Sorry, the Boundary Commission is not Gerrymandering 74

There is no point in declaring yourself of independent mind if you proceed to try to ingratiate yourself with any particular group of people or defined set of political opinions. Occasionally I express opinions which are not palatable to many of my readers, and I am afraid this is one of those times. But the plain fact is, that the boundary review of Westminster constituencies is neither deliberate gerrymandering nor unfairly favourable to the Tories.

The starting point for any sensible discussion must be that the first past the post system will virtually never produce any kind of fair representation, especially in a multi-party system. I detest UKIP, but a system which gave them just 0.15% of the seats for 9.5% of the vote is not equitable. Between the two “main” parties, FPTP in modern times had always advantaged Labour, as boundary changes lagged behind declining populations in old industrial areas. But the 2015 trouncing of Labour by the SNP changed this and it took more votes to elect each Labour MP than each Tory. But in a sense this is all pointless – FPTP is not meant to be fair. Its theoretical advantage is in ensuring the proper representation of individual constituencies.

It is difficult to answer against the principle that the constituencies should therefore be of approximately equal size. Special interest arguments are most strongly put forward in Scotland, where island areas are distinctive cultural communities. But there are obvious problems with arguing that every community that can argue to distinct cultural or geographic coherence should get an MP irrespective of size, and it is hard to explain why the reverse also does not apply – if size does not matter but coherence does, why does Birmingham or Leeds not get just one MP? In general, I accept the argument as fair that if we are stuck with FPTP (and I dearly wish we were not), then constituencies should be more or less equal in size.

Once you accept this, the rest follows fairly automatically. I give no time to arguments that anything other than the electoral register should be used – you are looking to create equal sized blocks of voters. It is an election. If you don’t register to vote, you cannot vote and cannot get considered in parcelling up the voters. Not registering to vote is an opt-out from the democratic process, and one which people ought to be allowed to take. But if opted-out, you are opted out. Nobody will ever know how the unregistered would have voted. Presence of unregistered voters is not a reason to allow a smaller constituency, or you are in effect assuming their wishes in representation.

This argument has been varied recently by the addition of almost 2 million newly registered voters since the register on which the review was undertaken, a combination of the ordinary churn of young people coming on to the register, and expanded registration for the EU referendum. But a register is always a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time. The Electoral Commission, whose cycle of work takes years to complete, is always working on historic data. The newly registered, assuming they stay on, will count in the next review, which will soon be along. Besides, the House of Commons library has researched the new registrations and come to the conclusion that they cannot be viewed as disproportionately concentrated in Labour urban areas. They estimate that if the exercise were based on the current registrations, Scotland would lose two more seats, Northern Ireland would lose one. London would gain two and SW England one. The probable net result would be a Labour gain of 2 seats, a Tory gain of one seat, an SNP loss of two and a DUP loss of one. So it is not in any way the game changer that is being claimed.

Finally, I entirely support the reduction of the House of Commons from 650 to 600. There has been much gnashing of teeth here too, with the comparative size of the ridiculously inflated House of Lords the focus of much comment. But the answer to that is to reduce the Lords, not increase the Commons.

Scotland will see its detailed proposals published next month with a reduction of Scottish representation by 6 seats (England is losing 32 and Wales 11). But I strongly advise the SNP to bite their tongue and concentrate on Independence. Our aim is no seats at Westminster at all.

I see no reason to impugn the integrity of the members of the Boundary Commission, and I feel that has been done in an unfair and concentrated way. They have done their job fairly and conscientiously. It is ludicrous to judge them by the yardstick of whether the result helps the side you wish to win. FPTP is a dreadful system that has contributed massively to the appalling governance of the UK. I hope to see fundamental constitutional reform – including Scottish independence. For the UK I should love to see STV elections and a fully elected upper chamber, not to mention a republic. But whatever we may wish, in terms of their current task working with FPTP, more equal size constituencies will make it a little fairer. If the English electorate continue to vote Tory in large numbers, the answer to that from the left is not the retention of accidental distortions in constituency size.

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74 thoughts on “Sorry, the Boundary Commission is not Gerrymandering

  • Vronsky

    It’s more like an end to gerrymandering. That the Tories think it favours them at this moment in history I am sure we will all live to smile about, some sunny day.

  • Republicofscotland

    “But I strongly advise the SNP to bite their tongue and concentrate on Independence. Our aim is no seats at Westminster at all.”


