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Will go down great in Wales - cutting 10 MPs. Hope Tory candidates will be explaining that plan to everybody they meet in Cardiff North

'o'really?' - can you genuinely explain one solitary reason why Wales deserves 10 more MPs proportionally than England, despite having a significantly devolved Government?

Dunno. Ask Winston Churchill, it was his government that introduced the imbalance in the 1944 Act.

"Equal Value" ... don't make me laugh... noone with more than half a brain will fall for this lame attempt at electoral reform. I'm with Ken Clarke... we need PR... FAIR VOTES... every vote then has a value! get real!

If ever there was a proposal for government not opposition then this is it. It will win not one single vote. It will let Labour play to the chips on ten thousand Celtic shoulders.

What is the upside to this announcement today and in the lead up to 2010? We have put Labour on notice that we will alter the electoral system, if we win. They have the power and the opportunity to retaliate now, for certain.

Tip to Herbert, the way out of a paper bag is through the opening at the top

This proposal + English votes on English issues = permanent Conservative government in England... excellent! Crack on!

This is really quite radical and should be welcomed . An extra cheer for the fact that it will be specifically on a UK basis .
For a moment I suspected the worst ie that it would apply only to England or only within the countries of the UK whilst maintaining the overall numbers-of-seats bias against England .
But no. It is to be applied on a UK basis and that means a sharp reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh seats which is fair . The tone of the statement is uncompromising which is good :"requires primary legislation " - yep!

Article XX11 of the Act of Union 1707 , the very founding law of the United Kingdom , states that Scotland should have 16 peers in the House of Lords and 45 MP's in the British House of Commons . In fact the number of Scottish seats in the Commons has been altered many times ( was up to 74 just after the 1WW ) so a further alteration shouldn't be a problem .

The population of Scotland is now less than 5 million . There are 646 MP's which equals a reduction of Scottish seats from 59 to 52 max.
But also ,they have a whole extra parliament of their own ! and their own government and there Minister for Scotland in the British pariament .England has none of these.
They will still be massively overrepresented.

Something certainly does need to be done about this - the distribution of seats are grotesquely stacked in Labour's favour and were even when they were in opposition: 27.6% of the vote (3% less than we got in 1997) was enough for them to win 209 seats in 1983.
I have said before, however, and repeat, that the swings will probably be larger in marginal constituencies at the next election, which may well offset our disadvantaged position under these proposed boundaries.

"we need PR... FAIR VOTES... every vote then has a value!"

The trouble with PR is it is very dis-proportional in the way it gives small parties power. It also breaks the link between MP and voters because you have to vote for a party list.

We certainly need to make all votes count, but the obvious solution is first/second preference which makes most seats marginal and eliminates the need for tactical voting.

Part of the reason why the Tories are disadvantaged is because they are piling up votes in the South while in the wilderness up North (at least at the last election which is what all swingometers are based on).

If that trend is continued and as swingometers suggest the Tories fail to achieve a majority despite an 8% lead, then that's what is right.

The Tories don't deserve a majority purely by virtue of piling up votes in their heartlands.

FPTP is about representing communities. A majority government should be representing a majority of communities.

The main reason for the vast difference in seats won is because of low turnouts in safe Labour seats. Turnouts tend to be only around 50-55% in these areas, whereas a safe Tory seat such as Wealden or Richmond(shire) will still have turnouts of above 65%.
Not a lot can be done about this unfortunately, other than for both main parties to try and get more people to vote in the wider interest of democracy.
(A close General Election will raise turnout next time, but I suspect it will be larger increases in marginals, and small rises in safe Labour seats).

But there is a strong case for the Boundary Commission's remit to require projected populations, not a fixed point in time which is already long out of date.

I also agree that some (but not all) boundaries are suspiciously drawn - I do suspect that in Yorkshire the other two parties lobbied and colluded to keep us out - with the hideously drawn York Outer and abolition of the safe oversized Conservatives Vale of York. But the May 2007 results showed a 14 point Con increase in York Outer (against 2003 locals) so it could backfire a bit on our opponents there.

