The Boundary Review

The forthcoming review of Parliamentary constituencies, set off by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, is going to be based on the electorate on the 1st December 2010 (that is the day the brand new electoral register from last autumn’s annual canvass came into effect). The Office of National Statistics this week published the Uk electorate for that day, so we can start making some firmer preductions about what is going to happen.

The electorate in the UK on the 1st Dec is 45,844,691. The legislation sets out a formula to decide how these seats are divided between the nations, so we can say with some confidence that England will get 502 seats (including the two guaranteed seats for the Isle of Wight). Scotland will get 52 seats (including the two guaranteed seats for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland), Wales will get 30 seats and Northern Ireland will get 16, one more than had been expected from the 2009 electorate figures. Hence England will lose 31 seats, Scotland will lose 7, Wales will lose 10 and Northern Ireland will lose 2.

The new legislation sets out a strict limit on the size of the seats apart from the four guaranteed ones (and special rules for Northern Ireland and for very large geographical seats that will only affect the Scottish highlands). All seats need to be 5% above or below the quota of 76,641. This means seats in England, Scotland and Wales will need to have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473 (Northern Ireland will have a slightly laxer limit).

We don’t know for sure how this will translate into seats for each county or region – it depends on how the boundary commission divide things up. If you just divide each English region by the quota you end up with 2 too many seats for example, so my guess is the Commission will use the same formula (Sante-Lague) as they did to divide up the seats between the nations to make sure they end up with 500. The strict 5% limit means that there will be many cases of seats having to cross county boundaries, but we don’t know which counties the boundary commission will chose to pair up. However, from what we do know, here are some early guesses.

South East (-1). The South East is the region with the most seats and the one that loses the fewest. It currently has 84 seats, including the Isle of Wight. Under the new legislation the Isle of Wight will automatically have two seats, gaining one. The rest of the South East will lose two seats, one from Kent and one from Hampshire. Other counties will keep their current number of seats. On paper there is no need for any seats crossing county boundaries, but this would make it very tricky for the Commission in getting seats within quota in East Sussex, so they may decide to pair it with West Sussex anyway.

London (-5). London currently has 73 seats, my prediction is that it will fall to 68 (by quota it would get 69, but the Sante-Lague formula would give it 68). There are, of course, countless different ways that London boroughs could be paired up in order to draw up boundaries, so it’s hard to predict with any confidence exactly where the seats will go.

South West (-2). The South West currently has 55 seats and will fall to 53. One of the main controversies during the passage of the bill was that the strict rules would produce a seat that straddled the boundary between Cornwall and Devon – this does appear to be the case. Cornwall is entitled to just under 5 and a half seats, so it would not be possible to give them 5 seats close enough to the quota. Instead they will have to be paired with Devon, the two counties getting 17 seats between them (down 1). Dorset and Wiltshire are also both unable to be divided into seats within quota, and will likely need to be paired. They will have 14 seats between them, down from 15 at the moment.

East of England (-2). Essex needs to lose one seat. Suffolk will be able to retain 7 seats. The other counties in the Eastern region will probably need to be joined together in some way to get seats within quota. It looks likely that Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire will be paired together and lose one seat.

West Midlands (-5). As we head northwards through England we will see more lost seats, as the demographic trend of population movement in the UK tends to be away from the Northern cities towards the South. Staffordshire divides nicely into the quota and will lose one seat. Between them Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester will lose one seat. Warwickshire is too big for the five seats it would get to be within 5% of quota, so will need to be paired. Together with the West Midlands metropolitan boroughs they will lose three seats.

East Midlands (-2). This is somewhat problematic – Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire will both lose one seat. All the counties except Northamptonshire can be divided neatly into seats within quota, but Leicestershire will probably have to be paired with Northampton anyway. Between them they should also lose one seat..but that would give the East Midlands one seat too few. Over to you Boundary Commission.

North West (-7). The North West loses the most seats numerically in England. By quota it would be given 69, down 6, but if the the Boundary Commission use Sante-Lague to get England down to the right number of seats it would lose 7. Cumbria will lose one seat as will Cheshire. Merseyside will lose 2 seats – one from the Wirral and one from the rest of Merseyside. Thankfully the Wirral’s electorate is just small enough to divide neatly into three seats, so there is no longer the need for a seat crossing into Cheshire or a seat crossing the Mersey. On paper Lancashire doesn’t need to be paired, but it would lead to some difficult and small seats, so I think they may choose to have a seat crossing the boundary with the Greater Manchester boroughs – between them they would lose 3 seats.