    Agreed, the SNP MP’s in my opinion aren’t taken seriously at Westminster, George Kerevan’s excellent columns in the National alludes to it. If I recall UKIP did receive quite a few votes, at the GE, Diane James, UKIP’s leader named her political heroes, as Putin, Thatcher and Churchill.

    As for the loss of self confessed liar, Alistair Carmichael’s seat, well, I’m sure the Orkney four will have a wee dram to celebrate it.

    • Alan

      “the SNP MP’s in my opinion aren’t taken seriously at Westminster”

      And? Is there somewhere they are taken seriously? 😉

      • kailyard rules

        SNP at Westminster are more of an Opposition than Labour and other brayers combined. Be thankful they are there providing some semblance of a true parliament.

      • Ben

        Please include some colonial bigotry with your UKer critiques. Otherwise your cognitive dissonance overshadows.

        You don’t want to elicit one-sided responses.

    • Shatnersrug

      Wouldn’t surprise me if the SNP becomes infested with Establishment Blairites and only pays lip service to independence. I bet Mi6 is already recruiting oxbridge spads to infiltrate and eventually parachute. One day when the scots put a real Scottish Nationalist in charge he/she will be demonised in the press just like Corbyn.

  • fred

    “Scotland will see its detailed proposals published next month. Expect the Lib Dems to wail about the disappearance of Carmichael’s seat”

    Orkney and Shetland is protected.

    • Alan

      “Orkney and Shetland is protected.”

      Maybe but they see themselves as Norwegian Vikings rather than Scottish. They don’t even speak Scottish.

        • fred

          I know a little about Orkney and Shetland. Until 1468 they were part of Norway, they were given to the King of Scots in lieu of a debt. They spoke Norn till it died out in the 19th century, Gaelic has never been spoken there.

          • Fluffy Mudellbent

            The Islands were transferred to Scotland as part of a dowry. They have been Scottish for over 600 years. The only folk who wish them NOT to be Scots are either a) Colonists from other parts of the UK b) deluded pensioners who would struggle to form a crowd in a phone box c) desperate Unionist landowner politicians.
            None of these groups have the interests of either the Shetland or Orkney islands at heart.

  • michael norton

    Nick Clegg had his chance, he was deputy Prime minister and he demanded a Referendum,
    the people said they did not want what Nick Clegg wanted, nuff said.

  • bevin

    it would be a great benefit if something akin to the Irish system were introduced.
    Unless the enormous power of the (central) Parties is broken it matters little whether there are 600 or 6000 MPs-they will all do as they are told on pain of not being re-nominated.
    As to the number of MPs it does seem peculiar that it has remained pretty much the same for more than two centuries during which enormous changes- population increases and extensions of the franchise included- have taken place.
    The case of Scotland is unique, MPs at Westminster deal with only a part of the legislation their constituents have to deal with. But for the English seats it is impossible for MPs, unless they are prepared to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the job to keep in touch with, be accessible to and represent constituencies consisting of unprecedented numbers of people.
    Breaking England up into regions with real provincial governments would help.
    The reality is that there have never been so many possibilities of involving the people in government on a regular basis. There is no reason why MPs should not be forced to seek re-election annually- a demand the ‘left’ has been making since the C17th and now easily practicable- and taught not to consider the position a career, merely an honour and a chance to serve unlikely to recur often.
    The sad state of the PLP these days is indicative of the built in corruption of encouraging people to see representative duties as long term careers.
    It is very obvious that to represent people it helps to be one, to share their lives and problems, face the difficulties that they face and, above all, to be answerable to them and them alone. The fact that many of them proudly advertise their allegiance to foreign powers is amazing, time was when such loyalties were carefully disguised, lest the electors punished them for putting, say, the interests of distant colonies above those of their neighbours and employers.
    So far as the Electoral Register is concerned, being on it should be automatic for those qualified; whenever registration becomes a chore and an expense the result is to skew the electorate in favour of the prosperous, which is the last thing needed. As to privacy concerns, that horse has not been seen near the stable for a long time.

