The Boundary Commission has presented its final recommendations to Government.
The process started in 2011 under the then Tory and Lib Dem government and sought to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 within constituencies of roughly equal size.
The democratic legitimacy was undermined early on with around 2 million people excluded from the electoral register which was used for the review, meaning there could be no guarantee constituencies would be of equal size.
It was also undermined by the constant appointments to the House of Lords; the elected ‘people’s chamber’ in the Commons would be reduced while the ‘grace and favour’ unelected Lords was increasing. Indeed it is likely the Tories will shift unsuccessful or unlucky MPs into the Lords to secure support for the reduction in MPs.
At the same time the government had increased its ‘payroll’ vote of ministers and other roles to expand its executive control, changing the overall number of MPs with a bloated payroll vote changes the balances of power and reduces those holding the government to account.
The reduction also comes at a significant constitutional time as we prepare to leave the EU and its institutions. Unpicking thousands of legalisation will demand parliamentary time and scrutiny.
But significantly the rules are designed to render community identity and history redundant- and this is the most significant issue for me.
The current proposals mean that Oldhams political representation is smashed up into three new constituents covering four local authorities.
The current Oldham West and Royton constituency will see Moston in Manchester included in a proposed Oldham North constituency which also include St James and Waterhead.
That will mean that Hollinwood, Medlock Vale and Werneth will be brought into a new Oldham South & Droylsden constituency covering St Mary’s, Failsworth and the Tameside towns of Droylsden and Audenshaw.
Oldham West and Saddleworth will be changed to Littleborough and Saddleworth containing both areas plus Shaw, Crompton and five Rochdale wards.
These arrangements pay little respect to community ties and because many public services such as policing, health, local government and others are organised on council boundaries it will mean an increased workload in resolving Casework for constituents.
Regardless of your view of how many MPs are required any review should;
– be based on the most recent data to include all electors.
– Put community identity as a higher priority
Buts let’s be absolutely honest. These proposals are not about fairness or the public interest as much as a blatant attempt to ‘game’ the system.
Had the new boundaries been in place at the last general election the Tories would have secured more seats and wouldn’t have had to deal with the DUP. It’s about what’s right for the Tories and not what’s right for democracy.
Labour will oppose these plans. We support a review to reflect changing populations and electors but it should be fair and flexible enough to put people and communities above Party interest.