Boundary Update

I expect this will be the last one of these for a few years, as the Commons looks likely to vote to approve the Lords amendment abandoning the current boundary review and setting the next boundary review to begin in 2015, reporting in September-October 2018. Today should see an end to matters one way or the other – looking in detail at the amendments before the House today, the government has tabled a counter amendment that would reject the Lords amendment, and adopt the Boundary Commissions final recommendations without the need for further votes in the Commons and Lords.

415 Responses to “Boundary Update”

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  1. Census.
    But of course this is a voodoo poll :-)

  2. @Jim Jam

    That’s the other side of the problem with partisan politics. Sometimes the right decision may be dismissed as partisan, because it fails to benefit all political parties.

    I look at it as Electoral Roll Apportionment granting more MPs to regions with older populations and with more people in stable housing who were able to be registered. Removing that bias isn’t introducing a new one.

  3. It’s clear to me that contituency boundaries should be decided by the number of cathedrals in a given area, taking into account natural boundaries like rivers, motorways, farmers’ barbed wire and local views (especially nimbys and postcode gangs).

    Townies should never be allowed to interfere in sensible country pursuits like badger baiting or running foxes with hounds. But of course country folk (with their natural salt of the earth common sense) should get a say in how alleged rioters are treated if they steal bottles of water.

    Red votes should only count for a quarter of a blue vote (that goes without saying) and nobody who hasn’t got a receipt proving he or she has paid the last three years council tax IN FULL should have a vote. No representation without taxation.

    Stands to reason.

  4. Census, definitely.

    AW beat me to it – I was scrolling down and thinking that the census would be far more an objective measure, and less prone to manipulation. Electoral registration is something of a moveable feast, especially when boundary changes are in the offing – for instance, there’s a strong incentive for councils to leave people on the register even after they’ve moved out, to try to increase representation for an area. Alternatively, areas with councils that can devote more cash to ensuring proper voter registration end up being favoured by boundary reviews.

  5. Given that the census allows for Jedi, I think it’s slightly less reliable than the ER.

  6. NickP – unless you mean an inverse relationship (the fewer Cathedrals you have, the more MPs you have) then that would mean almost only urban seats, and hardly any rural seats at all.

    There are very few Cathedrals outside of cities!

  7. I think there should be one great big “rural” seat with several million voters in it, and thousands of “urban” ones which would have many fewer people.

    I am prepared to admit the one seat that the Tories get would be by a huge mandate, and the many many Labour ones would have much smaller majorites. But it would be fairer, because the rural voters don’t need much because they already have nice views of fields and farms and stuff.

  8. Paul
    “The YT images from East London showing vigiantes harassing people saying “this is a Muslim area” are both disturbing and predictable. They need a really serious legal response.”
    The current vigilante groups appear to have been organised by a small group derived from Muslims against the Crusades, which was banned on 11 November 2011, and is without question intended to raise their poltical profile, and to cause trouble. The police appear to agree with you and have made five arrests by this evening. The movement and this emergence of an attempt to impose Sharia practice in some parts of the UK, involves mainly this small group of activists and a small number of youths under their influence, and probably ought not to be given too much oxygen; but should, as you say, continue to be restrained under legal measures – which are already in place.

  9. The Census is clearly and objectively a better measure – it is genuinely comprehensive, it is impartial and it reflects the actual population. It also provides an incentive for parties to register voters if they feel they’re underrepresented. It has the disadvantage of being infrequent.

    Using the electoral register has the benefit of frequency, but doesn’t always reflect actual population and actually provides an incentive for the unprincipled to suppress registration amongst groups who might be expected to support opponents.

    My principle is that the electorate should be everyone who could vote, not everyone who at a particular point in time might want to.

  10. Don’t care Anthony, as in the super constituencies I have in mind for my PR system, the rurals would be balanced out with urbans (in a bit fairer way though than that proposed by NickP :-) ).

    But for now, electoral roll, and allow EU immigrants the national vote after, what, three years, sound fair?

    By then they’re ‘ere’ because they’re ‘ere’ like Old Bill in the trenches.