      • bevin

        No doubt that the Dail is full of corrupt deputies. The system does, however, make it relatively easy for independents and mavericks to get elected. Galloway and Livingstone and Farage should all be in Parliament and would be if the current system was replaced by that used in Ireland.
        Off topic but of importance:
        1/ It looks as if the one of the US whistleblowers, Jeffrey Sterling, has had a heart attack in the western gulag. The treatment worked on Milosevic.
        2/ That martyr to American Values- Leonard Peltier, innocent of every crime except that of being innocent (and therefore a standing reproach to the corrupt US Justice System) sends this message to those protesting the rape of the land of the Sioux:

        There is a petition for Presidential clemency to sign to bring Leonard back to spend his final days in his community.

  • RobG

    Craig, I agree that the first past the post system is not fair, and while it still exists we have to live with it and make do. Likewise, UKIP got a lot of votes in the last general election and were not fairly represented in Parliament.

    ‘New Labour’, the ‘Blairites’, or whatever you want to call them, will get a much needed kick up the arse from these boundry changes (they still don’t seem to understand their total wipe-out in Scotland).

    Theresa *psycho* May is channeling Margaret Thatcher, and as such has championed grammar schools and has kept Mr Hunt as health secretary, with lots more to come.

    I predict that May’s hubris will mean a general election before the end of this year (and we’re well into September now), because Corbyn will win the Labour Party leadership again, and May is so mad that she believes all the propaganda.

    Corbyn will walk the next general election, and since you’re going to America sometime soon, wanna bet ten bucks on it?

        • michael norton

          We already had a referendum and voted to stick with First Past The Post

          we can not keep having a referendum again and again and again
          just because the LibDem’s do not the answer the voters gave.

          • Martinned

            Funny how referendums keep resulting in answers to questions that weren’t asked. It’s the same with the Brexit referendum: apparently British voters said they want a points-based immigration system.

          • michael norton

            Well I can tell you that I voted for Extreme BREXIT
            no negotiation – a total and absolute divorce.

          • michael norton

            I expect my ballot paper was similar to others.

            I and most of my relatives / friends want nothing whatsoever to do with the Common Market.
            They can fuck off.

  • Martinned

    If you don’t register to vote, you cannot vote and cannot get considered in parcelling up the voters.

    That doesn’t seem right to me. MPs represent constituents, regardless of whether they voted or indeed whether they were eligible to. It would be odd to say, for example, that MPs don’t represent the 16 year olds in their constituencies and don’t need to pay attention to the interests of those citizens. So constituency boundaries should be based on inhabitants, not registered voters.

    The longer version of this argument is in the United States Supreme Court judgement of Evenwel v. Abbott from April this year, where a group of voters tried to argue that the state of Texas was required to draw district boundaries based on registered voters rather than inhabitants.

    • AliB

      Absolutely agree that to be based on numbers on the electoral register at a point between elections so students etc who move frequently may well not have re -registered; to disenfranchise permanently all those who for whatever reason are not on the electoral register at a single point of time is profoundly antidemocratic. It is gerrymandering to the extent that the Tories decided to rush this to use the 2015 register, having changed the system of registration that has already “lost” several million people, most of whom are in student and inner city areas, i.e. predominantly Labour voters.
      Given that the population is increasing considerably each year I don’t understand the argument of the need to decrease the number of MPs – which I believe was supposedly about the need to reduce the costs of parliament- meanwhile Cameron made 100’s of his cronies new Lords, increased the number of special advisors and increased the payoffs for his own staff- so spare me the money saving argument. And without a decrease in the number of government ministers all this does is further reduce democracy- such as we have, i.e. virtually none.
      There surely should also be some notice taken of the geographical size of a constituency and natural communities for an MP to be properly representative. There should be a greater leeway in the actual number to take this into account and not force arbitrary boundaries solely on the basis of equal numbers. If not, given the electoral number that is being used to create a constituency might fluctuate quite considerably with new housebuilding / changes in student numbers, employment changes etc are they to be redrawn every 2/3 years?

      • Martinned

        The House of Commons already has too many members. Half of them are parked in fairly useless committees where they have nothing to do except plot how they will get more power. The only reason why the HoC needs 600 members is because about 100 of them are somehow part of the government. If the size of the House were reduced to a more sensible 350 or so, there would be no one left to hold the government to account except the powerless (in the UK) opposition.

        So why not remove the government from the House (or at least remove their right to vote), and halve the size of the house? Only federal states like Germany and confederacies like the EU need parliaments that big.

  • Old Mark

    Occasionally I express opinions which are not palatable to many of my readers, and I am afraid this is one of those times. But the plain fact is, that the boundary review of Westminster constituencies is neither deliberate gerrymandering nor unfairly favourable to the Tories.

