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. I agree actually with the comments posted just that actually having 600 is no better than 650 and I can see no justification into why reducing the MP’s will help parliamentary accountability.

    If anything that weakens parliamentary accountability because with less MP’s there is less backbenchers, MP’s to scrutinise the government, less MP’s to hold parliament to account, look at legislation etc. It was a rushed attempt to introduce policy in the height of the expenses scandal and was to delight the public who were methaphorically speaking “sick of robbing MP’s”.

    I mean, take this argument. One could argue why not have a parliament of 100 MP’s because it means they would be held more accountable to the public in fact lets go all the way and just have 10 MP’s because that will save millions of £’s worth of money.

    No, lets have one elected individual i.e. a President but instead the President is the Parliament as well so he/she can vote and pass laws whatever they please. Now then people would say well thats heading towards a democratic dictarship where yes we the people all vote on a single accountable person but because of the lack of individuals to stop he has unlimited powers and little constraints. But at least you will have every 5 years to vote for him.

    Now, that extreme will NEVER happen but you can see how easily governments get into a slippery slope where first they reduce it to 600, then it’s 575, then it’s 525, then it’s 500 and before we know it we have 485 where most of the Westminister population is made up Ministers, spinsters, government members etc. and less of accountable, independent minded MP’s and all of this in the name of “saving money”, “accountability” etc.

    England does not have a Parliament and we do not enjoy the devolution and devolutionary powers of some countries like Australia, USA, Canada, France, Germany etc. where they have devolved assemblies and governments we are massively unrepresentative compared to them no matter how much the right bang on about that we have too many MP’s than any other countries. Maybe so, but we also have less or no representative on there level.

    IMO I think we should have more MP’s, especially in England and I would be happy to see MP’s over 700 because by cutting the MP’s is surely making things less democratic and makes us under-representative, have less of a voice and denys MP’s connections with the public. You don’t have to look at it on a left, right, centre point of view just simply on a democratic POV.

  2. @ AKMD

    So what are the likely implications for the LDs? Do they get an easier settlement from these changes?
    ——————————————–
    It is likely that they will lose out. Even if the Dems don’t lose many seats initially, many Dems are in marginal seats where Tory/ Lab voters being ‘pushed’ into their area could mean the Dems lose the seat.
    8-)

  3. @Neil A

    “The Tories suffer mult-faceted disadvantages at elections.”

    Really? Not so many, obviously, that they weren’t able to form an administration in May 2010 with the support of barely 22% of the electorate! I accept that the Conservatives don’t benefit quite so grotesquely from FPTP as Labour, but much of that derives from low voter registration and turnout in Labour held inner city constituencies rather than gross discrepancies in constituency size. Beyond that, the Tories have benefited almost every bit as much from the status quo as Labour. 46% of the seats in the Commons on 36% of votes cast wasn’t a bad night’s work at the last election, was it??

    If we were being strictly non-partisan about this, our real sympathies should reside with the Lib Dems and other smaller parties and their many voters who are effectively defrauded by our electoral system. Labour and the Tories have been serial beneficiaries for many decades and neither should complain about their alleged plights.

    I wonder if the Conservative complaint, in a nutshell, is that the system hasn’t been quite as hideously rigged in their favour as it has been for Labour in recent times. Maybe these boundary changes will ensure that is no longer the case. It’ll be rigged in their favour then!!

  4. I wonder if the tories could gain a seat in Scotland, if the boundaries are drawn favourably in the Angus/Aberdeenshire area and the south of scotland.

  5. A Brown,

    I am glad you posted that.. I have ben looking at Scotland’s boundaries for months now since of the GB they’d be the ones that interest me the most…

    Argyll area is far too close to predict an outocme of a change

    Berwickshire/Aberdeenshire looks serious close between LD/Tory

    Fife NE [Ming] could go.. with a shoot out between him or a replacement LD and Stuart Hosie for the remaining seat..

    I find the Lib Edinburgh seat too close to call..

