Tuesday 13 September 2011

A pointless cull of MPs

What, exactly, is the point of the coalition's cull of MPs? It is said that it will bring more equity to representation, as it takes a few thousand fewer people to elect a Labour MP than a Conservative MP. Ofr course, that takes no account of lower levels of registration in the inner city constituencies where the differences are greatest. But let's leave that be for a moment. Achieving greater equity - something that is already the job of the Boundary Commission - doesn't require a reduction in the number of MPs by 50 at the same time. This is apparently happening to save £12 million. And at what price? Constituencies that bear some relationship to geography and council boundaries are to be shredded in favour of ludicrous agglomorations of wards pushed together to achieve the optimum size dictated by the coalition. In my home constituency of North East Somerset, we would now become Keynsham and Kingswood. The only small mercy is that Jacob Rees-Mogg would no longer be my MP. But that doesn't mean it makes sense. I used to chair Mitcham and Morden CLP in London: it is to be replaced by a new Mitcham constituency that will include a Lambeth ward for no good reason other than mathematical necessity.

But it is not really Cameron's fault that this whole farce came to pass. It is that of the Liberal Democrats, who were too naive to tie the cull of MPs to the passing of the Alternative Vote in a referendum. This left Cameron free to dump on Clegg from a huge height on AV while continuing with his constituency cull. The irony of the whole exercise is that it looks like it will not deliver the gains in seat advantage that the Tories hoped to achieve through their gerrymeander. Instead it may create as many aggrieved seatless Tory MPs as Labour ones. So, there are few winners - and any 'savings' are bound initially to be eaten up along with the cost of the time-wasting involved in a lengthy appeals process and subsequent internal party battles between MPs whose constituencies have been significantly changed.

Whoever thought this would win back public confidence in politics and politicians? Give them a seat on the Lib Dem committee for approving £2m donations from passing fraudsters.

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