(Also, Tories have been on the receiving end of tactical voting against us more than Labour has. With a more popular party, there is a case for saying some of the bias there will unwind - but not completely because it has become embedded in some areas).

JJB - Conservatives supported the proposals to abolish Vale of York.

Another step towards improving our democracy. Extremely welcome but we need more of this!

In particular improving and parity of the level of national elected representation in England which is drastically our of step with the other home nations.

Tony Bevan:

"we need PR... "

Indeed, then both Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories could fracture into several smaller parties.
A government would need to consist of at least 2-3 different parties, and some small 5%-parties would be the King-Makers after the General Election.

Wouldn't that be nice?

One of the many reasons that Labour are far ahead is that they challenge the Boundary Commission recommendations on a national basis to maximize their number of seats.

We challenge their findings on a local level through Constituencies and Areas, and so local rivalries and also the desire to have the largest majority in your own patch even if is at the expense of "next-door" trumps the bigger picture.

I remember a BC recommendation to split the most populous consituency (Isle of Wight) down the middle and move a bit of a New Forest constiency a few years ago. That would have made all three new sets "safe" and therefore given us an extra one if I recall - but the locals roundly rejected the idea.

If my memory fails me on those facts then sorry, but the broader comment remains: challenge the BC more efficiently to restore fairness.

'Will go down great in Wales - cutting 10 MPs. Hope Tory candidates will be explaining that plan to everybody they meet in Cardiff North'

Only after they've explained to 84% of the UK population why the Welsh now have both free prescriptions and free hospital parking and in Welsh government guidance England is specifically referred to as a foreign country.

Ken Clarke would describe this as a 'niggle'?

'This proposal + English votes on English issues = permanent Conservative government in England... excellent! Crack on!'

Crack on indeed but Dave doesn't do England.

Geoff: On the Isle of Wight issue my recollection is that the last proposal for seats was a Liberal Democrat counter-proposal in the mid 1990s review. Quite apart from coming late in the day (and being somewhat partisan motivated - remember that back then the Isle was a top Lib Dem target) it also ran into the problem of there not being a remotely easy way to split the Isle in two such that both seats would have even vaguely reasonably sized electorates. The option of having a seat crossing the Solent to make up the numbers (although on the current rules and the most recent figures it wouldn't lead to the total numbers of seats rising at all) has always been roundly rejected on the grounds of natural geography.

In the current review only one single objection was received from an Islander to the proposal for one seat for the Isle. All the parties who responded supported it.

Overall the problem is not just locals fighting each other but also the area used for allocating the seats. Going by the figures the BC used for their current review, the South East has two fewer MPs than a pure allocation would give them, the South West one more. This isn't in any way deliberate but a result of using the county as the unit for allocating the number of the seats and rounding to the nearest whole number of quotas. As all the counties in the South East, bar Kent & Medway and Hamphire, get rounded down the seats get ironed out. To rectify this you'd need to use the South East Region as your starting point (going any larger will drag the review out).

FWIW one of the main bases for not prioritising equal electorates above all else is a 1983 court ruling rejecting a *Labour* challenge to the boundaries, with the ruling determining that the BC have a more sophisticated job than mathematically dividing up the country and should reflect natural communities and geography.

I also wonder if Conservatives in Merseyside have realised that this proposal could well lead to the creation of a Wallasey & Kirkdale seat spanning the Mersey estuary. The only thing those two areas have in common is their opposition to such a proposal and it was roundly rejected by the last review, preferring unequal seat sizes to this monstrosity.

I should also caution that for all the talk on seat sizes and turnout these is not the only reason for the current problems. One big one is the effectiveness of the Liberal Democrats. When they were getting lots of votes but few seats the votes tended to be in Conservative seats and so helped us as it made it easier for us to win against Labour. But now the Lib Dems are doing a lot better at actually winning seats at our expense - which reverses the effect - and the willingness of Labour and Lib Dem voters to tactically pool their votes has meant that we need to do even better than before just to win some of those seats. There's nothing that can be done on this other than removing the incentive for tactical voting.

