Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Warning: this article is boring. It is about Parliamentary Boundary changes, of interest to geeks, anoraks and MPs. Now may be a good time to mow the lawn or wash your hair.
On 13th September the Boundary Commission will publish its initial report on what constituency boundaries will be throughout all of England for the 2015 general election. This is to fulfil a pledge made at the last election to reduce the cost of politics and the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 by reshaping the size of each constituency to 76,000 electors plus or minus 5%.
Part of the rationale for this is to equalise the number of votes it takes to elect a representative. In some northern parts and Wales and Scotland it can be as low as 45,000 voters, whereas in southern England it can be as high as 80,000. Clearly this cannot be justified and the new plan is designed to ensure that every vote carries the same weight.
On the basis of this new arithmetic we know that Cornwall has 5.5 seats and Devon has 11.5. For the first time under this legislation, seats will be able to run across county boundaries. It is certain therefore that there will be a Devonwall seat. What we don't know is whether it will be in the Plymouth/Saltash region or up on the North Devon/Cornwall coast.
The implications could be very considerable for us here in South West Devon. To get the arithmetic right in Plymouth we might find this constituency divided into three, with Plympton and Plymstock going their separate ways into Plymouth seats and the rural part, including Ivybridge, gobbled up elsewhere. Or we could lose part of Plymstock into Plymouth and gain some additional rural parts, either Kingsbridge or Tavistock. The arithmetic out-trumps local ties and we may be faced with some very strange results in consequence.
This will not affect council boundaries. A decision has now been made that, for example, Plymouth's boundaries could only grow outwards if Devon and South Hams Councils agreed: about as likely as me moon-walking.
One way of avoiding this new matrix is to have a general election before the end of 2013 when the changes are due to be passed into law. Don't bet against that! 
So mid-September will usher in a new dawn of uncertainty. Told you this would be boring. But you did read it right to the end. Sad.

posted by Gary @ 12:26