Yorkshire and the Humber (-4). North, West and South Yorkshire and Humberside can all be split into within quota seats, with Humberside, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire each losing one seat. However, this would produce 51 seats, one more than the region should have. This could be solved with a seat crossing the boundary between South and West Yorkshire, when between them the two counties would lose 3 seats. Note that all eight of the current seats in North Yorkshire are within quota (the only English country where this is the case), so it’s possible they could all remain completely unchanged in the review.

North East (-3). The North East loses 3 out of 29 seats, the biggest proportional loss of any English region. There is likely to need to be extensive pairing of counties and Metropolitan boroughs here – very little divides neatly into seats within quota, so it’s difficult to predict exactly where the seats will go, other than Northumberland which is currently over-represented because of it’s sparse population will lose one of its four seat (or at least, most of it, given it will need to have a seat crossing a county boundary).

Scotland (-7). The Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland have their seats protected. The rest of Scotland will lose 7 of its 57 seats. The small Scottish counties lend themselves to many different pairings, so it’s to predict where the seats will go – Glasgow should lose one as should Edinburgh. The Highlands should lose one seat – which will almost certainly be Charles Kennedy’s – but there is the potential for the Scottish Commission to propose undersized seats in the Highlands if it is impossible to propose in-quota seats inside the limit on geographical area.

Wales (-10). Wales currently has the smallest seats, and therefore sees by far the most drastic reduction in its number of constituencies, losing a quarter of its existing 40 seats. Naturally all parts of Wales will be affected to some extent – interesting implications are a seat that links Anglesey to the mainland (almost certainly including Bangor with the island), seeing how the Boundary Commission deals with the Welsh valleys and which county it ends up pairing Powys with.

Many of you will be asking what the partisan effect of all this will be. It’s mostly too early to say – you can probably make some broad guesses about how some of the changes will impact on the parties (for example, the lost seat in Kent must be definition be a Conservative one, and it’s likely 2 of the lost North East seats will be Labour). However, you can only go so far with this – even if you can predict which seats are likely to be dismembered it will have a knock on effect on other seats. It’s also worth remembering that, with the exception of North Yorkshire, just because a county isn’t losing any seats doesn’t mean its seat won’t need to be re-arranged to come close enough to the quota, and that alone will lead to some seats notionally changing hands.

Note that there are some circumstances where the boundary commission can use data for 1st Feb 2011 instead, if there has been an election in the area, so there is still potential for these figures to change. The Scottish boundary commission has said they will make an announcement setting out how they will conduct the review on the 4th March, the Welsh Commission have said they will provide details in March, and I’d expect the other two Commissions to make similar statements. The expectation was that we’ll actually get some provisional recommendations in September, but we’ll know more next month. The final boundaries are due to be decided by October 2013.

189 Responses to “The Boundary Review”

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  1. Hal – looks like a solid piece of work to me and has the results I’d expect, but like I said, I don’t have any interest in the argument… I just feel the need to cast out the evil of voodoo polls whenever they pop up their nasty little heads.

  2. Thanks for your reply Anthony.

    One other thing I find surprising is how little the electorate of England has grown in the last 11 years. Electorates of England for this and the last Boundary reviews

    Feb 2000 – 36,995,000
    Feb 2011 – 38,443,000

    Increase – 3.9%.

    Far less than you would think given all the talk about a rapidly rising population. Haven’t checked figures for Scotland and Wales but presumably their increases must be even lower.

  3. @Neil A

    “I accept that some safe Labour seats are virtually “uncontested” and that this reduces turnout there. There are similar Tory seats though. I simply don’t think that historically “uncontested” seats made that much difference to the fairness of the system.”

    It’s not the case that safe Con and safe Lab seats have the same impact on voting. Out of the 50 seats with the lowest %age turnout in 2010, 46 were Labour seats, and the only (I think) Con seat was a marginal (Thurrock).

    I’m not querying fairness or otherwise per se – quite the contrary. What I’m saying is that arguments about a Labour bias in the electoral system are fallacious.

  4. On the subject of Ireland, RTE has an excellent interactive map here:

    If you click through on each seat, you will get the latest situation there.

  5. @Robin

    All that tells you is that in safe Labour seats people don’t bother to vote whereas in safe Tory seats people do. What I am saying is that having safe seats isn’t the problem, it’s getting your vote out in them that is.

