Britain’s unequally sized constituencies are a non existent problem

Britain’s unequally sized constituencies are a non existent problem

Britain’s unequally sized constituencies are a non existent problem, to which the coalition government has adopted an extreme and perhaps unworkable solution. (Crossposted from LSE) The government is seeking to fundamentally change how local constituencies for Parliament are drawn up. Its alleged ‘reform’ bill returns to the House of Lords shortly for a final look. Comparing its proposals with the requirements used in other liberal democracies, Lewis Baston shows that the UK already has some of the most equally sized constituencies in the western world. In trying to solve a non-existent problem, Conservative ministers in particular are bent on requiring unworkable levels of equality in constituency sizes. The government is pursuing an extreme solution that will fatally damage the organic unity of local communities, which both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have traditionally protected and valued. It may seem a matter of obvious common sense and fairness that constituencies should be ‘equal sized’ – the government certainly insists that it is so. They propose that constituencies for the House of Commons should have the same number of registered electors, within plus or minus 5 per cent of the national average (and with only 2 or 3 allowed exceptions). Yet in fact no other country in the world has actually achieved this degree of equality without adopting proportional representation and multi-member seats. Even apparently highly equalised systems for drawing constituency boundaries in Australia and the United States involve more variation in constituency sizes than the government proposes to allow within the United Kingdom. When introducing the Second Reading of the government’s Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill in September, Nick Clegg said this about the proposal to ‘equalise’ the size of the registered electorate in each constituency: On the broken scales of our democracy, 10 voters in Glasgow North have the same weight as 17 voters in Manchester Central. That is not a single anomaly, because those differences are repeated up and down the country. As of last December, Wirral West, Edinburgh South and Wrexham had fewer than 60,000 voters. Falkirk, Banbury and West Ham had more than 80,000. That unfairness is deeply damaging to our democracy. Yet by this standard, boundaries in many of the principal countries using single member constituencies must be ‘deeply damaging’ to democracy, since my Table below shows that current UK system in now way performs particularly poorly by international standards. Variations in constituency sizes across liberal democracies using single member seats Notes: The dates on the census or other count of relevant population took place does not normally coincide with the election dates. For the countries above the relevant population count dates are UK proposed (2009), USA 2012 (2010), USA 2002 (2000), England current (2000),...

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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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