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Monday, August 29, 2016

Boundary changes leave us all as losers

Personally, I have little sympathy with the plight of the Labour Party as outlined in this Guardian article. The paper argues that two hundred Labour seats, more than 85% of the party’s total, could be affected by the review of parliamentary boundaries due next month.

They say that up to 30 Labour seats could disappear altogether, while the rest will see their composition altered in some form. The changes could give the Tories a substantial advantage at the next General Election.

These changes were initiated by David Cameron with the objective of cutting the number of MPs by 50 to 600. The Tories say that the aim is to ensure that each person’s vote is of similar value by equalising the number of registered voters in each constituency to within 5% of 74,769. Naturally, a higher proportion of Tory seats are currently within this range, so only between 10 and 15 of the party’s seats are expected to disappear.

As the paper points out, a similar exercise was begun in 2013 but abandoned by Cameron in the face of pressure from his Lib Dem coalition partners, and anger from his own backbenches. They add that the Tories are hoping to avoid a repeat of this anger by offering affected MPs the chance to move into seats vacated by retiring colleagues.

It is difficult to argue against equality of representation and it is unfortunate that population changes have seen people move out of traditional inner city areas to the more affluent suburbs, thus leaving many Labour MPs high and dry.

But the real scandal here is not that a long-overdue change is going to disadvantage the main opposition, but that we continue to be wedded to a system that disenfranchises millions of voters from being represented by their chosen party, gave the Conservatives 51% of the seats on 37% of the vote in 2015 and centres the outcome of General Elections on a handful of key marginals.

If Labour are to have any credibility in this argument they should not be crying to the electorate that they have been hard-done-by but instead calling for the long-overdue radical overhaul of a system that is no longer fit for purpose by introducing full-blown proportional representation,

With PR, every vote will count, people living in safe Tory or Labour areas, who have different allegiances, will be able to have some representation through a multi-member system that delivers according to the votes cast, and the government of the country will better reflect the way we voted rather than handing a majority to an unrepresentative minority.

We will no longer see all the campaigning concentrated on the 50 or so seats which will decide the outcome. Instead there will be a full-blown campaign in every constituency that will offer voters a real choice.

The fact that Labour have failed to grasp this and, even now are not advocating this solution is why I have no sympathy for their plight. The fact is that during the coalition years every constitutional reform proposed by Nick Clegg apart from fixed term Parliaments, was foiled by reactionaries in the Tory and Labour Parliamentary Parties, and that includes the very inadequate form of proportional voting that was put to a referendum vote.

In this case, Labour are reaping what they sewed.
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