So, the first part of the Boundary Commission's proposals for reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is out and the bun fight has started. The squealing and special pleading is all too predictable and will lead to some bitter rows within all three major parties. As I have pointed out before, alot of this will be so much hypocritical nonsense.
Let's take a step back and remind ourselves why a review like this is necessary.
Too many MPs
Since the university seats were abolished after the Second World War the number of MPs has crept up from 625 to where it is now at 650. It was briefly higher for the 1997 and 2001 General Elections when it peaked at 659 but a few seats were trimmed in the post-devolution boundary review before the 2005 election. This was too timid a nod towards the implications of devolution for the role of the Westminster Parliament.
As the number of MPs has risen we have seen an enormous transfer of powers away from Westminster, firstly to Europe and now to the three devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We simply do not need as many Westminster MPs as we once did. I accept that the reduction from 600 to 650 seems a bit arbitrary and would be easier to justify had a proper study been carried out to ascertain what type of Parliament we need as we move into the second and third decades of the 21st century but it is a good start.
Silly sized constituencies
In addition, there is the problem of too big a spread in the sizes of constituencies which seems counter-intuitive most of the time with urban seats in tight geographical areas having fewer voters than more rural seats that already cover large regions, often embracing dozens of small towns and villages. I don't really care whether you think this favours Labour or the Tories - it doesn't make much sense.
Having looked through the Boundary Commission proposals last night I feel it has done a very good job. I am sure there are a few proposals that will need looking at very hard but, overall, it looks very sound. It even solved the 'Devonwall' problem at neatly as could be hoped with the proposed Bude and Bideford constituency. Most of the noise from displaced MPs will amount to little more than a protection of their own interests but the collective impact of the distress this much needed change will cause is that it might unnerve the government and persuade it to postpone the review until after the next General Election. I hope not.
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