In February 2016 The Boundary Commission (TBC) was tasked to review our parliamentary constituency boundaries and to report their findings by September this year. This review was to achieve two things. First to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and second to even out the discrepancies that had developed over the years, from population movement, that some constituencies had a bigger electorate than others.
On the basis that ‘turkeys would never vote for Christmas’ I was not surprised to read in the ‘Times’ yesterday that MPs were not happy with the review and indeed you may recall Nick Clegg put pay to the idea back in the Coalition days. The paper reminded me of two high profile potential causalities namely Jeremy Corbyn’s seat in Islington which would likely disappear and Boris Johnson’s in Uxbridge which redrawn would be vulnerable to a Labour challenge.
As a result, of the rumblings in the House of Commons and the hostility from many MPs, the Commons Public Administrative & Constitutional Affairs Committee has called on the PM this week, who amazingly stills supports the reduction of MPs to 600 and TBC proposed boundary changes, to abandon these plans. Instead the Cross-party Committee suggests TBC is allowed to produce a new map, keeping the number of MPs at 650, which would more likely pass through the Commons this September and thus be in place before the election in 2022.
Now the glaring omission form this debate and proposed future legislation is any involvement from the electorate as to whether we want or need 650 MPs, which given their collective incompetence over planning a safe Brexit, is highly unlikely.
Just by way of comparison with the USA the figures for those governing and the governed are quite startling. I will round up or down all figures for simplicity.
America has a population 323 million and a House of Representatives of 435 and a Senate of just 100. This gives a ratio of a H of R member to electorate of 1:700,000.
On the other hand, the UK has a population of 66 million and a House of Commons of 650 and a House of Lords of 800. This gives a ration of MPs to electorate of 1:101,000
THA’s second demand for ‘Real Local Democracy’ suggests we could probably manage with just 300 MPs with the numbers allocated to counties with the ebb and flow of populations being taken into account before every election thus defusing any discussion or debate. For example, my own county of Somerset has five constituencies with each MP averaging an electorate of just 82,000. This could easily be reduced to three if not two constituencies which could be increased or reduced depending on the overall population movement in the county.
We also propose each county could set their own MPs pay and allowances and bring in a power of recall, between elections, if they choose to do so.
THA’s proposals offer us REAL democracy which at the moment, by any measure, we simply don’t have.