Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Some things haven't changed in the Westminster village

Prime Minister's Question Time today showed that planted questions and yah-boo politics have not been abolished under the new dispensation. Nor have over-long questions (Tim Farron rather blotted his copybook here, though this probably was not the reason for his loss of the deputy leadership contest to Simon Hughes) and answers, though Speaker Bercow is doing his best to curb these.

The interchange between PM Cameron and his temporary shadow, Harriet Harman, was a good example. It was reminiscent of the duels between Cameron and Gordon Brown in the last parliament, both making a lot of noise but consistently firing past each other. Actually, she made one good point today that she did not press home. She asked that the electoral register be cleaned up before constituency boundaries are re-drawn. It seems that millions of people who are eligible to vote are not registered, and that these are disproportionately from ethnic minorities. Since ethnic minority populations tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas, Cameron's plan to re-divide UK constituencies rigidly and simplistically according to population would, at a stroke, change some metropolitan constituencies from being over-representative to under-representative - unless voter registration is tackled first.

Of course, the Cameron plan of 500 or so evenly-sized constituencies, if they are still to be subject to first-past-the-post voting or even alternative vote, will not solve the injustice to Liberal Democrats or, in Scotland, the Conservatives themselves, of numbers of votes not being reflected in numbers of seats. Only STV in multi-member constituencies would redress that.


Anonymous said...

....and we, the Welsh are over-represented in the HOC.

The Average constituency size in Wales is some 56,500.

The Average constituency size in England is some 71,800.

Frank Little said...

That's right. If we ever got to parity with Scotland, there is a case for reducing the number of Welsh MPs still further, to reflect their reduced responsibility. So much of an elected representative's postbag relates to devolved matters.

In any case, the devolution referendum and voter registration should both be got out of the way before the re-drawing of constituency boundaries is tackled, in my opinion.