Campaigners Claim New Boundaries Will ‘Skew Our Democracy’

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The Electoral Reform Society has stated that constituency boundaries should be drawn on the basis of population rather than an incomplete electoral register.

 On the day that the Boundary Commission released its provisional proposals for redrawing constituencies, the ERS has found that both London and the South East are missing two constituencies each as a result of over 2 million registered voters not being counted.

Seats in Boundary Commission 2018 review (under December 2015 register)

Seats if review had used June 2016 register

Change

Total

600

600

0

England

501

502

1

Scotland

53

53

0

Wales

29

29

0

Northern Ireland

17

16

-1

Eastern

57

56

-1

East Midlands

44

43

-1

London

68

70

2

North East

25

25

0

North West

68

67

-1

South East 

83

85

2

South West

53

53

0

West Midlands

53

53

0

Yorkshire and the Humber

50

50

0

Source: Electoral Reform Society analysis of Electoral Commission data 

Looking at the ten areas where there has been the biggest increase in the electoral register between December 2015 and June 2016, five are in London (with four of these in the top five).

Local Counting Area

Provisional Referendum Electorate

1 December 2015 Parliamentary Electorate

% Change from December 2015

Absolute Change

Lewisham

197,514

166,489

18.6%

31025

Lambeth

210,766

187,581

12.4%

23185

Camden

145,328

129,475

12.2%

15853

Tower Hamlets

167,789

150,351

11.6%

17438

Cambridge

80,099

72,457

10.5%

7642

Hackney

163,284

147,877

10.4%

15407

Lincoln

63,336

57,397

10.3%

5939

Oxford

97,309

88,382

10.1%

8927

Slough

87,868

79,826

10.1%

8042

Canterbury

109,399

99,849

9.6%

9550

 Source: Electoral Reform Society analysis of Electoral Commission data

Commenting on the Boundary Commission’s provisional proposals for redrawing constituencies, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The fact that this boundary review is being conducted on the basis of registered electors, rather than the actual population, risks skewing our democracy.

“Areas with the lowest levels of registration are often those that already have the least voice in politics. Young people, some ethnic minority groups and those in the private rented sector are all less likely to register to vote than others. That makes many of them effectively cut out of the new political map.

“What’s more, the review is being undertaken on the basis of a register that’s nearly a year out of date, excluding over two million people who signed up between December and June. That means some regions are two seats short of what they are owed.

It would be much fairer to draw boundaries based on eligible population rather than an incomplete electoral register.

‘Equalising’ constituencies

“Fair political boundaries are crucial to ensuring people are properly represented in Parliament. But we shouldn’t tear apart close-knit areas in a rush to ‘equalise’ numbers.

“The rigid 5% threshold – the maximum difference in size between constituencies – poses the prospect of huge disruption every five years through sparking a boundary review for every election. And it’s far too inflexible to take into account natural borders between different communities.”

A smaller commons – but a larger Lords

“Cutting the number of MPs is the wrong priority. We have a growing unelected House and a shrinking elected one. The House of Lords is a super-sized second chamber – second only to China – and shockingly poor value for money. Surely it would be more democratic to address the crisis in the House of Lords than to cut the number of elected MPs.

Power imbalance

“If you reduce the number of MPs in Parliament without reducing the number of ministers, you increase the power of the executive and make it more difficult to challenge the government. That will reduce the ability for Parliament to do its job of holding the Government to account.”

Making votes count

“The government talks about the need to ‘make every vote count’ through these changes. Yet the best way to do that – the elephant in the room – is the need for a proportional and fair voting system.

“If the government really cares about making votes matter, they should concentrate on reforming the voting system.”