Cameron cutting seat numbers in UK

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David Cameron, the leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom, is planning to immediately cut the number of seats in the House of Commons following an election victory this year, according to reports.

Cameron’s plan involves immediately introducing legislation following an election which would trigger a rapid review of electoral boundaries in England and Wales in order to cut the number of seats by approximately 10%.

Electoral boundary reviews in the past have taken as long as seven years, and the new boundaries being used for the 2010 election are based on registered voter figures from the year 2000. Cameron’s legislation would give only 18 months for a new review.

The Conservatives are arguing that the cut in the size of the Commons, which will have 650 members after this year’s election, is intended to cut the cost of politics, not to achieve electoral gain. While it is probably a good idea to shrink the Commons to less than 600 seats, the costs of those 65 members of Parliament really don’t add up to a lot in the scheme of things.

There is some electoral benefit for the Conservatives in speeding up the process of boundary reviews. Strong Labour areas like the inner cities tend to be depopulating, which means that boundaries drawn using out-of-date data will tend to mean that the number of voters in Labour seats is less than in Conservative seats. Yet this is only a minor issue. The main bias against the Conservatives in the electoral system comes from the geographical distribution of Conservative voters. Labour voters tend to be more ‘effective’, spread efficiently over marginal seats, while Conservative voters are locked up in huge majorities in safe seats. This is the main reason why the Conservatives need to beat Labour by a wide margin to win a majority. No redrawing of the boundaries will fix this: all systems of single-member electorates favours one party over another.

Labour in the UK is crying ‘gerrymander’ over the proposal, although it seems that numerical fairness is on the Conservative side. It seems that the Conservative plan is a good idea, but won’t achieve any of the aims being spun by either side about removing the bias in the electoral system.

In other news, I have just finished the South-East England region in my map of the 1997-2005 electoral boundaries, which I am hoping to finish before the UK election later this year. Maps below the fold.

1997 election.
2001 election.
2005 election.
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8 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, that is indeed correct. David Cameron has said that he wishes to reduce the House from it’s future 650 MP’s to 585 MP’s (which will mean an average electorate of about 77,000). A forum I am a member of did some calculations based on this estimate and came to the conclusion that it would actually hurt the Conservatives instead of help them.

  2. Surely a better way to achieve ‘fairness’ is to get more accurate and up-to-date enrolment/population data? UK Polling Report says redistributions are based on population data from up to ten years ago. Why can’t they do what Australia does and base it on a 3-5 year forward projection?

  3. Do the UK Greens have a shot anywhere? You won’t find me celebrating any Tory victory, but at least Cameron seems like a relatively progressive Tory (if only compared to, say, Thatcher or Tony Abbott).

  4. Greens get a decent vote in Brighton Pavilion. Results in 2005 were:

    Labour 35.4
    Conservative 23.9
    Green 22.0
    Liberal Democrat 16.5

    Under preferential voting, that would’ve been a quite likely Green win – they’d’ve got to second on Lib Dem prefs, then probably beat Labour on Tory (anti-Labour) prefs. As is, the Greens probably have their best chance if the Lib Dems play dead or don’t run. Their candidate is Caroline Lucas, who’s leader of the UK Greens and an MEP in the EU parliament, so fairly high-profile.

    Also, the Greens have 13 councillors out of 52 on Brighton and Hove city council.

  5. There was also a poll recently putting the Greens in first place and suggesting that many Labour and Lib Dem voters would be open to tactically voting Green to keep out the Tories (who polled in 2nd place).

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