    To me saying that Labour bias in the system is fallacious is like saying male bias in big business is fallacious. Whatever explanations you offer for it, the statistics are transparently clear.

    Personally I’d rather sort it out with proportional voting, rather than a tortuous attempt at sharpening up the current system. But there’s no point denying that the issue exists.

  6. Re GE Eire
    As counting (slow, IMO) goes on, it is clear that, as exit polls predicted, FF is at all-time-low (ATL).
    The interesting thing is that this seems to happen more and more frequently since 2008 (beginning of the crisis).
    Thus, we have had so far the following ATL:
    EPP parties: Austria (OEVP), Belgium (CDV, Flemish), Bulgaria (SK-SDS), Bulgaria (BNS-ZNS), Czech Republic (KDU-CSL), Greece (ND), Latvia (PLL-TP), Netherlands (CDA), Slovakia (MKP), Slovenia (SLS), Slovenia (NSI-KLS).
    PES parties: Austria (SPOE), Belgium (SPA, Flemish), Germany (SPD), Italy (PSI) Sweden (S)
    ELDR/ALDE parties:
    Belgium (MR, French), Belgium (VLD, Flemish), Bulgaria (NSDV), Eire (FF), Hungary (SZDSZ), Latvia (PLL-LPP/LC), Lithuania (DP), Lithuania (NS), Slovenia (LDS), Slovakia (LS-HZDS)
    Green parties:
    Czech Republic (CZ)
    Radical Left parties:
    Italy (SA: PRC+PDCI), Spain (IU), Slovakia (KSS)
    Conservatives (ECR):
    Belgium (LDD), Czech Republic (ODS), Latvia (NA-TB/LNKK)
    Far right
    Belgium (FN), Romania (PRM)
    Or a total of 35 parties in just 3 years, of which 13 have been left out of parliament!!!

  7. @KeithP

    You said “…btw, FF are down 21.5% in the ROI election. That is a rare humbling for an incumbent losing an election…”

    Lord, but you’ve just made me feel very old. This is bad news for FF, but it isn’t the worse that could have happened. For an example of a total arse-whupping of an incumbent party, see h ttp://,_1993

    @TheGreenBenches and others

    Loving the Ireland GE analysis and thank you for the links

    Regards, Martyn

  8. @KeithP (reposted with words asterisked out to avoid moderation)

    You said “…btw, FF are down 21.5% in the ROI election. That is a rare humbling for an incumbent losing an election…”

    Lord, but you’ve just made me feel very old. This is bad news for FF, but it isn’t the worse that could have happened. For an example of a total a***-w******g of an incumbent party, see h ttp://,_1993

    @TheGreenBenches and others

    Loving the Ireland GE analysis (20/166 elected at 6:29pm, excluding Ceann Comhairle) and thank you for the links

    Regards, Martyn

  9. @Neil A

    “All that tells you is that in safe Labour seats people don’t bother to vote whereas in safe Tory seats people do. What I am saying is that having safe seats isn’t the problem, it’s getting your vote out in them that is.”

    But in a FPTP system, getting your vote out in safe seats *isn’t* a problem. As far as the system is concerned, it doesn’t matter a hoot whether you win a seat by 25,000 votes or by 25.

    The problem comes if you try to draw conclusions about the fairness or otherwise of an electoral map, based on number of votes cast, without taking into account the effect that being in a safe seat (or any other relevant factor) has on the likelihood of someone voting.

  10. NeilA

    The problems are that this is looking like an attempt to give best advantage to the Tories.

    It is clear that there should be changes to the system to make FPTP fairer but it will never be fair. Why is it that the Labour Party having an advantage is wrong but then changing it for the Tories and Labour is okay – what about the other parties?

    Also, the precedence has been set for a Government to change the rules without all-party agreement – would you consider to acceptable for Labour to change the rules after a GE to have seats chosen on population rather than electorate thereby giving them back the advantage? Basing the seats on population is as justifiable as on registered voters.

    The current Government now has no incentive to encourage voter registration in areas with poor registration/turnout. The narrow band also increases the risk of major boundary adjustment after each GE depending on turnout/registered electorate. This then undermines the arguments for FPTP as a system

    It is also a little worrying that the only exemptions have so far been given to Coalition seats.