    The local Muslim religious leaders have condemned the vigilantes on many levels including Islamic teachings, which as a Tower Hamlets resident was good to see and took the sting out of the vigilantes tail.

    I seem to remember there was a professor somewhere who looked into constituencies based on population rather than those registered to vote. But I can not remember the name or the link (I think I posted it on here before). I think that if they were based on population there would be a boost for Labour (if I remember correctlyI.

  12. For me, the role of an MP is to politically represent their electors in parliament. That most MPs feel that succouring the social and welfare needs of the people living in their constituency is a core part of their job is for me simply a reflection of a desire to be reelected.

    The allocation of doctors, nurses, police, social workers, housing officers and dustmen should be based on population.

    The allocation of electoral representatives should be based on electoral representation.

    But, like Howard, I am a PR advocate so if I designed the system the question wouldn’t matter anyway.

  13. Anthony

    Are you saying St Asaph is a city?

    You know, with crack dens, international airport etc?

  14. @Statgeek

    If you claimed to any statistician at the ONS that the electoral rolls were remotely as accurate as the census-based population estimates, you would get laughed out of court for good reason. Whatever the limitations of the census data, the numbers it contains really matter, and so the ONS put a great deal of effort and resources into door to door follow up canvassing and into making adjustments for underenumeration in the gaps. The census is not perfect, but the ONS seem to have learnt lessons from the past and are doing a lot more nowadays to cross validate the census estimates against many other series of data. One data set they don’t bother to look at is the electoral registers, because the quality of the ER data is so palpably prone to arbitrary variation.


    Good points.

    “Children cannot be on the electoral rolls until 16 (and don’t get counted as voters until adulthood), but medium/long-term decisions made by politicians affect them.”

    In fact, leaving aside the issue of what data the parliamentary constituencies should be based on, I’d go a stage further on this. Parents should be able to exercise an extra vote on each of their children’s behalf until they reach voting age (say fathers for boys, mothers for girls). Parents by and large care about their own childrens interests as well as their own, but at the moment have no extra vote to represent those interests. It would give politicians cause to think twice about soft targets such as EMA, working family tax credits and tuition fees. (Note that no-one old enough to vote in 2010 is actually liable for the £9k fees, unless they deferred their university entry).

  15. @ Statgeek

    Those who refuse to engage with the democratic process have little to complain about. We need to engage more people in the process and get turnout up.

    Using the census would invalidate the ER, since the boundaries are trying to balance the voting people, not the non-voting people

    But non voting peopl are voters who with the right to vote but do not. They are part of the community and have rights there are represented by their local MP. To exclude them from the counting when drawing up new seats would be undemocratic in the extreme!

  16. STATGEEK: “Given that the census allows for Jedi, I think it’s slightly less reliable than the ER.”

    Err, nope. That is the religious question on the Census, and people do answer it ‘Jedi’, for their own reasons. If you have reason to suspect that the numbers are cooked or unreliable, you’d need to explain how.

    The point is that the Census is regarded as far more reliable as a count of the number of people in an area, than the ER is of the number of people entitled to vote.

  17. @statgeek

    “…Given that the census allows for Jedi, I think it’s slightly less reliable than the ER…”

    Actually, it makes it more reliable, not less. Classification by religion can only be done by self-identification, unless you want to tell people to their face that they’re lying about their religion, which is *guaranteed* to upset them. There are people in the UK whose religion is *genuinely* Voudon, or Santeria, or Wicca, or Sant Mat, or Jain, or Scientology, and all these self-classifications have to be taken into account in a census – that’s what a census *does*. England and Wales has over 200 census categories just for Christians and Northern Ireland (where it’s a matter of life or death) has to go into it in even finer detail.

    I was oddly discomfited to note that worshippers of Set and the Norse Gods were no longer classified in 2001.

    Anyhoo, the links:
    * h ttp://–full-classifications.pdf
    * h ttp://


  18. @Anthony W

    “Morning all,
    Just as a thought experiment, how many people here think that it would be better to draw up boundaries based on the census, rather than the electoral register?”

