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The Argument In Favour Of Boundary Reform

That the British constituencies should be reformed is something proposed by the Tories, opposed by Labour. The argument in favour of it is this:

But, as you say, the point still stands. Accurate figures are:
– 2005, Labour, 35.2%, 355 seats, reasonably comfortable majority;
– 2010, Conservatives, 36.1%, 306 seats, needed a coalition.

Even looking at the second place:
– 2005, Conservatives 2nd, 32.4%, 198 seats
– 2010, Labour 2nd, 29%, 258 seats – again, lower percentage, more seats.

Whether a minority of the votes should give a majority in Parliament is one thing, but it is quite another matter for widespread uncorrected differences in the number of voters between constituencies to mean that one party will get significantly more seats than the other party, to the extent of having a majority or not, on the same percentage of the vote.

Any argument against boundary reform has to be able to tell us why the system, as it is, should lead to that unfair result.

And that the bastard Tories lose isn’t a good enough one. Unfortunately, none I’ve seen so far manage to go any further than that. So, reform it is then, yes?

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Pat
Pat
1 year ago

We did experience centuries without boundary reform, and ended with the rotten boroughs. Whoever holds the rottenest boroughs today, there is no guarantee they will keep them forever, as the recent election has shown.

Bernie G.
Bernie G.
1 year ago

Can’t understand why Cameron never prioritised this.

Bloke in North Dorset
Bloke in North Dorset
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernie G.

Clegg made it a condition of his PR referendum and when he lost that he felt he’d been shafted because it wasn’t the PR he wanted and he didn’t get full Govt support, so he reneged on the deal. By 2015 his priority became the Brexit referendum.

Esteban
Esteban
1 year ago

Apologies for using this forum, but I’ve been looking for a way to contact Tim or the editor of CT – trying to find out if you’re interested in a movie review of “Knives Out”. If so, please let me know how to contact you.

Spike
Spike
1 year ago

Constituencies are won by plurality, and youse have more than 2 “major” parties. This means Labour or Tories win Parliament without an electoral majority, on the strength of being well-established throughout the nation. Or they form a coalition; in either case, no problem.

The problem is that constituencies have lagged changes in population, so redistricting is in order. (“Boundary adjustment” sounds sneaky.)

jgh
jgh
1 year ago
Reply to  Spike

We used to have redistricting every 10-15 years on a rolling programme to keep up with population change. The flaw this time around was rolling it up with the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, reducing the number of seats to 600, and doubling the tightness of the quota. Doing any one of those in one go would have been ok, but throwing the whole lot in in one got has caused so many objections by those who would lose out it’s been thrown into treacle. I’d just tell the Commission to go back and do a new review on the old rules… Read more »

Spike
Spike
1 year ago
Reply to  jgh

Yes, “the perfect being the enemy of the good.” Here in New Hampshire, for a long time we finessed number-of-representatives-per-town by overlaying “floterial districts” spanning several towns. One year the court ruled that numerical equality was paramount and drew a map with a small number of districts. Suddenly all your reps lived several towns away. We amended the state constitution to authorize the prior method, got our mostly local representation back with “pretty good” numerical equity.

Gavin Longmuir
Gavin Longmuir
1 year ago

Surely the bigger issue is that the UK electoral system gives commanding parliamentary majorities to parties which have the support of only a minority of the voters (and an even smaller minority of the population). Truly, the Tyranny of the Minority. In a sense it does not matter in the UK, since both major parties agree on the need for Big Intrusive Government. The parties talk differently and howl at each other in Westminster like public schoolboys, but their actions are not wildly dissimilar. Arguably, personalities are more important than parties in the UK — but the UK voter has… Read more »

djc
djc
1 year ago
Reply to  Gavin Longmuir

As you appear to be a yank perhaps it would help your understanding to think of it as a electoral college— who gets to be PM is decided by which part gets the most seats. The PM can then reward supporters and generally use the powers of patronage to form a government.

Spike
Spike
1 year ago
Reply to  Gavin Longmuir

I don’t see it as “Tyranny” if a party that polls 2% nationwide (and thereby wins no constituency) gets no seat. But the solution is to have a multicameral legislature in which one house is populated by “party lists.” This means that that party would get 2% of the seats. There’d also be the Commons, where you’d be more likely to know who your MP was. Parliament would have a representative of your region, and in a separate chamber, of your ideology. But that party still has appropriately little influence over who becomes PM.

Gavin Longmuir
Gavin Longmuir
1 year ago
Reply to  Spike

The potential for Tyranny of the Minority comes in when (to take the 2005 example) Labour got a parliamentary majority with only 35.2% of the votes. Maybe Tyranny of the Plurality would be a more accurate expression — but the potential for a minority of the population to dictate to the majority seems like an issue worthy of concern.

Nautical Nick
Nautical Nick
1 year ago
Reply to  Gavin Longmuir

But your solution would be even worse. Under some sort of PR system, it could easily be that a 5% party determines who becomes PM. And we’ve seen how the UK functions when there is no parliamentary majority.

Gavin Longmuir
Gavin Longmuir
1 year ago
Reply to  Nautical Nick

Why are you assuming that my solution would be one of the many forms of Proportional Representation?

My solution is to reduce the power & scope of government, and in particular to prevent the development of a near-permanent Political Class and an entrenched bureaucracy. I have strong reservations about Universal Suffrage. Take care of all of those, and the voting system becomes much less important. But it is easier just to fiddle with constituency boundaries and pretend we are dealing with the problem.

bloke in spain
bloke in spain
1 year ago

You do realise the picture you’ve used to illustrate this post could easily be construed as incitement to violence?

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
1 year ago
Reply to  bloke in spain

A face you could never tire of punching …

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