  11. I haven’t been following the news much recently, but this is from the editorial in tommorow’s Sunday People;

    “What was the Prime Minister thinking when he swanned off to the Middle East with a bunch of British arms dealers? Mr Cameron may see himself as a free-wheeling free marketeer but even he must realise that guns are the last thing this region needs right now….

    As The People reveals today terrified Brits were given the wrong information and the wrong directions by the Foreign Office putting them at even greater risk.
    One reason people voted for this lot at the General Election was because Mr Cameron seemed more sure-footed than the accident-prone Gordon Brown.

    But the real competence of a government is only tested in a crisis. And Mr Cameron has flunked this one.”

    I have no sense of whether or not this is a big issue among the general public, but if nothing else it certainly shows that it’s much harder to stay on the right side of events when you are in government than when in opposition.

  12. @Martyn

    I had that in mind as I wrote that post. In that case the incumbent collapse was -26.97%, in Ireland at present -25.2%. I don’t think it’ll be quite so bad as the Canada 93. But I think it counts as a serious stuffing.

  13. @Alec

    I think Gordon Brown had some sort of weird reverse midas-touch that turned everything into, well, you can imagine. In comparison DC isn’t so bad – thus far. Give him time, ahem.

  14. KeithP,

    I am not sure if you followed some of my thoughts last week but I said that I thought their was a shy Fianna Fáil not being accounted for..

    some polling had FF-FG 26% apart.. [the last poll did for instance]

    At present they are 17.6% apart…..

    that is 8.4% out on the polling, which by any account is quite poor polling….


    faibh ar bith :) :)

  15. You may remember the comments Eoin made about the skills Sinn Fein had in vote management in maximising the effect of their vote under STV in West Belfast in the Assembly Elections. You can see the opportunities and pitfalls of this approach in the Irish elections.

    Fine Gael, not always known for their skills in this area, got 36.3% in Dublin South – around their national average. However their three candidates got around the same amount and it looks as if they will get 3 of the 5 seats, probably all below quota at the last stage.

    Fianna Fail have always been good at vote management – but sometimes you can be too good. In the 3 seater Donegal South West, where they lost one seat to SF at a byelection recently, their two candidates both got around 11% of the first preferences. The SF TD retained his win with 33% and the existing FG TD should also be elected. Normally the sitting FF TD, Mary Coughlin, should still get in, but because her fellow FF candidate is so near her in votes, she won’t get any transfers from him till late in the day and in this election FF aren’t getting many votes from anywhere else.

    However an independent candidate in the meantime will pick up transfers from elsewhere to keep him far enough ahead of her that he will get in at the last count. This is made worse by many FF candidates almost campaigning as independents (the Party’s name in large letters on a leaflet being as rare as a picture of Gordon Brown on a Labour leaflet last May). As a result people are only voting for them personally and votes aren’t automatically transferring to other FF candidates.

    So despite their 22% being just under the quota of 25%, FF may not get a seat here. They probably would have done with only one candidate. The equal splitting o fvotes, which is a winning strategy in good times, loses seats in bad times.

    Incidentally Mary Coughlin (the Deputy PM) is a good example of how Irish politics and FF in particular, is riddled with dynasticism. To quote Wikipedia Coughlan was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Donegal South West constituency. At the age of 21 years and nine months, Coughlan was the youngest member of the 25th Dáil. Her uncle, Clement Coughlan, was a TD from 1980 until his death in 1983, in a road traffic accident while her father, Cathal Coughlan, was a TD from 1983 to 1986 when he died after a short illness. The death of her father resulted in Coughlan being co-opted onto Donegal County Council in 1986 and launching her own political career..

  16. @ Eoin

    “some polling had FF-FG 26% apart.. [the last poll did for instance]

    At present they are 17.6% apart…..

    that is 8.4% out on the polling, which by any account is quite poor polling….”

    How much of the vote is actually counted though?

  17. @Alec – “… it’s much harder to stay on the right side of events when you are in government than when in opposition.”

    The Telegraph is saying Craig Oliver’s first task at No 10 tomorrow will be to change the emphasis of BBC reporting on cuts (his last task at the BBC was to take an axe to the World Service).

    Perhaps he will also have a little word with editor of the Sunday People. ;)

  18. A couple of hours ago BBC Parliament were showing RTE One’s live coverage of the results, only this to be interrupted by a recording of questions,to,the,Scottish First Minister!