    It has to be the census, surely, doesn’t it? The electoral register is so far adrift of the actual voting age population now (6.5 million was the latest estimate from the Electoral Commission) that it can longer be regarded as a credible determinant of constituency size, especially in urban seats. This shouldn’t be about narrow party political interest, although I suspect the Electoral Register adherents may be espying an advantage in there somewhere, it has to be about the wider interests of a properly functioning democracy.

    The voting system is key to proper democratic representation but even if we’re stuck with FPTP and all its iniquities for now, why wouldn’t we all want every adult of voting age to be able to cast a vote? We should carve up the constituencies and fix the boundaries on equitable population sizes based on the latest census figures then come up with an effective drive to maximise registration. I was always suspicious of the Coaltion’s motives when they floated individual rather than household registration and my view is that we shouldn’t have politicians anywhere near the process, especially if they have vested interests in excluding certain “types” of voters. In fact, I’m quite sympathetic to much looser registration processes, maybe even automatic inclusion on the register, and then I might even consider compulsory voting. If not compulsory, then maybe much more flexible ways to cast your vote beyond visiting your local polling station.

    We can’t continue with what we’ve got. 60% turn outs with 6.5 million people disenfranchised is getting very close to sham democracy, where voting becomes increasingly a minority activity indulged in by only the affluent, over 40s and well educated.

  19. @Neil A

    It is a principle of representative democracy that those elected are supposed to represent the entire population, not just their electors.

    This is actually identified in The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament. “Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents. ” And parliament defines a constituent as a person who is normally resident in the constituency, *or* entitled to vote in the constituency. Being eligible to vote is not a requirement to be an MPs constituent.

  20. @Paul C/AmbiSupporter

    Thanks for the sympathy and kind words on the football yesterday. Alas, another disaster, I’m afraid, ( but congratulations to Peter Bell by the way) and because I’ve been hoist with my own petard so many times now, I shall refrain from raising footballing matters on here again!

  21. Neil A/Howard – I am a STV Multimember seat person as well but even then Census or ER would be a factor in seat allocations.

    As I thought most of us seem to support the method which favours our party.

    Although there is a philosophical approach to this.

    Forgive me if too broad brush but a righty might say if someone can’t be bothered registering why should they be included but a lefty mighty say we should include all members of a community.

    Can’t be bothered view doesn’t address Under 16s though?

    Seriously though it seems to me that those who slip through the ER net but are picked up by the Census will include many with problems that MPs may be required to address at some point in their constituencies; eg mental health issues or illiteracy.
    So perhaps by using ER those MP with more constituents with issues end up with an even bigger proportionate task due to non inclusion in the ER.

  22. The problem with using electoral rolls as the basis for equalizing seats is that it could give an incentive for some political parties to discourage folk from registering, for instance by imposing a head tax on all people on the electoral roll.

  23. …a kind of, er, poll tax? Designed to disenfrachise the poor? Especially when yolked to individual rather than household registration?

  24. Sorry if this has been discussed before, but the only argument in favour of raising the bar regarding voter ID that I am aware of concerns the fraud thing.

    But my understanding is that this mostly relates to postal votes?

    So why not just raise the bar for postal votes and leave the rest the same?

  25. @JayBlanc,

    I don’t think that’s what the code means by “acting in the interests of”. I think that is about honesty and good faith in political decision making, not an instruction to hassle Plymouth City Council about a planning decision one of their constituents has had rejected.

    In other words, when deciding whether a law is a good thing and whether they should vote for it, they should decide based on whether they think its good for the country and for their constituency, not on the basis of who gave them a brown envelope last.

  26. For me there are two separate issues. Whether people who are not entitled to the franchise deserve political representation (I don’t they do) and whether the electoral register is properly maintained (it probably isn’t and should be improved upon).

    Saying “the ER is rubbish lets use the census instead” rather mixes the two issues together.

    For me, the political power of this country is in the hands of the electorate. It is subdivided between them in the form of the right to vote. It is only fair that it is subdivided equally, with each voter getting the same portion as every other.