People should realise that Post devolution the number of seats in Wales and Scotland should have been reduced immediately but Blair deliberately and dishonourably dragged his feet on it.
Over -representation at Westminster when devolution is in place is indefensible.
Indeed there is precedent that devolved areas should be 'Under-represented'. We in 'Northern Ireland were 'under-represented' between 1921 and 1972 because devolution was in operation.
(Currently we are represented pre-head very similarly to England

"can you genuinely explain one solitary reason why Wales deserves 10 more MPs proportionally than England, despite having a significantly devolved Government?"

Because otherwise the Welsh people have no effective say in matters like foreign policy. The same goes for Scotland.
And the "English Votes.." policy is a better way of dealing with that imbalance than reducing the number of Welsh/Scottish seats.

I write this as someone who is really inclined to believe that devolution should be reversed, though.

To IRJMilne
"Because otherwise the Welsh people have no effective say in matters like foreign policy. The same goes for Scotland "

absolute rubbish!

Wales and Scotland should receive a pro rata amount of seats/influence in the British parliament according to their populations and therefore their number of seats . Just that and no more .
I note that you are perfectly happy that the English will be penalised and discriminated against accordingly . Evidently thats OK.
Encapsulated in your remarks is the old assumption of the British state and the British political class that it is acceptable to discriminate against the English on the basis that "they won't notice ", "its for the good of the Union " and the celts must have proportionately more of everything including votes because they are somehow more deserving and the English intrinsically are not .
Pure Barnett Rules mentality rearing its ugly head again .

R-ll-cks to all that . If the United Kingdom cannot be a fair society then it ought to accept that it should be ended .

Further , as UT says above , there is an excellent argument that in the absence of England having her own parliament than those countries that do ie Scotland and Wales should be significantly UNDERrepresented in the British parliament . Thus Scotland's number of seats should be reduced to many less than 52 even less than
the 45 they were initially allocated in the 1707 deal .

The main reason that Wales has more seats is that it is more rural and remote (same with Scotland). It would lose rural and remote seats - not ones that are typically held by Labour.

A population quota would likely see the loss of one or two seats in the Valleys but would see two seats being made out of the four Mid-Wales seats and two out of the three of Aberconwy, Arfon and Anglesey. It would also probably see three or four seats being made out of the five Pembrokeshire and Carmarthensire seats.

It would probably create a new seat in Glamorganshire which would be in all probability a Labour seat (although possibly a Lab-Con marginal). This was the recommendation of the boundary commission last time but it was not acted on due to political sensitivity over devolution.

The overall result would be worse for opposition parties rather than Labour, although not specifically the Tories (more PC and LD losing out).

In terms of the Welsh and Scottish "overrepresentation", these are down to slightly different factors, especially since Scotland was given the English quota at the review that took effect at the last election. However as pregethwr points out the main beneficiaries of this particular problem are not Labour

Scotland has an entitlement of 57 quotas but got 59 seats. This is because of geography - the Highland council area is very remote and sparse, with Inverness being awkwardly located, so it was given three seats rather than two. Similarly the Western Isles get a seat to themselves because the alternative of combining it with the mainland has always been rejected on the geography issue. And Orkney & Shetland are guarenteed a seat of their own under the legislation. Note that none of these five seats now return Labour MPs, although the Western Isles had a Labour MP until 2005. It's not fair to focus upon Scotland as a whole, but the Highlands and Islands.

In the case of Wales there's again the problems of geography in the west and north of the country (once again not a Labour heartland) but also two other factors. Wales is guarenteed at least 35 seats under current legislation, regardless of its quota entitlement (IIRC it would get about 32 on the English quota). And the quota for each country is calculated separately on the basis of the existing number of seats in that country. So for Wales the quota has been detached from the rest of the UK since 1944 (whereas Scotland was reset in 2005 and Northern Ireland in 1983) and because of the need for undersized rural seats this has meant that at most reviews the overall number of seats has crept up because of the "ratchet" effect.

