Electoral law is in the news again in the
What is happening?
One of the first Bills introduced to the UK Parliament by the coalition government formed in May 2010 involved reducing the number of MPS from 650 to 600. The Coalition justified this on the basis that it would save the country money. The reputation of MPs was low at the time on the back of the expenses scandal so it was popular policy. However, partisan calculations were not doubt present as well.
Boundaries are proposed in the
What effect will it have for
Four main things:
Unfamiliar and confusing seats
First, old constituencies will largely go out the window. There will be 30 brand new constituencies and 15 will be wholly contained within a new constituency. Only 10 remain the same. You may need to check where your MP will be!
These new constituencies may be unfamiliar but also confusing. This is because the government has also stipulated that constituencies must be drawn up by maths and not communities. Boundaries used to be based on the idea of communities - MPs were to be elected to represent distinct communities, and electoral equality was secondary to that goal. The Boundary Commission had the thankless task of drawing up boundaries which are between nearly 73,000 and just over 80,000 voters. Many constituencies have therefore had to be broken up to meet this criteria. Small towns that used to be a constituency may not be big enough any more and might have to join with somewhere else. There will be some odd constituencies. One Plaid MP expressed concern about:
" two totally different communities being put together despite a large mountain separating them, as well as a number of proposals where two villages in the same community have been separated. We are also worried by the size of some of the proposed constituencies."
For example, Caerphilly will no longer have its own constituency because it will be twinned with Cardiff North. Llanelli will take some areas currently within the Gower boundary. Neath will expand to include parts of Gower, Swansea East and Aberavon. There'll be a new seat called Gower and Swansea West.
Less power for
Many people in Wales may not be concerned that 10 MPs will be losing their jobs - espeically at a time when many in Wales are losing theirs. But Wales and individual citizens will lose out. There will be fewer MPs at Westminister representing
Career uncertainty for politicians
There will be considerable political uncertainly for MPs and in the longer term, AMs. Constituency redrawing always brings uncertainly for politicians because it makes their jobs unsafe. Many politicians have safe seats which they know they will win. However, this time it is an even more intense game of musical chairs with 10 seats being taken away. There will be a political scrap within parties for prize seats. Some high profile politicians may end up without a job.
More re-drawing for 2020
Further re-drawing may happen again very soon. The new system bases the constituencies on the number of registered voters in each constituency. However, the UK government is currently planning to make changes to the way that people register which is widely thought to reduce the number of people on the register. From 2014 it plans to introduce a system of individual registration which will make it more bureaucratic for a citizen to register to vote. When this was introduced in
The government denies that a decline in levels of registration will occur as a result of plans to implement individual electoral registration. My own research suggests, that unless serious compensatory mechanisms are put in place, this will happen.
Who will gain?
The Conservatives in
If we get a new electoral system for the Welsh Assembly as a result of the constituency changes, then power within
What happens next?
The Boundary Commission has only published proposals. They will undertake public consultations (details are on their website) and voters can attend these and have their say about their constituency. There is time to make your views known.
The final proposals have also been to be approved by Parliament. It was initially thought that this approved was a given. The Coalition has a majority in government so would be very likely to approve their own plans. However, some Conservative MPs have become very concerned about how disruptive these plans have become - especially if their own seat is at risk. Baroness Warsi has said that ‘I agree with some of our MPs that some proposals are mad and insane’ . Mark Field MP has described the changes as ‘...somewhat more disruptive than we had in mind’. There is still every chance that the whole process might collapse and constituency redrawing never happens.