A few days ago I interviewed Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, concerning the recent boundary changes that were defeated in the House of Commons.
What was it about the governments boundary proposals that your party objected to?
think the biggest issue was the arbitrary nature of the proposals. No
one really answered why a Commons of 600 was any more acceptable than a
Commons of 500 or of 650. Also the rigidity of the review by having
strict electoral quotas meant that the new constituency boundaries were
based less on natural and identifiable communities, but rather on a
strict number of electors. That in itself is flawed when you consider
that the numbers of people of voting age, but not on the electoral
register, in mainly inner city areas, are excluded from any quota.
Finally, cutting the 'cost' of politics by removing 50 MPs from the next
Parliament would be more truthful if the Government hadn't increased
the size of the Lords at the same time!
Do you have any alternative suggestions?
would like to see us return to the old periodic review process. There
is far too much disruption in changing constituency boundaries every
five years, as was proposed. Under the old rules, the Boundary
Commission would review each county every 10 years or so, and could be
flexible at how to draw boundaries within that county so that it could
better reflect actual communities on the ground. That meant that whilst
each county would have the correct amount of Parliamentary
representation under the quota, each seat would be determined according
to local circumstances.
Given the recent Commons vote what will happen next?
that has happened is this review is now killed off. The next 5 year
review will take place in 2018, and every five years after that, unless
the next Government alters the law to reinstate periodic reviews, and
retain a 650 seat Commons.
Can we do something about the population differences between some seats?
things: one, is to get more people registered - or at least allow the
Boundary Commission to consider other registers such as the Census data
so that we don't end up with under representation of urban areas in
Parliament. The second thing is to loosen the rules so that seats can
reflect proper communities again. As long as each county retains its
correct quota of MPs, then it should be for the Boundary Commission to
decide which pattern of seats best fits that county, to avoid
arbitrarily splitting communities up, as the last set of proposals did.
Peer suggested this was part of Nick Clegg's sulk as he did not get
what he wanted over Lords Reform, how much of that do you think is true?
I think there is a great deal of truth in this. I also think there was
a convenient exit for the LibDems to avoid a bad set of boundary
changes for them. I don't think they had envisaged how their key seats -
where they do benefit from incumbency - would be carved up, making
winning the new seats much more difficult. At least for them, now the
boundaries aren't changing, their sitting MPs (who tend to be bedded in
more solidly than the current opinion polls would suggest) stand a
greater chance at holding their seats than they perhaps did!