    I think thurso will be fine in caithness.. and Danny Alex/CK in RSL and Inver..

  6. “It is likely that they will lose out. Even if the Dems don’t lose many seats initially, many Dems are in marginal seats where Tory/ Lab voters being ‘pushed’ into their area could mean the Dems lose the seat.”

    I’d imagine the LDs will insist on the best boundaries possible for their existing seats so the effects of the changes are as minimal as possible and I’d also expect the same from Labour.

  7. Any news from Eire? I know that the polling stations are still open and that the exit polls will be diffused tomorrow just before the vote counting begins, but in France and In Greece the leaks of the exit polls’ results on the web and the blogs begin early in the afternoon (we know it is not right, but that’s the way it is)

  8. @ AKMD

    I’d imagine the LDs will insist on the best boundaries possible for their existing seats so the effects of the changes are as minimal as possible and I’d also expect the same from Labour.
    ———————————————
    None of the Parties get to ‘insist’ on anything; the Boundary Commissions decide.
    8-)

  9. I dont get why Powys would need to be linked with anyone. Montgomery has an electorate circa of 48000 and Brecond and Radnor 53000 which would give a total electorate of more than 100,000 over a vast area. Surely this would make it one of the largest constituencies geographically and in electorate in the Uk? This boundary review is a nonsense.

  10. Re the West Highlands

    The Parliamentary Constituencies Act says

    “Area of constituencies

    4(1)A constituency shall not have an area of more than 13,000 square kilometres.”

    It does not discriminate between water and land.

    Does anyone know whether the Sound of Arisaig, therefore, has to count towards the hectareage of the relevant constituency containing the Small Isles?

  11. A prodogious amount of work from AW. His researchers must be up all night…

  12. oldnat
    Does anyone know whether the Sound of Arisaig, therefore, has to count towards the hectareage of the relevant constituency containing the Small Isles?

    You’re quite right that P2.11.4(1) of the 2011 act makes that limit, but it is also relevant that the act makes no reference anywhere to “water”.

    It would seem logical that fresh water above high tide would count in the hectareage and any sea water would not, but then if the UK parliament were an institution driven by logic it would be unlikely to exist in its present form.

  13. However the constituencies are drawn in detail, the political effects will be that the Conservatives will lose a few seats, so will the Lib Dems and the Nationalists, and Labour will lose more.
    However the overall effect will be much slighter than some Tories seem to think, as the major component of the ‘Labour bias’ between overall share of the national vote and seats won is due to the lower turnout in working class seats, which means Labour victors get fewer votes under FPTP than Conservative winners – try looking up a few seats and you’ll see what I mean. this is not mainly due to the average electorate of Labour seats being smaller, though they are to some extent.
    There can be little theoretical argument against more equal electorates, though the boundary review process has been brought forward and accelerated for party political reasons.
    However the reduction of MPs to 600 is a bad move. Not only will this reduce representation for everyone, and cause more disruption to established and recognised community boundaries, but it will reduce the number of backbenchers (front bench jobs are not being cut), effectively increase the ‘payroll vote’ in the Commons, thus yet further strengthening the hand of the Executive over Parliament – one of the greatest weaknesses in our political system.

  14. How as a matter of practicality can the large number of island groups in the Orkneys and Shetland share a single MP? Shetland has around 90 islands but only half an MP.

    i’ve always wondered why the SNP don’t do better there. If anyone was likely to feel remote from Westminster, it would be a Shetlender, yet it’s as Yellow a seat ad they come.

  15. Barbazenzero

    Yes, you focus nicely on my point.

    The work of the Parliamentary draughtsmen is not infrequently inadequate, especially when an Act deals with all parts of the UK simultaneously.

  16. RAF

    Shetlanders also know that they are remote from Holyrood. Voting differently from all the population centres makes it much more likely that your voice can be heard.