I'd alo point out the same rules are followed in England - Northumbria has an entitlement of three quotas but four seats because most of the difficulties of representing the sparsely populated county outside its south east. Neither of the two undersized seats (Hexham and Berwick-upon-Tweed) have Labour MPs. Cumbria also gets one more MP than its strict quota entitlement. And the reverse effect applies to the Isle of Wight. (I note that most critics of the single seat for the Isle seem to accept the geography issue as virtually every alternative seems to be two seats on the Isle, not a Solent spanner.)

Specious argument from British minds designed to fob off English criticism of the status quo .

Isle of White has 106,00 electors and 1 seat , Western Isles 22-23,000 electors and 1 seat plus also a seat in the Scottish parliament .

Answer , amalgamate W I with somewhere on the mainland .
Unjust ? well so is the discrimination against England and we don't have our own parliament to watch out for our interests which both Scotland and Wales do .

Jake: The proposal you've made has been made before - indeed in the early 1980s the Boundary Commission proposed it themselves but it was heavily rejected at the local enquiry stage on the grounds of natural ties and sparse geography. Subsequent seat reviews have felt the reasons for a separate seat have not changed. (And quite apart from anything else, the mainland is not a big city like Southampton but a vast sparsely populated area that already is hitting

Islands are always going to be problems for boundary commissions - combine the island with the mainland and they get accused of ignoring local ties in favour of the supremacy of the numbers game. Find a solution entirely within the islands and very often it produces the biggest variations from the average seat size. It's false to pretend this is a situation with an easy solution that will be acceptable to all.

Nearly all countries with single member constituencies have some rules allowing seats with smaller electorates in very rural areas. Even then you still get some very large seats - the Division of Kalgoorlie in Australia has an area the size of France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and Great Britain combined, and that's even with an allowance for being a very rural area. That seat is the largest in the world.

Thank you Tim . Agreed , islands are a
(minor) problem .

The 1980's are an aeon ago when there was a place and a country and (wavering)political settlement called Great Britain . They are now effectively long gone and are irrelevant .
It is now 2008 and the formerly united UK has dissolved into a heaving, grabbing, ruthless powerplay between the component nations with England completely unrepresented and therefore ruthlessly exploited .
Your approach and your mentality was out of date then and is now hopelessly so .

Typically ,you do not appear to accept that there is a problem with the Isle of Wight which is English but are prepared to make great efforts to over-accommodate the Western Isles which are Scottish and deliberately and knowingly at the expense of the English . The Western Isles are already well represented in the Scottish Parliament but that is not enough for you. It is absolutely glaring that the Isle of Wight is under represented in the British parliament and yet you still persist in your the-English-will-put-up-with-anything approach, an approach which is typically British and is disregarding of English interests .

Your comments are yet further evidence as to why England can never rely on the British parliament , even a fairly designed one , to represent her interests and why we badly our own English Parliament , Government and fiscal autonomy .

I would prefer that this be in the context of a federal United Kingdom as was originally proposed in 1706 .
Regardless , England needs to be in control of her own affairs .

Firstly I'll say that there's far too much focus on island constituencies in this discussion.

Well Jake if my thinking that a single seat for the Isle of Wight is the least worst option of three is out of date, why in the most recent boundary review was that option so heavily supported? The Boundary Commission received only two individual objections to this proposal, only one of whom was actually on the island, with everyone else who responded in support. In late 2005 John Maples introduced a Private Member's Bill similarly seeking to rectify the seat imbalance. When he said that the Isle could have a single MP if it wished, Andrew Turner, the Isle's MP, gave vigorous support to this proposal.