    There are persons who for various reasons (age, convicted status, nationality) are considered not to qualify for a vote. For me this means that they are not entitled to a share of the political decision making and therefore not entitled to be considered in the equation. Including them gives an unfair, enhanced portion of political power to their neighbours.

    If politicians have too great a “pastoral workload”, give them an extra £40,000 a year and they can hire a social worker each to help them with it. MPs with large immigrant communities or other needs can have two social workers.

  27. Statgeek
    “The Electoral Register.
    Those who refuse to engage with the democratic process have little to complain about. We need to engage more people in the process and get turnout up.
    Using the census would invalidate the ER, since the boundaries are trying to balance the voting people, not the non-voting people.”

    I agree entirely. There is no bar to registering, unless you are trying to avoid something/someone. So it is YOUR responsibility to do so, & the reward is…You can vote.
    The census includes people not normally or perhaps not entitled to be resident & who are not eligible to vote.

    Quite apart from that, no one has mentioned that there is talk of scrapping the Census, which from my point of view, as a genealogist, would be very bad news for the genealogists of the future & hopefully it won’t happen.

    I am all for helping those who try to help themselves, but in my book, if you can’t be bothered to register to vote, then don’t expect to be able to vote.

    The Boundary Commission should be made independent like the BofE & have a rolling 4 year programme of update, with their findings automatically enacted, without the need for interference by MP’s.

  28. Far, far too many people make value judgements about how other people should act based on how they act themselves. Its a very tempting stance but takes absoutely no account of the fact that many people are far less well-educated, far less experienced and so on – yet very probablly far more in need of help, yes, even to figure out how to vote.

    I think I fell into this “superiority” trap myself for a long time:
    “My Dad did this, my Mum did that, I did something else, so why can’t everybody else?”

    In the end it is off no significance and the idea that people should be excluded because “they can’t be bothered” is judgemental rubbish.

    [Snip – AW]

  29. “If politicians have too great a “pastoral workload”, give them an extra £40,000 a year”


    Wow. Thought the object of reducing the number of MPs was in part to save money. But money no object if it suits electoral purposes, eh? …

  30. From Our Football Czar:

    Why do women footballers not seem to spit on the pitch all the time or clear their nostrils out, one at a time with great force and on camera?

    Does this indicate the world would be a nicer place with women in charge of everything, instead of just the stuff at home and what their bloke should wear?

  31. Paul Croft …the idea that people should be excluded because “they can’t be bothered” is judgemental rubbish.”

    No it isn’t, the fact that you believe the opposite, is typical socialist clap trap.

    I can’t be bothered to buy a lottery ticket each week. Are you saying that, nevertheless, I should share the winnings of someone who can be bothered to buy one? What a bizarre belief.

    People need to accept & embrace individual responsibility and accept the consequences of their decisions.
    You clearly want a nanny state, I don’t.

  32. My tupenneth:

    1. Treble the size of existing constituencies.
    2. Have three MPs for each, representing the top three parties in each election.
    3. Each MP carries the number of votes received.

    Result is over 90% of the population has a local MP from their preferred party.

    If you voted for one of those top three parties, your vote wasn’t ‘wasted’ compared to now when 60-70% of votes are often lost.

  33. PC
    If the women football supporters left their air horns at home I might enjoy their matches better. Mind you, if the male equivalent left their banal chanting at home, ditto. I watch both with the sound right down which also has the advantage of missing these latest half intelligent commentaries, with adjectives such as ‘sumptuous, delicious, exquisite’ being somewhat over-used.

    It’s not England any more (the chanting began after the 1966 World Cup) . Before then we just stood stoically in the rain with our flat caps on and occasionally were moved to invite the referee to undergo eye tests.

  34. Good Evening All.

    ‘O My what a referee’ is a song I remember.

    At Nick P’s ground we sang Glad All Over.

  35. More importantly the usa has just posted a negative gdp number for 4thQ, omlyd slightly negative at -0.1 bit a positive number of 1% was expected and only 3 months ago 4th Q gdp was expected to be well over 2%. We will have to see if there is a bounce back in 3 months time

  36. RN

    That is truly pathetic: set up a ludicrous lottery ticket analogy, which was not worth the energy it took you in writing it, and then tell ME its a “bizarre” belief.