    Incidentally, the SNP poll as many votes in Shetland as the Con/Lab alliance do between them –

    LD 67% : SNP 17% : Con 10% : Lab 7%

  17. @virgilio

    You said “…Any news from Eire?…”

    Local coverage
    * Board: h ttp://www.politics.ie/
    * Television: h ttp://www.rte.ie/news/election2011/
    * Print media: h ttp://www.irishtimes.com/indepth/election2011/

    BBC coverage
    * Article: h ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12574516
    * Country profile: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1038581.stm

    Regards, Martyn

  18. @ Anthony

    Thanks for your reply on the census/register issue. A lot to chew on there.

    I find that at the moment I am registered in adjacent wards in Hove, having moved house last June. There is no way that I registered at my old address, yet there I am. Why do local authorities do this? The degree of variation is a cause for concern – surely this is one area where localism is not exactly appropriate.

    The worry is the danger of personation and double voting. No one has ever studied this, because if it’s successful, it is pretty much impossible to detect.

  19. Great to see intelligent chat on UKPR, it almost feels like it is back to its best :)

  20. In ROI we do the count tomorrow.. I didnt exercise my vote since my party did not stand

    theoretically, exit polls tonight are illegal

    I have seen one and it is dodgy! I can post it if you like.. but you’d be satisfying a part of your brain distinct from intelligence

    I say that with regret sine it has the blue shirts on 29%

  21. oldnat

    From a few searches on the website of the Boundary Commission for Scotland, it does tend to suggest a commonsense approach if not necessarily an entirely logical one.

    A bit old (1970), but I found an order on boundaries from 1970 setting “the centre line of the Water of Leith” as a boundary, as well as “the western breakwater of Granton Harbour“. See http://www.bcomm-scotland.gov.uk/reports/sis/SI_1970_1680.asp

    I can’t spot anywhere that a ward includes open sea, but that does not imply that none exist.

  22. Barbazenzero

    But if you look at the map for Ward 5 Ardrossan and Arran here

    http://www.lgbc-scotland.gov.uk/maps/4thelectoral/northayrshire/nayrindex.asp

    there is a delightful ambiguity. Clearly the red line round Ardrossan defines a boundary, but the one round Arran is only partial.

    And of course, this boundary was drawn prior to the most recent silly piece of gerrymandering by the Scots LDs.

  23. oldnat
    The work of the Parliamentary draughtsmen is not infrequently inadequate, especially when an Act deals with all parts of the UK simultaneously.

    Off-topic: and you focus on one of my concerns about unicameralism. A suitable, cost-effective federal revising chamber is the about the only benefit that I believe a democratic UK could (but clearly does not) provide.

  24. @TheGreenBenches
    “My party did not stand”
    You imply that all parties are not present in all constituencies? And I imagine that blue-shirts are FG, or am I wrong?

  25. @Oldnat

    The relevant concept is “Extent of the Realm”, which is down to the limit of mean low water.

    * h ttp://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/aboutus/reports/misc/glossary.html
    * h ttp://www.ons.gov.uk/about-statistics/geography/products/boundaries/boundary-guidance-document.doc

    Regards, Martyn

  26. oldnat

    I see what you mean re Ardrossan and Arran and its “delightful ambiguity“.

    A human being would say they were simply being economical with the red felt-tip, but a lawyer could have a field-day, were it worth his or her while.

    I’d say that Little Cumbrae Island is outwith the ward but not Horse Isle, but it certainly isn’t crystal clear.

  27. Oldnat – on the Ordnance Survey’s election maps website (www.election-maps.co.uk) Caol and Mallaig Ward seems to contain the islands, not the sea inbetween them.

    That should be correct (after all, the site does normally correctly reflect the ideosyncracities of wards – for example, it contains the big chunk of sea/estuary in Bristol’s Avonmouth ward and the huge tail on Norwich’s Thorpe Hamlet ward).