  19. Raf,


    Wuite a bit.. that link will work in the US

  20. Re cases of incumbent collapsing
    In Italian we use the word “dimezzato”, literally meaning “cut in half”. So let us see which govt. parties in recent UE elections (2009-2010) have lost around 50% or more of their strength.
    Netherlands 2010: CDA (senior partner in outgoing gvt): From 26,5 to 13,7 (48% loss)
    Bulgaria 2009: BSP (senior partner): From 31,0 to 17,7 (43% loss)
    NDSV (junior partner): From 19,9 to 3,0 (85% loss)
    Slovakia 2010: SNS (junior partner): From 11,7 to 5,1( 57% loss)
    LS-HZDS (junior partner): From 8,8 to 4,4 (50% loss)
    Hungary 2010: MSZP (senior partner): From 43,2 to 19,3 (55% loss)
    So the case of FF is very similar to that of the Hungarian Socialists last year (from 41,6 to 17,6, 58% loss), apart form the fact that they also lost the 2nd place

  21. @Far Easterner

    “This is laughable, honestly, coming from a very sour grapes Labourite it seems.
    On your reasoning, Conservatives won the 2010 election by 7% (and a lot more than one and a half million votes) – yet they did not even win a 5-seat majority like your example, they fell short with a 36 minority. So clearly a far worse case of “…the clearly expressed popular will being suborned and the electoral outcome perverted.” No doubt you accept unequivocably that the Conservatives deserved a decisive majority.”

    Comparing the outcomes of the 1950 and 2010 elections won’t get you very far, I’m afraid. Let me outline just a few of the major differences. Labour achieved a vote share of 46% in 1950 when the turn out was 83.9%, thereby attracting the support of 39% of the whole of the UK electorate. The Conservatives achieved a vote share of 36% in 2010 when the turnout was 65.1%, thereby attracting the support of 23% of the whole of the UK electorate. In 1950, the two major parties gained a combined vote share of 87% of all votes cast, so the argument was almost entirely confined to whether the voters wanted to retain their Labour Government or replace it with a a Tory one. In 2010, the two main parties gained a combined vote share of 66% of all votes cast, the rest spread over a multiplicity of other parties. The incumbent Labour Government was voted out but there was no obvious enthusiasm reflected in the ballot box for its replacement by a Tory one. The significance of the popular vote margin between Labour and Tory is a spurious one in a multi faceted election like 2010. It wasn’t at all clear what the popular will was at all, hence the confused parliamentary outcome. It could be argued that the Tory share of seats was disproportionate to its popular vote share (45% of the seats on a 36% vote share), as was Labour’s, and it was the smaller parties, particularly the Lib Dems, who were defrauded. In 1950, none of this applied. It was more or less a straight Labour and Tory fight with the vast majority of the population participating. Labour out-polled their Tory opponents by 1.5 million votes and yet hardly achieved a parliamentary majority. They were fatally and unfairly enfeebled as a government and went on to “lose” a subsequent election the year after, again when heading the popular vote.

    I could go on, but suffice to say that 39% of the electorate voting for a particular party is a rather stronger endorsement than 23%, wouldn’t you say?

  22. With boundary changes in prospect every five years it obviously means we usually won’t be able to compare real election results with each other again unless a Parliament is cut short before its term limit has expired. So they’ll be plenty of work for those involved in calculating notional results in future.

  23. @ Eoin

    “I think ther’d be be fisticuffs if the exit poll was released a ful day beforehand… where’s your sense of excitment?”

    Really? I think people can be reasonable about election results when exit polls come out. As long as they’re not revealed while the election is still on going….there’s a difference then.

    @ Old Nat

    “Draughtsman is an alternate spelling to draftsman (but here it has the added piquancy of also implying a draught of cold air, or the draught of the ferry needed to get to the Small Isles).”

    Thanks. You know me, always looking for those linguistic differences and oddities.

  24. SoCal,

    God bless ya!

  25. Crossbat11 9.24p.m.

    Sorry but it was you who dug yourself into a hole.

    Make up your mind whether you want t o whinge about something that happened 60 years ago or not.

    Based on YOUR arguments what I said about the 2010 election holds perfectly true. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

  26. Anthony

    In your Welsh polls for the Assembly, there doesn’t seem to be any weighting factors shown.

    Is there a reason for this?

    How does Party ID work – when people may have one ID for Westminster and another for the Senedd?

  27. Oldnat – no reason for it, someone just didn’t run the tabs. Send an email to YG and someone will run it off.

    Party ID is not Voting Intention. The question is which party do you identify with, without any specification of election.

