The New Constituency Map of Britain

[gview file=”http://www.lewisbaston.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/The%20new%20constituency%20map%20of%20Britain.pdf”] Lewis Baston argues that the proposed “reduced and equalized” constituency boundaries could have unintended consequences for the Coalition government Original Link

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How Pressing is the Case for Further Equalization?

[gview file=”http://www.lewisbaston.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/How%20pressing%20is%20the%20case%20for%20further%20equalisation.pdf”] Lewis Baston explains the key issues surrounding the equalization of constituency size in the UK in the wake of the Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Bill. Original...

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Conference Season 2010

Conference Season 2010

The 2010 election and its peculiar result lay in the background of all three conferences, and contributed to this season’s strange atmosphere – it was not directly addressed for the most part, but sitting there in the peripheral vision of the parties as they tried to deal with the radically new shape of post-election politics. The discussion about the election was probably the most mainstream and realistic at the Labour conference – there was I think a conscious effort not to forget how bad the result was through relief at escaping with 258 MPs. However, in terms of actual policy the discussions were more fruitful at the other two conferences. Polling and opinion over the summer The political context was uncertain, with high initial approval ratings for the government settling down over the summer to a more or less equal balance of satisfied and dissatisfied with the government’s record. In most opinion polling, Labour bounced back rapidly from the high 20s to the mid 30s (as soft left Lib Dems came straight back with the formation of the coalition) and consolidated a little below 40 per cent , fluctuating only slightly week by week. The Conservatives also gained support after the election, and seem to have a steady rating of around 40 per cent. The Liberal Democrats have suffered, their campaign polling ratings of around 30 per cent, and result of 23 per cent, sliding in stages down to the current norm of 12 per cent or so (in polling terms there is a methodological question – Lib Dem support seems to be rather higher than this in non-internet polling). In local authority by-elections, particularly the big elections in Exeter and Norwich, the pattern was of Labour making progress and the Lib Dems making surprisingly strong gains in some elections and humiliating wipe-outs in others. The conference season did not change any of this, although both Labour and Conservative seem to have had a short lived ‘bounce’ in support from their conferences. However, one must also note that the dominant discourse in politics, the media and more vaguely in general culture has shifted since the election; there has been a concerted process of ‘softening up’ public opinion for cuts, which seems to have been a successful operation. During the election, most voters favoured Labour’s gradual approach to deficit reduction (as did the Liberal Democrat party) but conventional wisdom has shifted a long way towards the Conservatives’ approach. Defining the agenda and the terms in which issues are discussed is even more important than winning any particular political debate, and this has probably been the most significant political development since the formation of the coalition. LIBERAL DEMOCRATS This was a...

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Lewis Baston: Evidence for Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill

Lewis Baston: Evidence for Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill

I am currently senior research fellow with Democratic Audit and it is under the auspices of Democratic Audit that I offer these observations on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. Previously I was Director of Research at the Electoral Reform Society (2003-2010) and I have been author and co-author of several books on political geography, most notably The Political Map of Britain. I am grateful to the Committee for inviting me to submit evidence. SUMMARY There are no serious problems with the provisions on a referendum. The timetable for the Bill itself, and the proposed boundary review, are both too rapid and prevent consideration of workable alternatives. The purported ‘problem’ addressed by the Bill is not a serious one. The electoral register is too incomplete and the totals too volatile to serve as a fair basis for the allocation of parliamentary constituencies, and these problems are likely to worsen over the next few years. An exception has been made for some islands and constituencies with large land areas, but there is no acknowledgement of other factors that impinge on the practicality of constituency representation (population, local identities, administrative complexity). A Commons size of 600 is arbitrary and seems not to reflect any analysis of the capacity and functions of MPs and the House in general. The banning of public inquiries is a severe and deplorable downgrading of public participation and transparency in the boundary process. (Excerpt from) Evidence of Lewis Baston, Democratic Audit 24 August 2010 Read Lewis Baston’s full submisson here (.doc) Please note that this material is the property of the Select Committee. Excerpts from Third Report of Select Committee (Download the full Third Report of the Select Committee here (pdf)) 68. The House of Commons, at 650 Members, is not much larger than the German Bundestag (622), the Italian Chamber of Deputies(630) and the French National Assembly (577). Lewis Baston, of Democratic Audit, has written that any international comparison fails to take account of the unique nature of the United Kingdom’s political structure: “Most comparisons with other countries with smaller lower houses and larger population miss the points that the US and Germany, for instance, have federal and state tiers of government, and the legislature in some countries like the US and France does not supply the ministerial bench.” In both the Bundestag and the French National Assembly, members of the Government do not occupy seats as Members of Parliament. Germany, as a federal republic, also has 16 state parliaments, with more than 1,800 members between them. 88. We have not as a Committee attempted to determine the precise level of variation from the electoral quota that would be appropriate  to achieve this goal: this...

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