    Howard (Another) – the regulations for the annual canvass are that councils are allowed to retain people on the register who do not reply to the annual canvas for up to a year, unless they have reason to believe that the person is no longer there. So basically, if the new occupants of your old address didn’t reply to the canvass saying you aren’t there anymore, and you didn’t inform the council that you had ceased to live at your old address, then you will correctly still be there (if you did tell them, then you are wrongly still there!)

  28. Talking of boundaries, I am reminded of a delightful bit of re-mapping when our local schools’ catchment areas were redrawn. A boundary was very carefully and deliberately moved from one side of a woods to another, in the process affecting precisely zero dwellings :-)

  29. MARTYN

    I’m sure you’re right re Extent of the Realm for most matters, but there are enough caveats in the links you provide to keep lawyers happy and the (except where extended by Parliament) in the actual definition obviously hands the decision back to Parliament in any specific case it cares about.

  30. MARTYN

    I’m sure you’re right re Extent of the Realm for most matters, but there are enough caveats in the links you provide to keep lawyers happy and the (except where extended by Parliament) in the actual definition obviously hands the decision back to Parliament in any specific case it cares about.

  31. Funnily enough, the secondary legislation that gives the current Scottish ward boundaries legal force doesn’t actually describe the wards verbally as it does in Barbazenzero’s 1970s example, rather the legislation has a DVD-ROM attached to it upon which the ward boundaries are described.

  32. Martyn

    Thanks for that. I did a quick check and the concept of “Extent of the Realm” seems to be quite clear in English Law, but I can find no such reference in Scots Law (though it could be that I just didn’t find it. However, the common practice of the OS would not itself have any basis in Scots Law.

    Anthony

    I note your “seems to”.

    ——————————————–

    One of the reasons for having a Boundary Commission for Scotland is that disputes ultimately need to be settled in the Scottish courts.

    It may be that the question is wholly academic, but for the first time the SBC are going to have to rule on their interpretation of what shoddy draughting produces.

  33. @Barbazenzero

    Thank you

    @Oldnat,

    Ouch, you’re right! I *think* the concept is similar in Scotland, but I don’t *know*.

    Regards, Martyn

  34. AW

    Sorry about the duplicate posting. I blame my browser as I only pressed the submit button once – honest guv!

    Feel free to snip – alone with this one, of course.

  35. I’ve been sniffing around for a while, trying to find out something resembling a result in the Irish Election. It’s probably too early, but the sense I get is Fine Gael will have to form a coalition with Labour, they won’t have quite enough seats to go it alone with some like minded independents.

    It hardly needs saying, but Fianna Fail (the current government) are in for a serious thrashing tonight.

  36. @Valerie
    “I agree. Labour needs to focus on getting people to register.”

    Interesting. I assume from this that you think that those who do not register to vote, are more likely to vote Labour if they are persuaded to register.

    I can think of some Tory (not necessarily my) reasons why this might be (e.g. feckless irresponsible people are more likely to be lefties), but I am curious as to what your reasons are?

  37. @ Pete B

    I can think of some Tory (not necessarily my) reasons why this might be (e.g. feckless irresponsible people are more likely to be lefties), but I am curious as to what your reasons are?
    ————————————————-
    I am seeing big, troll-shaped footprints all over your comment (as Robin might say).
    8-)

  38. Amber

    Are you being unfair to trolls by suggesting that they are feckless? :-)

  39. Robert Waller makes a good point.

    By commissioning a boundary review every time they win power, the Conservatives can off-set some of the electoral disadvantage they suffer as a result of population movements – but what they cannot do is compensate for the wasted Tory votes in those middle class constituencies which pile up huge turnouts yet still only elect a single Conservative MP.

    The fact that the Tories usually hold a respectable second place in seats which are held by Lib Dem MPs means that they waste still more votes for no additional parliamentary representation.

    It goes without saying that by 2015 – when the first general election will be fought on the revised constituencies – the new boundaries will already be nearly five years out of date (thus partially rekindling the electoral disadvantage which the Tories are suffering from the current out-dated boundaries).