    Someone who, for example, voted Lab at Westminster and Plaid in the Welsh Assembly might consider themselves to basically a Labour person who voted Plaid in the Welsh elections and answer Labour, or might consider themselves basically a Plaid person who votes Labour at Westminster elections and answer Plaid. Or they might consider themselves as not identifying with either, and voting the most appropriate for each election, and say “None” to the question (or they might think it impossible to answer and say don’t know).

    The important point is that it is a question where we know what a representative sample answered at a fixed point in time (however those people were answering the question in their heads), we have recorded how our panellists answered the question at that same fixed point in time (meaning we can weight the second to match the first) and we know it correlates reasonably strongly to both Welsh assembly and Westminster voting intentions (so weighting by it is helpful)

  28. @TGB

    Thanks for the link. the winning candidate’s celebration is certainly more exhuberant in Ireland than in the UK. Even for the older guys.

    FG non-committal on a coalition with Labour. Greens wiped out, and SF doing a good job of maximizing Lab second preferences.

    It’s also astonishing how many senior FF TDs have failed to be elected. You would assume that in multi-member constituencies losing your “seat” should be that much more difficult.

    Also a number of cases where FF candidates in a constituency split the FF vote too evenly resulting in a relatively high numbet of FF votes, but a low number of seats. A case for closed lists?

  29. A most interesting article and a fascinating discussion.

    Does anyone know the position for future parliaments please? I am aware there will be Boundary Reviews every parliament (unless the 5 term is curtailed) but what about the magic 600 seats? Is that set in stone for future parliaments or until there is another Bill? Or on the other hand if electorate increased by say 2% by December 2015 – figure relevant to next BRs -does the 600 increase by 2% to 612 please?

  30. Peter – it is fixed. It will always be exactly 600 unless the law is changed.

    Incidentally, the legislation governing boundary reviews has always attempted to limit the size of the Commons, but has previously always been drafted in such a way that it conspicuously failed to work – it was a vague limit, and the way the legislation was worded led to a ratchet effect where the number of seats inevitably rose at each review (with the exception of the one off reduction in Scottish seats in 2005)

    Under the old legislation, the Boundary Commission was supposed to recommend boundaries meaning there were not substantially more or less than 613 seats in Great Britain. Currently there are 632 (and it was even larger before Scotland had its seats reduced in 2005).

  31. NeilA,

    “Using the Advanced Swingometer on this site, put in the GE scores for the parties (C37, L30, LD24). Then switch this to L37, C30, LD24. Then try LD37, L30, C24 and finally LD37, C30, L24.

    Hopefully it will illustrate just how “unfair” the current system is in Labour’s favour. ”

    You can’t take proportion of vote vs number of seats as any kind of indication as to whether the system is ‘biased’ in favour of any one party. Under a FPTP system you will always have these discrepancies due to the geographical efficiency of the support the various parties have across the country. If you try and manufacture (by fiddling with the constituencies) a situation where the main parties would get the same number of seats for the same vote share, you are essentially removing the entire point of having an FPTP system in the first place.

    Personally I think it’s ridiculous that they’re redrawing the constituencies by # of registered voters rather than attempting to calculate the # of eligible voters, both registered and unregistered. Essentially, that’s diluting the potential votes of the young/impoverished and strengthening those of the middle-aged/comfortably off. Not exactly fair.

  32. @P Brown,

    If you read back through my posts on this subject you will find that I am fully aware that the relatively better harvest of seats Labour gain from a given vote share than the Tories is a result of various factors, and that I have already said that constituency size is not the largest factor.

    I am not suggesting that the shape of the constituencies should be “fiddled” to try and make the result proportional. I am merely pointing out that the government’s intention is to reduce that element of the disproportionality that comes from seat size. Under the current plans, Labour will continue to benefit from most of the advantage, as differential turnout (the largest factor) will be largely unchanged.

    I have no problem with “removing the point of the FPTP system” (given that I am not a supporter of FPTP) but I would say that if FPTP has a point at all, it is to ensure strong government (by giving advantage to the biggest party or parties) and to maintain a direct geographical constituency link for politicians. Making seat sizes more even might arguably affect the former goal (although I’m not convinced) but makes no difference at all to the second.

    Finally, as AW has already pointed out, the idea that we base constituency size on the number of registered electors and not on a theoretical estimate of the number of potential electors does not arise from this legislation, and has been around for a long, long time. As no party is actually proposing to change it I hardly feel it is worth discussing, but I am not sure exactly what statistics the government would be able to use to make the theoretical estimates. Perhaps if the National Identity Register had been allowed to go ahead it might have provided a framework. But it’s gone now.