    Craig- this post on the re-drawing of constituency boundaries will only elicit praise from this regular reader- you’ve nailed several myths to the floor and exposed how tawdry the ‘gerrymandering’ argument is (even though it is extruded, sadly, by both Blairites & Corbynites in the LP).

    As I recall commenting here a few years ago when the subject of electoral law and procedure was last discussed, if the Tories were serious about changing the rules in a way that would seriously impinge on the Labour vote, they would remove the automatic right to vote granted to all Commonwealth citizens. Given than no Commonwealth country reciprocates this act of largesse by the so called ‘mother country’ this remains one of the most blatant anachronisms in the UK electoral system. Repeated opinion polls have also indicated that around 80% of this demographic who do vote, vote Labour- so you would have thought that , for the Tories, this would be a ‘win/win’ as the current arrangements have no logical justification, and at the same time artificially boost the vote of their main political opponent.

    Quite why the Tories have let this anachronism stand for as long as it has is a mystery; Thatcher was known to regards the Commonwealth with distain, but even she left this quirk well alone. Perhaps the main reason it persists is that the Monarch, as Head of the Commonwealth, likes this quirk, and wishes to retain it- and the Tories are too deferential to her to challenge this ludicrous anachronism.

  • Resident Dissident

    I don’t think they are gerrymandering either – but they are working with the terms of reference they have been given which is to produce constituencies with registered electorates of a similar size rather than populations. There are two problems with this MPs are meant to represent the entire all the population in their constituency not just those who are entitled to vote and differential registration rates, the latter problem having been made worse by recent changes to the registration system which have been introduced without much of a drive to capture the 1 million+ missing voters. Guess which parties benefit the most from older and wealthier and more stable electorates which have higher registration rates? This chicanery using voter registration is something that has been going on for a long time in the US – lets thank the Coalition for its introduction to the UK.

    • John Goss

      Largely agree on this one. Geographically-sized proportional representation is unlikely to cater for majority interests of the people. For Birmingham to have one MP is ludicrous but it could never come to that because Birmingham covers such a huge area it would probably reduce.

      The big downside that you missed in your argument RD is that because there would be more constituents in inner city constituencies the workload of their representatives would be much higher than in rural areas, and rural constituents would get more representation per capita. While I do not think it is gerrymandering I do think there is some huge advantages to the rural rich so they can follow their country pursuits of hunting, shooting (to which I am averse) and golf (to which I am not averse).

      It surprises me that Craig thinks this is a move in the right direction. To me it seems like it is one of the first steps in turning back the clock to the eighteenth century when only the gentry and landowning males had voting power and could buy the votes of other people of property above a certain value – as they did in the crooked boroughs. You are not going to get equal rights in any FPTP system. Only by proportional representation would the populace be equally represented.

      As a socialist I want to see everybody fairly and equally represented, in education, in housing, in healthcare, in practically every walk of life. I want them to have free access to things that used to be free, education for example, which cost the life of young Aaron Swartz who downloaded and made freely available a number of JSTOR articles, which many academics and non-academics may have wished to have access to for free, Craig himself and me among them. As a socialist I want the same representation and equality of opportunity for poor people as for people of property. Radicals perhaps have a different outlook.

      As to: “Finally, I entirely support the reduction of the House of Commons from 650 to 600. There has been much gnashing of teeth here too, with the comparative size of the ridiculously inflated House of Lords the focus of much comment. But the answer to that is to reduce the Lords, not increase the Commons” there is a question of logic. Reducing the Commons from 650 to 600 cannot be an increase in the Commons.

      While the border changes may not be done on gerrymandering grounds the effect could be the same. Selly Oak, the last time there were boundary changes, had Lynne Jones as its MP who did not vote for the war in Iraq and was a good Labour MP. Either she or Steve McCabe had to go when the Selly Oak constituency incorporated part of Hall Green reducing Birmingham’s constituencies from 11 to 10. As a result she stepped down and supported Salma Yaqoob who came second. Salma is another potential high-flyer should she join the Labour Party after Corbyn is re-elected. Anyway, you might be able to work out why I, if not Resident Dissident, agree on this one.

      • John Goss

        “For Birmingham to have one MP is ludicrous but it could never come to that because Birmingham covers such a huge area it would probably reduce . . . any chance of equality.”

