7 July 2010

qSee Addenda at the bottom of the post

The Tory Libdem government is set on reducing the number of UK MPs from the current 650 to an arbitrary 600 (Hansard 5 July 2010 column 24). It also aims to have all seats contain approximately the same number of electors, apparently about 75 000 with a 5 percent leeway (columns 44 and 25). The number basis will be the December 2010 registers (column 37).

At present all six constituencies here are wholly within Cornwall and the boundary commission respects historic county boundaries generally. As I noted here, the equalisation of the size of the electorates in constituencies and the limited leeway, presents the possibility that Cornwall will have a constituency shared with Devon. Dan Rogerson, Libdem MP for North Cornwall, raised this question in the Commons on Monday (column 37).

Nick Clegg’s answer was clear: the only two exceptions to the number constraints would be Orkney-and-Shetland and the Western Isles. For the rest the boundary commission would have equal size electorates as “the predominant requirement…of greater weighting and importance than any other considerations” (column 37).

There are difficulties. Respecting historic boundaries throughout the UK matters to many people; and starting to redraw constituency boundaries with a strict electorate limit and strict leeway as predominant considerations might well disrupt that and cause much immediate local opposition. It will be interesting to see how support for equal size and a desire for county boundaries play out among people. Additionally, about 3.5 million people are apparently not on the electoral registers who are qualified to be and there is a question of whether these are mainly in deprived areas mostly represented by Labour MPs and how far the new equal-sized constituencies can reflect the missing people. The size question is also caught up with the proposal for a referendum on the switch to elect the Commons by the preferential alternative vote (which before the May election Clegg described as “a miserable little compromise,” scroll to the end of the item) and the contentious date of that referendum and the reduction of the number of seats.

It will be interesting to see what happens about constituency boundaries and not just in Cornwall.

Of course were I writing this in Plymouth or Holsworthy I should entitle it Will Devon spill over into Cornwall.

I’ve come across this discussion of two kinds of alternative vote (10 July 2010). No doubt the government will clarify which it means. (10 July 2010).

Related posts
Boundaries 9 September 2010
Boundaries 2 15 September 2010
Boundaries 3 17 September 2010
Boundaries 4 11 October 2010
Boundaries 5 24 November 2010