On Wednesday the Boundary Commission presented their final recommendations for new Parliamentary Constituency boundaries to the Government. Although the Government is meant to present the proposals to Parliament “as soon as may be”, they have decided that will not be until Monday 10th September.
If the recommendations are passed, the new rules will fix the number of constituencies in the UK at 600, rather than 650. Every constituency will have to be reviewed every five years. Virtually every constituency in the country would have to have its boundaries redrawn, and some would disappear altogether, parcelled up amongst other neighbouring constituencies.
Only Cabinet ministers have seen the report, but I don’t suppose the draft report, which was put out to “consultation”, was altered much in response to anything I or anyone else might have said. That draft report kept the existing Ipswich Constituency but added Castle Hill which it took from Dr Dan Poulter. In comparison to some other towns which were completely carved up I think we have got off quite lightly. But it does mean that, if the recommendations do go through, the residents of Castle Hill will not get the chance to vote on whether they think Dr Poulter has done a good job for them or not – they will only have the choice of voting for myself or an as-yet unknown Conservative candidate or one of the other parties. I will not get the chance to show the residents of Castle Hill whether I can be a good MP for them, because Dr Poulter is their MP. And yet, they won’t get to vote for him, despite any help he may have given them.
That’s one unhelpful result of a boundary review – and if this review goes ahead we will face this at every general election from now on. People will completely lose track of which constituency they are meant to be in, or who is meant to represent them.
But that’s not the worst of it. The 2018 review was launched on 24 February 2016. In 2015, 600,000 people dropped off the electoral register following the Government’s decision to force people to register individually with no adequate preparation, against the advice of the Electoral Commission. What’s more, we saw a shocking 40% drop in young people approaching voting age registered to vote at that time – those are all people who are now eligible to vote, but they don’t appear on the figures used to calculate the constituencies.
Huge numbers of people registered to vote during the EU referendum and during last June’s General Election, and every one of those people has been ignored in compiling the new constituency boundaries – 2.1 million of them, including over 700,000 young people under the age of 30.
Because more young people tend to live in towns and Labour represents more towns, the result of all this is that the impact on potential Labour voters is far higher than on Conservative voters. If there were a General Election on the proposed new boundaries, and Labour and the Conservatives got exactly the same number of votes, the Conservatives would get 40 more seats than Labour.
The Conservatives say that cutting 50 MPs will save taxpayers’ money, but if they were serious about that, why appoint over 260 new Lords in the last seven years? At £131k each, this totals £34 million of public money spent on additional unelected appointees. Just over the weekend of the recent royal wedding, the Prime Minister sneaked in nine more Tory peers to the House of Lords.
What this country needs is a whole new approach to our Parliament. We don’t want unelected cronies playing any part in making our laws. MPs should represent areas that everyone understands, with boundaries that don’t keep moving around. Personally, I believe that every vote should count. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly are elected with a proportional system, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t use a similar system for Westminster. That way, everyone’s vote would count, people would be more likely to have a representative they actually voted for, and we would get a government that reflected the views of all the voters.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs will resist the present attempt to change the electoral map in favour of the Conservative Party. But if the Government does force the changes through, you can be sure that, if re-elected, I will represent the people of Castle Hill just as diligently as the rest of Ipswich.