So where is the evidence that people on the Isle feel hard done by? If the people on the Isle are happy with the current state of affairs then who are you to co-opt them unwillingly for a rant of English nationalism? This is not an issue for England as a whole - which also gets extra seats due to the problems of geography - but for the Isle (some of whose inhabitants don't see themselves as English).

I accept there is a problem with the various island seats. I also do not see an obvious better solution because I accept that sometimes geography will mean numeric exactitude makes it hard to represent remote flung peoples.

Nor do I think the Scottish Parliament is a relevant factor here. That is a different tier of government. If you want to talk about deliberately underrepresenting Scotland & Wales because of devolution then fine, that's a perfectly legitimate line of argument. But to argue that the rules for designing seats (not the quota which is a different thing) should apply differently just because of different tiers of government is ridiculous. If there was a chain of sparsely populated islands in England I would also support an undersized constituency for them, rather than tack on some mainland. Similarly I have no problem with the Wirral getting four seats rather than have a seat crossing the Mersey to make up the numbers.

(I also think that if the Lib Dems had been successful in pushing for two Isle seats in the mid 1990s and now held them both then many partisan Conservatives would be howling with outrage about the Isle being "overrepresented"!)

It's not just fair seats but fewer seats that might get the public to sit up and take notice.

Why shouldn't each MP represent say 100,000 electors rather than 60k to 90k. It works for the Isle of Wight.

I propose a cull of MPs.

Its not terribly difficult Tim .

English constituencies in the British parliament are much larger in terms of voters than celtic ones which causes the celts to have more MPs than their populations warrant.

Additionaly , Wales and Scotland have their own parliaments and governments and England has none .

Now can you see past the isle of Wight and spot a democratic anomaly here?

Jake: You have a point on Wales which should be corrected (although again there's the problem of remote geography and another island to take into account in the north, mid and west of the country), but on Scotland you are out of date. Most of Scotland (no less than 54 seats) now has the same representation per head as England (as they use the same quota). It's only the five seats covering the remote Highland and islands that are special cases with fewer voters per seat, like the remote parts of Cumbria and Northumbria in England that no-one gets excited about. Focusing on the Western Isles and the Isle of Wight is a classic example of using the two most extreme & exceptional cases as though they are representative of the overall structure.

Playing the devolution card yet again is a red herring. That should either be resolved by an English Parliament or by some compromise for Westminster (the Northern Ireland precedent would be fewer MPs per head rather than some mess of two parliaments in one). But saying that different principles in seat creation (a different thing from using different quotas for devolved and undevolved parts of the country) should be applied at the boundary commission level because of devolution doesn't wash with me.

Here's some ways to handle the problem:

1). A single quota for the whole of the UK.

2). More staff for the Boundary Commission so it can operate much more quickly.

3). Use the European Parliamentary constituencies as the review area - they're large enough to avoid most of the rounding errors but also small enough to allow a decent scale review. This would solve the problems on Merseyside (the Wirral being the other side of the Mersey and Sefton have a long thing coastal strip) as the seats could spread into neighbouring areas if necessary.

4). Allow significant deviation from the quota for geographic reasons *but* require the anomally to be balanced within the region. So there could still be five seats for the Highland and islands, but the rest of Scotland would have to have two fewer seats. Ditto north, med & west Wales, the extreme north of both the North East & North West. Conversely the Isle of Wight could still have one seat, but the rest of the South East would get an extra half an allocation to add to the mix.

5). Be far more brutal about going over the borough boundaries in urban areas, especially London.

Thank you Tim .The points you make are interesting.
Perhaps you know them better but I suspect that the Boundary Commission(s) have long ago been penetrated by Blairites and/or kept carefully useless and dozy in the interests of the Labour Party. You have more faith in them than is wise for a Conservative ( I am assuming)

Nice to see you, partly ,accept the case for an English parliament. One can be notalgic for the Westminster of the past and I suppose I am too but any effort to avoid the full reform for England and hang on to what is now a clearly unfair and outdated settlement with some sort of "compromise at Westminster" is now a none runner . It would be a calamity and a rapid end for the United Kingdom .

