy on certain issues, which is pretty much the point of having a minority party, but they didn’t cause any collapses.

    Only those coalitions involving Winston Peters have been inherently risky. Because the man’s an egotistical idiot.

  20. I think one thing that has not got the attention I thought it merited is the utter destruction of Labour as a force in Scottish politics. If you’d asked someone 20 years ago the question “what percentage of seats in Scotland in 2019 do you think Labour will hold?” a not-unreasonable answer would be something well over 50%. In the 1997 election they took 56 out of 72 seats (78%). Currently they hold one seat out of 59, or 1.7%. That’s one forty-sixth of their 1997 quota. Their shadow Scottish Secretary lost to a guy who was suspended because he was too anti-Semitic even for the SNP. But even going into the election they only held seven seats. It doesn’t matter if Fivebellies or Bitch Please or Mong-Bailey or Kryten win the leadership election; there’s no quick comeback from that.

  21. It doesn’t matter if Fivebellies or Bitch Please or Mong-Bailey or Kryten win the leadership election; there’s no quick comeback from that.

    True, but that is the problem with “tribal voting”, if you lose them just once (as with BRExit) then you’ve probably lost them for good. It doesn’t even matter that some of the former Labour supporters will have voted for different parties (BRExit, Lib Dem, even Tory), once they’ve stopped voting for any pig in a red rosette, it’s over.

    Personally, I’m hoping that Mong-Bailey (great name, great attitude) gets the leadership, because she is Corbyn without the beard and it will be the nail in the coffin of the Labour Party.

    Hopefully, this will align with a new, genuinely working class party which pushes those “populist issues” that the Gramscian Marxists in the other parties won’t touch with a barge pole, like “hate crime” and tranny bullshit.

  22. PR empowers small parties to be the “kingmaker” in a coalition. As a result, they have significant leverage and can get more of their programme through than justified by their share of the vote.

    In the Dutch pure PR system, the stability of the government depends on the behaviour of the smallest party in the coalition. If they’re ornery (often the Lib Dem types), they can throw their weight around and force themselves upon the two larger parties making up the coalition. If they’re meek and mild (e.g. the small Christian nutters party), the two larger parties can govern together quite peacably.

    Is it any surprise that Lib Dems are in favour of PR? It’s quite obvious how they see themselves in such an arrangement…

  23. Is it any surprise that Lib Dems are in favour of PR? It’s quite obvious how they see themselves in such an arrangement…

    The Lib Dems are in favour of such an arrangement because it is the only way they can get any power at all. As the 2010-2015 coalition government demonstrated it can be a poisoned chalice.

    Nick Clegg would probably have been better off not getting into a formal coalition with the Tories, but that’s just 20/20 hindsight I suppose.

  24. The problem with all PR systems is not just that they result in perpetual coalitions that often bear little relation to the expressed will of the electorate (see the most recent German election for a conspicuous example, but there are plenty of others), but that they require party lists of MPs who will be used to ‘top up’ the resultant assembly to match the proportions of votes cast. Hence the biggest concern of an average MP becomes not “how can I ensure that I keep enough voters in my constituency?”, but “how can I ensure that my name is near the top of my party’s list?”, a rather different question.

    For a serious discussion of PR vs FPTP, read Popper here.

  25. “but that they require party lists of MPs who will be used to ‘top up’ the resultant assembly to match the proportions of votes cast.”
    No, a lot of PR systems do not require a party list – for instance, PR/STV which is used in both parts of Ireland. The reason that party lists keep popping up is because that is what the party bosses like – they can get their insiders into what is effectively a safe seat at the top of the party list.
    Neil Hamilton became a member of the Welsh Assembly because he was at the top of a party list.

  26. “Neil Hamilton became a member of the Welsh Assembly because he was at the top of a party list.”

    Which alone is enough to condemn the principle of PR……………..

  27. What’s with all the references to “less” when “fewer” would seem to be the proper word?
    Or is that usage correct English English as opposed to American English?

  28. ““Neil Hamilton became a member of the Welsh Assembly because he was at the top of a party list.”
    Which alone is enough to condemn the principle of PR……………..”

    No, it’s a condemnation of party lists.

    The BNP got councillors elected in FPTP. Clearly a condemnation of FPTP!
    The BNP got councillors elected in local government. Clearly a condemnation of local government!
    The BNP got councillors elected in a democray. Clearly a condemnation of democracy!

  29. Party lists are better than safe electorates. Once in a safe seat you’re there for life.

    At least lists can be revisited as circumstances change.

  30. @John Galt December 22, 2019 at 4:11 am

    +1

    Except “both…. Gerrymandering the boundaries” – No it’s a Labour/Left activity only mostly because Labour/Left run the public sector, quangos etc

    @Chris Miller December 22, 2019 at 10:15 am

    +1

    Eg how all other parties refuse to work with Geert Wilders’ party, AfD, UKIP, TPB etc even if they come second

    @jgh December 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    +1

  31. Gavin Longmuir said:
    “So what? With the support of only 44% of those who voted, the Conservatives got a large majority in the Palace of Westminster. The rules are what they are. … Next time around, there could be a majority Labour government with a similar minority share of the vote.”

    You are confusing two things (possibly deliberately).

    First past the post tends to award a Parliamentary majority to a party with a minority of the popular vote. That’s something we can discuss, but most people are used to that system and reasonably OK with it. That’s a deliberate consequence of accepting that system, how it’s meant to work – “the rules are what they are” in your phrase.

    The boundary reform issue is different. For a given percentage vote, Labour would get a bigger majority than the Conservatives. That isn’t how the system is meant to work; that’s the system not working properly because it isn’t being implemented properly (not having equal seats).

    As an example, Cameron got more votes, and a higher percentage, in 2010 than Blair did in 2005, but while Cameron didn’t get a majority, Blair got over 400 seats. Labour don’t need a “similar minority share of the vote” – they can get a majority on a significantly smaller percentage of the vote than the Conservatives can. That’s not how the system is supposed to work.

  32. RichardT

    Whilst your analysis is spot on, I think your figures are just a little bit over-egged. As I recall in 2005 Blair got about 350 seats on 36% of the vote; Cameron 310 on 37% in 2010.

    As I said though, your point is very sound indeed. So much so that I believe the Conservatives actually got a bigger vote in England in 2005 than Labour, but Labour still had a MAJORITY of English seats in Parliament. And then there is the Canadian rent boy who got less votes then his opponent but is still in government thanks to reneging on his promised boundary reforms.

  33. Ironman, you are quite right. Apologies; I mixed up the results from two elections.

    But, as you say, the point still stands. Accurate figures are:
    – 2005, Labour, 35.2%, 355 seats, reasonably comfortable majority;
    – 2010, Conservatives, 36.1%, 306 seats, needed a coalition.

    Even looking at the second place:
    – 2005, Conservatives 2nd, 32.4%, 198 seats
    – 2010, Labour 2nd, 29%, 258 seats – again, lower percentage, more seats.

    Whether a minority of the votes should give a majority in Parliament is one thing, but it is quite another matter for widespread uncorrected differences in the number of voters between constituencies to mean that one party will get significantly more seats than the other party, to the extent of having a majority or not, on the same percentage of the vote.

  34. Pingback: The Argument In Favour Of Boundary Reform | Continental Telegraph

  35. Indeed

    There really shouldn’t be anything to debate here, but just hear the cries of “gerrymandering” in the Liberal media over the next year.

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