'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Under the new boundary changes, we would have won 10 fewer seats last year.

There's a great analysis of the new proposed boundary changes over at The Guardian - data galore - including a re run of the 2010 General Election results.

This doesn't bode well for us. To quote the accompanying piece to the data...

The Labour party could have netted 14 fewer seats, the Liberal Democrats 10 fewer, while the Conservatives, who dominate England, might have lost just six seats. The UK's only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, would not have been able to win her seat, according to the preliminary figures.

Now, at this stage we are of course playing 'fantasy politics'. Boundary changes won't be agreed until late 2013 and there is a whole host of horse trading to do before then.

But it will be a test for our MPs. Reducing MP numbers was a manifesto commitment. But so was House of Lords Reform, and there is a very disappointing number of Lib Dem peers conforming to the 'Turkeys not voting for Christmas' stereotype going on there. I hope our members in The Commons are made of sterner stuff.

There is a saying in Adland that 'a principle isn't a principle until it costs you money'. Same applies here.

Hard though, isn't it?


  1. I may well be in the minority but I still don't understand why reducing the number of MPs is even in theory a good thing. Surely it will just lead to larger constituencies and therefore more pressure on the work loads of MPs whilst leading more of the public to feel disconnected to their MP. I also feel it will dilute the pool of people who become MPs - leading to even more elitism and less pluralism.

  2. aha - an excellent point. There's a great post in that. Boundary revisions and reductions in MP numbers was part of a wider vision of a fairer electoral system - the changes would have made perfect sense under AV!!

    I will attempt to blog on this at some point but I'm a bit stuffed workwise today so someone might beat me to it...

  3. yep, unclear why reducing 650 to 600 helps. Isn't this just a bit knee jerk to the expenses scandal.

    Also without AV or a more appropriate form of PR it means even less - larger constituencies are likely to produce a more distorted result still under first past the post - hence Greens loosing and a hard hit for the Libdems.

    Without PR this change is fairly meaningless.

    Lords reform is much more important.

  4. Well, there is an argument that constituencies were always too small - eg there are 100 American Senators covering a population of 300 million.

    But it's an interesting issue to debate...

  5. The extent of The Guardian's caveats on their own data highlight how loose a connection there is between their map and likely actual results. Note in particular the reference to assuming party support is evenly distributed across seats - it most certainly isn't in practice.

    Even more refined predictions in the past which try to account for that have a pretty patchy record (see http://www.markpack.org.uk/22591/the-perils-of-projecting-the-impact-of-boundary-changes-from-previous-election-results/).

    That's in part because Lib Dem support is much more dependent on where the party campaigns rather than the inherent demographics of an area than support is for the other parties.

    And all of that is without even getting into how political support patterns may change between now and then...

  6. US comparison is a complete red herring due to (1) separation of powers between Federal and State government and (2) Senators are two per state regardless to size and this was to explicitly prevent small states being ignore. Representatives in the House have constituencies of about 700K people.

  7. Ah yes Mr Pack - i know, I know...its got holes in it the size of the Mersey Tunnel. But it IS rather fun...

    and Chris - yep - quite agree. Was just shooting from the hip. There's a much better post in me about All of this. Not sure when I'll actually get to right it but still...

  8. @Chris - Yes, there are differences between the US and UK systems, but that doesn't mean there isn't a fair point in comparing the size of their respective legislatures.

    @Richard - the Guardian's analysis isn't the only thing with a hole the size of the Mersey Tunnel in it, one of their proposed new constituencies has exactly that!

  9. Ha ha Indeed! :-)

    apologies also for all the terrible typos in my comments. Multitasking my only excuse...