      • Resident Dissident

        “The big downside that you missed in your argument RD is that because there would be more constituents in inner city constituencies the workload of their representatives would be much higher than in rural areas,”

        I don’t think I missed the argument – I said MPs have to represent all the population in their area, so that it follows that MPs in inner cities (or those constituencies with lower registration rates) will have bigger case loads.

        I should also add that if MPs are fully committed to their jobs they will have more than full case loads at present – go and ask the conscientious ones – so I wouldn’t reduce the number of constituencies either unless we are prepared to give them more support to do their jobs, which I don’t think is being proposed at present. Some may wish to focus on Iraq as the basis for the number of MPs and forget all the other things they are meant to do.

        The House of Lords as it stands is just a joke – if we want a chamber of experts to review legislation ( and we do because so much of it is of a very poor quality as at present) or something to add checks and balances ( which we also need with FPTP) then we need a democratic chamber set up to achieve those objectives

        • John Goss

          Yes, conscientious MPs do have heavy workloads. People like me do not make them any lighter, and my own MP, who I agree with on some things and disagree on others, does work hard. Good to find some common ground.

    • Old Mark

      the latter problem having been made worse by recent changes to the registration system which have been introduced without much of a drive to capture the 1 million+ missing voters.

      Res Diss-
      It does appear to be the case that moving from household registration to individual registration may have had some of the negative consequences you allege. One answer to that would be to upgrade the old household based ‘electoral register’ to a continental style household population register, the details of which would be shared across government departments to ensure, inter alia, that resources made available for health services and public infrastructure more accurately match the registered population in any given area. The establishment of such a register would of course initially require extra government expenditure, and new protocols between Councils and central government (the ONS) about the information held on the register – which at a minimum would have to record names, dates of birth and citizenship status of every UK resident over a certain age (most likely 14 or15).

      The existence of such registers in most of continental Europe (along with ID cards) is uncontroversial (although one can foresee objections from the usual quarters here to such ‘state intrusion’ implicit to the gathering of such information) but then again, continental Europe has no real problem with ‘health tourism’, and no other northern european state has anything resembling the Calais jungle on its doorstep- comprised of foreigners who can spot an ad hoc system of population registration when they see it, and which they seek to exploit accordingly.

  • giyane

    My MP doesn’t represent either me or any of his constituents. He has made himself a millionaire through exercising the priveleges of power, and assisted in failing to prevent Gordon Brown’s dereliction of duty in bring to heel the banking sector.

    Apart from that he is a bald, waste of space who participated in the destructions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the rise of Islamic State in Libya and Syria. Write to him at Liam Byrne, Wanker, HoC.

  • lysias

    Looking at the title, I first thought this had to do with the Boundary Commission on Ireland. One way the British got a bare majority of Sinn Feiners to agree to the treaty ending the Anglo-Irish War in 1921-2 was to make the division of Ireland into north and south (with the North including two counties and several other areas with Catholic majorities) more palatable by promising a Boundary Commission that would rectify the borders.

    However, the Boundary Commission. when it delivered its report, suggested only minor rectifications of the border.

    • Old Mark


      Yes- and the changes the Boundary Commission suggested in 1925 would in fact have included the transfer of more (protestant inhabited) territory in East Donegal to NI- something which would have been anathema to Irish nationalists of all stripes- so it wasn’t a surprise that the Commission’s findings were never implemented

  • RobG

    With regard to the ‘bombings’ in New York state, this image was widely disseminated by the MSM and is now being widely scrubbed from the MSM. It shows a robot bomb disposal device approaching a cooking pot in plain view by a curbside…

    I mean, how stupid do you have to be to believe this kind of shite?!

    And this kind of shite is miraculously always bang on with the timing (UN conference, anti-terrorism, yawn, yawn).

    Quick, quick, let’s ban cooking pots! and book in for our next frontal lobotomy…

  • giyane

    In the BREXIT referendum there were three main categories of Leave voters, 1/ like myself and the Polish government who want to restrict French and German power. 2/ Racists like UKIP 3/ Political Opportunists like Boris Johnson.

    The British government never panders to racists and we will ultimately retain free movement of people.
    The US will never allow the organisers of the Syrian war, France and Germany, to lose power.
    Hence the only beneficiaries are the political opportunists. That’s democracy for yer.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      In the BREXIT referendum there were three main categories of Leave voters….FOUR categories of Leave voters – 4/ People who see the UK as a nation capable of independence and needing control over its borders….FIVE categories…

      (Apologies to Monty Python)

  • Ben

    Mods; I’m seeing some slogan-like pseudonyms that are allowed to stand. Selective enforcement is a no-no.

