Fair political boundaries are crucial to ensure our communities are fairly represented in Parliament.
We keep seeing governments using boundary changes to give them advantages on polling day.
The last set of proposed boundary changes have been defeated. It offered a vision of equality where the maths mattered but our communities didn’t.
We now have an opportunity to put voters first. It's time to rethink the way we draw the political map in Britain.
What are the issues?
One of the main issues with the current law is that unregistered voters are not considered when drawing up constituency boundaries, although they are obviously still entitled to support from their MP. As such, urban and socially deprived areas where registration is low will be under-represented while affluent areas where registration is high will have disproportionate representation.
The boundaries will have been drawn up based on the current electoral register, which is already missing around 10% of those eligible to vote. But with Individual Voter Registration
coming in for the next general election, registration rates are in danger of falling further.
. It’s the job of Parliament to hold the government to account. If you reduce the number of MPs in Parliament without reducing the size of government you increase the power of the executive and make it more difficult to challenge. This could reduce the ability of Parliament to offer meaningful dissent and therefore to do its job effectively.
Why are the boundaries being reviewed?
One of the principles of a fair Parliament is equal-sized constituencies to ensure equal representation for all citizens. At the moment some constituencies are smaller than others.
Who is responsible?
The four national Boundary Commissions are the independent bodies responsible for reviewing constituency boundaries in the UK.
What does the current law propose?
The current rules stipulate that the number of MPs in England must be reduced from 533 to 502 and that each constituency must contain a similar number of registered electors. The electorate in each constituency must be no more than 5% above or below the electoral quota – calculated by dividing the total number of registered voters by the number of constituencies (not including four exempt constituencies).
Who will be affected?
In the boundaries debate, attention tends to be on the fate of politicians. But most of us will be affected in some way as our MP may change and we may even find ourselves living in a new seat with a different party in charge.
Some seats will even cross traditional boundaries, such as “Devonwall” - a controversial decision to create a constituency across the border of Devon and Cornwall. And for the first time, the Isle of Wight will be divided into two.
Under our current electoral system swing seats are incredibly influential in deciding elections, and the review may well mean voters shifting from a safe seat to a marginal without having to move house.
MPs from the same party will find themselves competing over fewer seats and some survivors will be burdened with increased casework. More frequent boundary reviews will be necessary to maintain the size of the constituencies within the +/- 5% quota limit and frequently shifting boundaries could disrupt the constituency link between MP and voters.