  33. “East of England (-2). Essex needs to lose one seat. Suffolk will be able to retain 7 seats. The other counties in the Eastern region will probably need to be joined together in some way to get seats within quota. It looks likely that Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire will be paired together and lose one seat.”

    If that happens the region as a whole would be losing three seats, as Cambridgeshire and Norfolk paired would lose a seat. Hertfordshire is has enough electors to retain 11 seats, though it is tricky to draw them because they are close to the lower threshold. It would make more sense to pair Bedfordshire with Cambridgeshire which would retain a total 13 seats and then pair Norfolk and Suffolk.

  34. Thank you Anthony for confirmation of 600 for future parliaments.

  35. What effect would the use of historical (ie pre-Heath) boundaries have on the ability to make reasonable seats in areas like the northeast?

  36. Baz-J – the pre-1974 Northumberland (along with the former county boroughs of Newcastle and Tynemouth) could on paper be split into 8 seats within 5% of quota, but they’d all have to be 3.5% below quota so it might be quite tricky for the Boundary Commission do to.

    Not possible to say with pre-1974 Durham as it doesn’t line up neatly with current Parliamentary boundaries in the same way Northumberland does.

  37. The real issue about the number of MPs is that Cameron and co just jumped in and picked a figure.

    From my training in occupational psychology, I would say that there should have been a proper study first of what MPs do and what resources it takes them, in the context of the organizational environment in which they are working. (I don’t mean “Time and Motion”: that’s too crude). And this should have been done both for English MPs and for Scottish and Welsh ones where responsibilities have been devolved.

    I find it very difficult to believe that we need anything like 600 MPs. Firstly, Scottish MPs in particular seem to have very little to do now that resposonsibilities for social issues have been devolved – which shows that many English MPs are acting as glorified social workers, admittedly filling huge gaps in provision, instead of keeping on the ball in relation to strategiic issues like economics and defence, witah disastrous consequences. Secondly, Ministers seem to manage to be MPs part-time, so what are backbenchers doing? Thirdly, why does our legislature need more members than that in just about any other country?

    It is not as though Westminster has been at all successful. Since democracy has been introduced (and I am in favour of that) they have fiddled about whilst Britian has declined from being the leading world power to being an also ran even within Europe.

    The MP for Castle Point (see that thread)’s posturing by wanting to tinker with Summer Time is in my opinion a good example of an MP not seeing what is important.

    I have argued on this site before, and I will do so again, that the number of MP should (subject to proper needs evaluation) be reduced to perhaps 200, by devolving powers everywhere in the UK comparable to those devolved in Scotland. The remaining MPs would concentrate on strategic matters like finance, foreign policy and defence, as happens in Switzerland and to some extent the United States (and for bad reasons in Belgium). I would create perhaps 300 full-time regional elected political jobs (as has already happened in London. Scotland and Wales). Nobody likes organizational change in advance, but frankly I think that a lot of the “Blair Babes” and other social worker types on our back benches would actually be much happier working with elected regional bodies reasonably near constituents’ needs than at Westminster, where their demanding constituency caseloads actually serve as a “liquid cosh” to prevent them addressing real national issues. At Westminster, they can actually do little about people’s problems when they are notionally the problems of local authorities (and sometimes charities) that the Westminster establishment (i.e. civil service) deprive of the cash necessary to meet basic social needs.

    The trouble is that English local government, being used as it is by being given responsibilities without the money, has become so unpopular that people are reluctant to have proper regional and local government structures. Not least because, as happened in the North East referendum, they totally distrust Westminster to set up governance based on what is efficient rather than on the political calculations of current MPs and the self-interest of senior civil servants in Westminster, with their unaffordable and unfunded pensions to supplement pay which has not come under the same pressure as that in other sectors.

    The worry is that established parties, frightened to disturb the status quo from which they benefit, won’t put forward programmes to address this shamblers, and even if they do voters will distrust them, thinking that they are seeking to feather their nests instead of doing what is best for the country. Perhaps if we descend to an Irish or Greek style crisis some new political formation will do something sensible and radical. By then it will be too late – it probably is already; but we ought at least to try to improve the Westminster setup.

    It is all very depressing for somebody who wants to see democracy flourish.

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