  • jake

    The elephant in the room surely, is having constituencies based on geography. Other than maintaining a tradition inherited from feudal times it can’t be regarded as anything other than arbitary. Constituencies based on something(s) more socially relevent would be step in the right direction.

      • jake

        That’s a thought. Perhaps one of the 600 or so seats could be for “professional organisations”.

    • Martinned

      The Irish Seanad still has that, in theory:

      Art. 18(4) of the Irish constitution:

      1) The elected members of Seanad Éireann shall be elected as follows:—
      i Three shall be elected by the National University of Ireland.
      ii Three shall be elected by the University of Dublin.
      iii Forty-three shall be elected from panels of candidates constituted as hereinafter provided.
      2° Provision may be made by law for the election, on a franchise and in the manner to be provided by law, by one or more of the following
      institutions, namely:
      i the universities mentioned in subsection 1° of this section,
      ii any other institutions of higher education in the State, of so many members of Seanad Éireann as may be fixed by law in substitution for an equal number of the members to be elected pursuant to paragraphs i and ii of the said subsection 1°.
      A member or members of Seanad Éireann may be elected under this subsection by institutions grouped together or by a single institution.
      7 1° Before each general election of the members of Seanad Éireann to be elected from panels of candidates, five panels of candidates shall be formed in the manner provided by law containing respectively the names of persons having knowledge and practical experience of the following interests and services, namely:–
      i National Language and Culture, Literature, Art, Education and such professional interests as may be defined by law for the purpose of this panel;
      ii Agriculture and allied interests, and Fisheries;
      iii Labour, whether organised or unorganised;
      iv Industry and Commerce, including banking, finance, accountancy, engineering and architecture;
      v Public Administration and social services, including voluntary social activities.
      2° Not more than eleven and, subject to the provisions of Article 19 hereof, not less than five members of Seanad Éireann shall be elected from any one panel.

  • bleb

    Craig said:
    “… I see no reason to impugn the integrity of the members of the Boundary Commission, and I feel that has been done in an unfair and concentrated way. …”

    All the criticisms I’ve seen have been of the parameters the Boundary Commission were given to work (by Parliament) with and not the Boundary Commission itself. Indeed some have taken pains to make it clear that they are not criticising the Boundary Commission but the politician that set the parameters.

    So to me this comes across as a bit of a strawman. Perhaps I’ve just not read the same criticisms.

  • RobG

    The BBC Panorama programme this evening wasn’t as much of a demolition job of Corbyn as I thought it would be, until after the first seven minutes! Then we got into the usual propaganda crap, which is why no one takes a blind bit of notice of the MSM thesedays…

    Owen whats-his-name was heavily promoted, as expected, even though everyone knows that this total nonentity will shortly be consigned to the dustbin of political history. Overall, though, I thought the Panorama programme was quite balanced, in view of the present climate (methinks the BBC are hedging their bets, knowing that Corbyn might well be the next PM).

    It should be understood that it’s very likely that Corbyn will be elected again as the leader of the Labour Party, and the 170 or so Labour MPs, a large majority, who have rebelled against him will then be in a totally untenable position, because at the next general election they will have to knock on doors and canvas voters for a leader that they have stated is totally un-electable.


    If Corbyn does get re-elected as leader, he’s going to have to purge the Blairites from the party PDQ, because everything’s pointing to a general election before this year’s out.

    • John Goss


      I so agree with you on this. It does not make good reading. When I knock the doors it will be on behalf of the leader. I have informed my MP that I will support him only if he gets behind Jeremy Corbyn. I have not worked for him yet but I am prepared to do so if the winds are favourable.

      • Resident Dissident

        Good job no one ever imposed those conditions on Corbyn when he was just an ordinary constituency MP. I hope your MP after reminding you who is on the ballot tells you where to go.

        • John Goss

          I haven’t given my MP my full support because I got what I considered to be a rather distasteful email saying why he could not support Jeremy Corbyn as leader. But it was honest. He also wrote that some in the constituency were trying to get him deselected. I wrote back and gave him my thoughts but also told him I would be prepared to work for him only if he gave his full backing of the leader.

          So you see he does not have to tell me where to go.