    The Republicans have a similar problem in the United States: the population trend has, for some time, tended to be away from the industrial North East and Mid West (which are traditionally Democratic) and towards the South (which in recent electoral cycles has been trending Republican). They, too, have a ten yearly census, and the number of congressional districts awarded to each state is automatically revised to reflect this. However, the other ingredient in calculating a state’s weight in the presidential electoral college – its number of senators – remains at two regardless of whether it is huge (like New York) or sparsely populated (like Wyoming), and so the Republicans almost invariably start off with an in-built 20-EV advantage. This is usually more than enough to outweigh the disadvantage they suffer from oudated census data.

    Returning to Britain, even though I have the rose symbol next to these words I really do not buy the notion that the boundary revision is ‘politically motivated’. It is only right that population movements are taken into account on a periodic basis, otherwise how can we ensure fair representation?

    It is a fact that the electoral system has an in-built anti-Tory bias, and this can be partially corrected by regularly up-dating the boundaries. It ill-behoves us to cry foul over this.

    Incidentally, some psephologists seem to think this imbalance only became apparent in 1992. It was actually there in February 1974, and has been growing (albeit very slowly) ever since. For example, if you watch the BBC election tapes for the 1979 General Election, you will see that the Tories had pulled ahead in terms of the accumulated popular vote some time before they emerged ahead of Labour in the seat count. (It should be mentioned here that the Callaghan government had specifically avoided enacting an up-date of the constituency boundaries for precisely the purpose of enabling Labour to maintain this advantage).

    However, the in-built pro-Labour bias of the electoral system was much more profound by 2010, as anyone who watched the Sky News election night coverage can testify: they had an on-screen ticker tape giving a running total of accumulated votes and seats.

  40. @Amber
    I don’t know who Robin is, but I’m just curious as to why Labour supporters would think that those who do not register to vote would be more likely to be Labour supporters than anything else?

    I am assuming that Valerie wanted to encourage more registration because she wants to increase her own party’s vote, and she is avowed Labour.

    I attempted to make my question humorous. I’m sorry if it wasn’t appreciated. I’m still interested in the answer though.

  41. >>I really can’t see the arguments against equalising the size of seats, surely it makes sense for every MP to represent the same (as near as they can make it) number of people.

    I would have thought so too, but the coalition have decided to go with the reverse, where MPs represent radically different numbers of people but a similar number of recent voters.

    What will be the effect? To push the power of the happy, affluent, politically engaged areas, and to compensate places alienated from the political process by, er, cutting their representation.

  42. @ Old Nat

    “It may be that the question is wholly academic, but for the first time the SBC are going to have to rule on their interpretation of what shoddy draughting produces.”

    Are you just being wicked again or is “draughting” a bona fide Scottish spelling?

    Also….

    “4(1)A constituency shall not have an area of more than 13,000 square kilometres.”

    I have to say that that makes very little sense…..drawing constituencies by landmass is both outdated and unfair (the physical size of a constituency should have nothing to do with its drawing). It reminds me of a good line from Earl Warren, who used to say “You don’t give votes to rocks and trees.”

  43. @ Eoin

    Why are exit polls banned in Ireland? Exit polling makes election nights so much more fun! Instead of waiting for results to come in drip by drip, you know how things have turned out or if they haven’t. If a race is close and an election becomes a precinct to precinct battle, that is a great deal of fun to watch.

    Also, are Northern Ireland residents allowed to vote in Irish elections?

    I wonder how Chef Stuart voted today…..(he’s my favorite chef on the tv show “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” and he’s Irish)

  44. To rephrase the question slightly:

    Why are Conservative voters in well off constituencies more likely to register to vote than would-be Labour voters?

    How about:

    More likely to buy than rent therefore more settled?

    Less fear of being pursued by debtors and less fear of “authority”?

    There was the Poll Tax thing too…register and get charged.

