Thursday, 16 July 2015

Parliamentary representation

The Bill to redraw parliamentary boundaries was scuppered by deputy PM Nick Clegg in the last parliament because the other arm of parliamentary reform, that of the House of Lords, was obstructed by backwoodsmen on the Conservative benches aided and abetted by the Labour leadership. Now that there is a clear, if slight, Conservative majority it seems that the prime minister has decided that it is safe to fulfill a manifesto pledge and bring it back.

Consequently, there is a renewal of the old canard, trotted out by both Tories and libertarians, that we are over-represented in parliament. The usual stat trotted out is that "the UK has 650 MPs for 70m people, the US has 535 for over 3 times as many people". That is true if one thinks only of federal Congress (but to be fair one should add in the president, who has most of the powers of a prime minister, and vice-president, making a total of 537). However, the individual states have a great deal of autonomy and I suggest that more decisions affecting the everyday lives of US citizens are made in their state capitals than in Washington DC. Wikipedia gives the total of all State legislators as 7383.

I looked at the stats for the state of Connecticut, which has nearly the same population as Wales. Wales elects 40 Westminster MPs and 60 AMs. Connecticut sends only two senators and five representatives to Congress, but has its own two-chamber legislature comprising 36 senators and 151 representatives. I have not looked in detail at local government, but it seems that Connecticut has the equivalent of unitary authorities, numbering many more than Wales' 22.

It seems that England, which has only one parliament, should be complaining that it has too few legislators, not too many.

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