          Stop opening your gob and sticking both feet in it! 🙂

        • AliB

          I don’t remember Corbyn ever resigning from a front bench post, refusing to serve the leader of the party or running to the media rubbishing the leader so there would have been no problem with meeting these conditions. On some occasions he voted against the whip- and usually has been seen to have voted in a sensible socialist way – e.g. against Iraq war, against austerity measures, against bombing Syria.

    • jake

      After a General Election it’s the Queens job to pick a Prime Minister to head up her Government. The convention is, these days, that she picks someone who commands the respect of the House. For arithmetic reasons, that’s the leader of the parliamentary party with the majority of seats. If Corbyn wins the leadership of the Labour Party and the Labour Party go on to win the next General Election there would be an expectation that it would be him…but of course if Corbyn can’t be said to demonstrate the support of his PLP, he can’t really be asked to form a government by HRH if she were to be advised that he didn’t command the respect of the House ( being his own PLP + MP’s from opposition parties). It follows that if he wants to become PM, he has to ensure that only Labour candidates commited to supporting him are on the ballot paper.

      • Martinned

        Corbyn is never going to be PM, and he doesn’t think he will either. (My sense of his wider strategy is that he’s trying to move the Overton window sufficiently for someone like him to get elected PM somewhere in the next decade, but by then he’ll be too old to still be leading the Party even if it’d let him.)

        But that doesn’t matter. Any leader of a political party has every incentive to seek for his political opponents within the parliamentary party to be deselected. The exception is that some such MPs might be sufficiently popular to be worth the risk, but I think there’s little risk of that in Labour’s case.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    The problem isn’t the quantity or even the distribution of MP’s. It’s their quality, and their immunity to coercion and corruption. Or all too frequently, the lack of those.

  • nevermind

    You wrote “Once you accept this, the rest follows fairly automatically. I give no time to arguments that anything other than the electoral register should be used –”

    yes off course, but which register? the ones the boundary commission used was not the up to date current register, but the one that was relevant two years ago, missing approx 1.5 plus million voters. In the 21st. century, were just about every agency works with up to date figures, this is an anathema.

    I do not share your faith in the Electoral Commission, which is led by party political guidance alone. It is notoriously slow to find rankle with outright criminal cheating when it involves the main parties, we both know this to be a fact from Blackburn, so, according to your argument we can’t really expect any other treatment from that we did receive from Jack Straws local henchmen.

    I can’t agree with that. Further if politicians open their mouth uttering the word democracy, they mean the democracy that gets them elected, not democracy for voters, so, here we are in the 21st century being led by the nose, still, subjugated to an unfair disproportional voting system.

    Equal sized constituencies are fair, but when you move a knowingly conservative part of town into a marginal area, adjusting numbers as they say, you will end up with what we are presented with now here in Norfolk.

  • Jan b

    It seems to me that an important factor has been totally ignored in the proposal for boundary changes, which is workload. I cannot believe that an MP in Dorking has anything like the work load of an MP with the same number of constituents in Burnley. Even by its warped criterion of fairness, the proposal fails.

    • Gulliver

      Yes, further to your point, if we are to have a ~10% reduction in the number of MP’s it follows that said MP’s will have a pro-rata increase in their constituency work load irrespective of where these are. One of the few mooted advantages of the FPTP system is that it roots the representative in the constituency. If the constituency increases in size will this not affect to some degree this geographic accountability?

      It’s also likely that in order to service larger constituencies that the representative will have to employ more staff (more family members!), at more expense to the tax payer.

  • K Crosby

    Not registering to vote is an opt-out from the democratic process, and one which people ought to be allowed to take.

    No, this is wrong-headed, if you are a democrat you won’t take part in an FPTP election because it’s ipso facto bent. Treating this as an opt-out of democracy is fallacious, it’s an opt-in.

  • Dude Swheatie of the Kilburn Unemployed writing in a personal capacity

    I agree that FPTP needs to be done away with and replaced by Proportional Representation, and that that is the core problem with British democracy. Yet whatever the merits and demerits of changing parliamentary constituency boundaries toward balancing the numbers of voters, I believe that fewer House of Commons seats and the tampering with neighbourhood identities that results tends to weaken the bonds between local politicians and the people they are supposed to represent.

    It also weakens the relationship between people and land, exacerbating the influence of the ‘global market’ that alienates the economically vulnerable, as estate agents love to rename areas. See, for example, the Wembley Matters blog posts South Kilburn a yuppie dreamland ‘Manhattan style’ and Wembley needs affordable housing — not markets galore.