  45. @ Crossbat11/Nick Hadley

    “I accept that the Conservatives don’t benefit quite so grotesquely from FPTP as Labour, but much of that derives from low voter registration and turnout in Labour held inner city constituencies rather than gross discrepancies in constituency size. Beyond that, the Tories have benefited almost every bit as much from the status quo as Labour. 46% of the seats in the Commons on 36% of votes cast wasn’t a bad night’s work at the last election, was it??”

    Do you really think that Labour grotesquely benefits? Didn’t the Tories used to benefit from FPTP because over 50% of the electorate would vote against a Tory candidate but the Tories would comfortably retain a seat because the anti-Tory vote was split between the Lib Dems (or Alliance) and Labour? Didn’t Labour lose the General Election of 1952 despite winning more popular votes overall?

    Labour tends to do well in the urban inner city areas (except for the super wealthy city centers which tend to vote Tory). Those areas, by having the highest unemployment, highest social problems, highest crime, highest poverty, are usually going to have lower turnout and lower voter registration numbers. The Tories do very well in the rural countryside. This isn’t counterintuitive to me at all since the U.S. often looks like this politically (except the red and blue are reversed on the maps….that and the urban areas always come in last with election returns). You should look at a county map of New York State in the 1988 presidential election. If you attempt to guess the winner just based on that, you’re most likely guess wrong.

    It’s also not surprising and not counterintuitive that the highest turnout constituencies tend to be among the most affluent while the lowest turnout constituencies tend to be among the most impoverished constituencies. Not surprising since turnout in the U.S. tends to operate the same way. There are adjoining Congressional districts that are safe seats for opposite parties where a losing Democrat in a safe Republican seat will win far more actual votes than a Democratic winner in a safe Democratic seat. “How illiberal!!” as Clegg and Cameron would say. :)

    Is that wrong? A bad system? Unfair? No, to the contrary it gives the fairest representation where the entire population is equally represented. Voter turnout may ebb and flow, voter registration may differ based upon class differences (or even racial and ethnic differences). But population is population and all people have a right to be equally represented. If some places have lower turnout or lower registration than others, that may be a problem for other reasons, but that doesn’t mean that a system isn’t any less democratic or representative.

  46. @ Nick Poole

    “Why are Conservative voters in well off constituencies more likely to register to vote than would-be Labour voters?

    How about:

    More likely to buy than rent therefore more settled?

    Less fear of being pursued by debtors and less fear of “authority”?

    There was the Poll Tax thing too…register and get charged.”

    Historically, weren’t people excluded from voting if they did not own a certain amount of land? That would for the most part categorically exclude the poor from voting. Just from a cultural perspective, might that tend decrease one’s likelihood to register if they’re poor?

    In the U.S., blacks and Latinos have the lowest voter registration and turnout of any groups. There’s a reason for this. If you were prohibited from voting for prolonged periods of time, even once the prohibition is lifted, culturally, you might not think to vote or feel that voting is important.

  47. @Anthony Wells

    Beware relying on the O|S (or their NI equivalents) when it comes to the sea… Their remit stops on the beach somewhere, and is handed over to the Hydrographic Survey. Where exactly on the beach is open to question, but there aren’t any TOIDs in the sea.

  48. RTE EXiT POLL:
    FG 36,1
    LAB 20,5
    FF 15,5
    SF 10,1
    Green 2,7
    Others 15,1

    No OM for FG, all-time low for FF, all-time high for LAB and SF, LAB first party in Dublin

  49. @Nick Poole and SocialLiberal

    Thanks for the replies on the question of party preference for those not registered to vote.

    I do find it interesting that many people seem to vote on tribal lines rather than making any kind of reasoned decision. I suppose this is why parties concentrate their campaigns on the relatively few floating voters.

    I believe that there have been studies showing that older people are more likely to vote conservative. I suppose this could be another reason for Labour targetting non-registered voters. I would imagine that the majority of transient populations are young.

  50. @ SocalLiberal

    “Do you really think that Labour grotesquely benefits?”

    If being able to form a majority government for five years with just 35% of the vote isn’t a grotesque benefit, then I don’t know what is.

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