    Yes it bloody well is – what made you think of it?

    On the other hand believing that people less able or fortunate than ourselves are entited to be represented politicaly, and encouraged to join in the process, seems pretty mainstream to most people.

    I must say I am sometimes amazed by the lack of sympathy and empathy some show to others but I suppose I should be used to it.

  37. “Like it or not in Scottish politics, supporting the Tories is viewed as being on a par with dining with Hitler.”


    That’s almost literally true, yet at least a quarter of those in the Scottish Parliament are to the left of English New Labour on devolved issues.


    “a quarter of those in the Scottish Parliament are to the left of English New Labour on devolved issues.”

    And that’s just the Tories!

  39. Oldnat


  40. I’m going to say, unsurprisingly, Census as the ER is less likely to be accurate – but I don’t think it’d cause too much of a discrepancy (perhaps someone has crunched the numbers and found out?) to use the ER so I’m not too fussed.

    Of course, I support, as far as having a centralised parliamentary system [1], PR so this becomes less of a problem.

    [1] Which ideally would be replaced with something better.

  41. Paul
    If people are capable of filling in a census form, or getting someone to help them, then they are capable of doing the same with a Voters Roll form. If the difference is that one is a legal requirement & the other isn’t, then pass the appropriate legislation to make it legal requirement.

    As an MP represents everyone in his/her constituency, whether or not they have voted for them or not, (or not voted at all) I don’t see your point, other than to try and ensure that an imbalance remains because it benefits the Labour party.

    As you need to be on the voters roll to get any kind of credit, including a phone contract, those who don’t register must either, have good personal reasons for not doing so, or, not be bothered. And if they aren’t bothered to register, they are probably not bothered about voting either, even if party activists manage to register them.

  42. “Tories/dining with Hitler…. like it or not”

    Can’t say I like it in the least: any comparison being UK poiticians and Dictoators capable of oder the massacre of millions of human beings is a bit odd, to say the very least

  43. Yes

  44. Is there any research on the demographics of those who are eligible to vote , but have not registered to do so?

    And is there any research on their reasons for not registering.? It would be interesting to know if this was an act of commission , rather than omission for some, and if so how many-and for what reason.

  45. For what it’s worth I know a few people who left the electoral register when they brought in the poll tax and have probably got into that mode of thinking ever since.

    Incidently I never filled in my poll tax form but they took the names of people in our house off the electoral register anyway.

    I tend to agree with Robert N on this one. Aside from my poll tax case above it really isn’t a big deal to fill in a simple form and probably indicates they are not likely to vote even if they did.

  46. If finding a way to enfranchise those who have disenfranchised themselves ; by seeking an alternative to the ER is considered necessary-then it becomes logically necessary to make Electoral Registration legally mandatory.

  47. I believe that US Congressional districts are based on the Population Census, interested to know what other countries without a PR system do.

    Seems more logical to base the size of constituencies on population as MPs have a responsibility to represent everybody in the constituency. The extent to which individuals choose to engage by voting or registering to vote is up to them but it doesn’t affect the MP’s obligation to represent them .

  48. I have a possible solution.

    How about including an electoral eligibility question on the census form? Of course there’d be no requirement to answer it honestly, and quite a proportion of UK residents are probably too thick to answer it accurately anyway. But surely accidentally counting those with no franchise is better than deliberately doing so?

  49. Apologies for dreadful typing – laptop ran out of electricity so I didn’t check.

    Compulsory has its merits bit all of this needs serious debate.

    As far as I am aware MPs represent those who voted for them, against them, those who didn’t vote, didn’t know how to vote [yes, thankyou, I do know its “easy” – for us] plus those who “didn’t bother”.

    Or do MPs first check whether people are on the electoral roll if aomeone like CAB send someone to seek help or advice from them??? I think we can all assume the answer; there should be no debate regards rol or census in my vies ‘cos its bleedin’ obvious.

  50. Re: census, I always add a couple of imaginary residents to our household, since I found out that it is used to set funding levels. Do my bit for the local hospital, I figure!

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