    I believe that tampering with place identities by the global market and further disconnections between parliamentary constituencies and local authorities adds to the sense of alienation by which people opt out of voter registration, and also favours more centralised political parties and corporate donors. In LB Camden, the Labour Party uses the telephone facilities of JML Direct Ltd and its multi-millionaire donor John Mills who vowed that he would stop funding the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. More on this at my blog post As 15 Camden Labour councillors and Keir Starmer MP turn on their party leader, who’s pulling their strings?.

    In closing, re the number of UKIP voters in the last UK General Election, there is also the vast number of would-have-been Green Party voters who voted Labour only so that the Tories did not get in. As previously inferred in my writings regarding the Green Party response to Labour’s 2008 Welfare Reform Green Paper, many people are ignorant regarding what the Green Party stands for. (See 2015 General Election – Vote for Policies.)

    And also regarding the number of UKIP voters, Green Party MEP Jean Lambert said in a BBC interview clip at a coastal resort during the 2015 General Election campaign, that blaming immigration is a convenient scapegoat for the impact of cuts in public spending.

  • Bob

    Not complete and utter: in 2011 the terms of reference of the electoral commission were changed in ways that probably give an advantage over time to the Conservatives, but the advantage seems fairly small.

    The current system is rigged in favour of both Labour and the Tories. Ironically now it is also rigged in favour of the SNP, which must seem really funny (NOT) for New Labour/Labour.

    • K Crosby

      Add the small disadvantage to all the others, the FPTP fraud, postal and proxy votes, disenfranchisements in practice, disenfranchisements in theory and its quite a lot….

  • Dave

    I welcome the presence of the SNP as an effective opposition at Westminster as it strengthens the Union.

    There is an unavoidable pressure to go native as people instinctively want to be helpful and constructive and earn their money. A tendency further encouraged by the political fact the SNP is at present a “stronger voice for Scotland” rather than an “independence” party.

    The SNPs formula for success has been to retreat from real independence to secure office. Perhaps once they are fully entrenched they may profess real independence, but will they then still want it as many of those recruited will be unionist-lite and happy with devolution in UK, particularly as their present policy isn’t independence but devolution in EU. And Scotland has a stronger voice in UK than EU, which is why a new non-independence referendum would be lost.

    This may change, if the Unionist parties fail to embrace devolution and voting reform as an idea to be applied throughout UK, outside EU. A New Unionism for the 21st Century!

    Clegg destroyed the Lib Dems by selling his soul for office in return for a pigs ear referendum on voting reform that couldn’t be won because AV was not PR and was perceived as worse than FPTP. He went for AV because in the past the LIB Dems thought they would be the main beneficiaries of PR. But this changed because of the rise of the BNP so they changed their minds as they thought AV would serve them and keep others out.

    A genuine choice would have delivered a victory for PR and with PR you would not need much boundary changes. You just need to add constituencies together to create ones big enough to make PR elections work. This retains the constituency link and a mix of representation and the competition to provide transparency and accountability.

    And voting reform would facilitate devolution in England, as in Scotland, as people will agree devolution if it avoids one party rule and everyone has a say and is preferable to EU inspired Elected Mayor’s.

  • Dude Swheatie of the Kilburn Unemployed

    It would seem that the fundamental difference between members of Momentum and England’s Boundary Commission is that, whereas Momentum members believe in mandatory reselection of Labour MPs by CLP members, England’s Boundary Commissioners believe in the wholesale sacking of parliamentary constituencies. Islington Tribune reports ‘It stinks!’ [Islington South] MP Emily’s view of boundaries shake-up that poses threat to Corbyn [Islington North] seat

  • Duncan McFarlane

    The trouble with your argument Craig is that it misses out the fact that the poorer people are, the less of them register to vote, similarly to the way less of those who register turn out to vote.

    So by basing constituency size on the electoral register and not the adult population, it is biasing things even further against the poorest and in favour of wealthier people.

    And poorer people are more likely to support Labour and less likely to support the tories.

    I’m sure most of the Boundary Commission are blameless here – it’s the brief the government have given them that has a party political agenda behind it.

    And what reason is there to cut 50 seats in order to make seats equal in size? None. It just makes First Past the Post even more unrepresentative to reduce the number of seats.

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