There is really only one way forward and that is a federal United Kingdom of self governing countries with their own parliaments . It will defuse the current squabbles and provide England with a new start .

I don't really agree that the Boundary Commission are guilty of partisan motivated behaviour. I think the outcome is a result of a combination of factors, some of them related to boundaries but many of them due to other factors.

First off the Boundary Commission have much less room to manoeuvre than is often realised. They have a requirement to take local authority boundaries into account, they aim to never divide wards because of the administrative difficulties of juggling below that level (plus it would protract the reviews endlessly by allowing an infinite number of alternative lines), they are mindful of existing ties and so forth. Consequently there are often only a handful of options for seats in an area, and very often radical changes are an all or nothing approach - for instance if a town and its hinterland are entitled to two seats, do you create "Town East & Villages" and "Town West & Villages" or do you create "Town Central" and "Town Hinterland"? There's no obvious answer beyond the current arangement (and that's useless if the wider area requires radical knock-on changes).

The Boundary Commission follow various laws, court rulings and precedents, many of which were actually passed by ourselves or (in the case of the 1983 ruling) originally going in our favour. A lot of the problem is rooted in the adherence to local authority boundaries and the round-up/round-down effect. Conservative seats are more likely to be in counties where the larger number of seats means that the rounding effect is smaller than in Labour urban areas (for instance in Surrey the rounding to the nearest whole from 11.43 quotas is only a 3.76% difference whereas in Tower Hamlets 1.78 is a 12.36% difference). This again is a practice that long predates Blair, New Labour and everything else. Indeed for much of this country's history numeric exactitude was *not* a factor at all!

Furthermore a key part of the system of checks & balances is supposed to be the public enquiry stage, at which local interested parties (including political parties, local councils, community groups, private residents and so forth) can lobby for or against the proposals and make alternative suggestions.

As with so much in this country the system works when the various sides put forward a strong case. Unfortunately in the mid 1990s (when the current seats, bar Scotland, were proposed) we had a very imbalanced side. Labour centrally devoted resources including full time staff to supporting the review. We left things to local parties who very often wound up working against each other and/or making safer seats even safer. The 1990s boundary changes were the first since 1832 not to have a net beneficial effect for the Conservatives. Blaming the Boundary Commission or Labour is like sending a hopeless football team that's never scored in its life against Germany and blaming the referee or the Germans for us losing the match.

Remember also that there have been some fairly major shifts in both demographics and voting behaviour since the early 1990s. A lot of the votes Labour have lost have tended to be in places where it doesn't have much effect on the result. Conversely we lost a lot of votes where it does. The Lib Dems have also proven much better at targetting their vote, once more distorting many traditional assumptions about swings and the like.

My view on making it a bit fairer is to use the number of "active voters" rather than just the numbers on the electoral roll, to determine the number of seats in an area (however you want to define "area"- something as small as a county or as big as a region).

Use turnout at recent elections (say the previous two general ones) to determine the number of "active voters"- i.e. those people who can be bothered to vote.

And then use that to determine the number of constituencies in an area.

So, you could have two areas with identical numbers on the electoral roll. The area with the higher turnout might be entitled to, say 9 constituencies, and the one with the lower turnout with 7.

A quick back-of-envelope calculation, based on turnout in the 2005 election, would make the Boundary Commission allocate the following number of constituencies per region:

* South East England 93 (9 higher than recommended)
* North West England 71 (4 lower then recommended)
* London 70 (3 lower than recommended)
* Eastern England 64 (6 higher than recommended)
* South West England 61 (6 higher than recommended)
* West Midlands 58 (1 lower than recommended)
* Scotland 56 (3 lower than recommended)
* Yorkshire & Humberside 53 (1 lower than recommended)
* East Midlands 48 (2 higher than recommended)
* Wales 33 (7 lower than recommended)
* North East England 26 (3 lower than recommended)
* Northern Ireland 17 (1 lower than recommended)

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