The Boundary Commissions have to design their maps to only vary by +/-5% in size, no seats can cross national borders, seats must be smaller than 13,000 square kilometres and the Commissions can only consider:
- Special geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency;
- Local government boundaries as they exist or new local government boundaries that have been approved by legislation but that are yet to be introduced on the review date (see Rule 9 for the Review date);
- Boundaries of existing constituencies;
- Any local ties that would be broken by changes in constituencies;
- The inconveniences attendant on such changes
There are special rules for various islands.
Electoral Bias of First Past the Post
First Past the Post is simply not designed to give each party a fair amount of seats based on their vote share.
Westminster suffers from something called electoral bias. The ‘bias’ is the difference in seats between the two main parties if they both got the same number of votes. From 1992-2010 this helped the Labour party, from 2015 – 2019 it helped the Conservatives.
The bias is caused by the fact each constituency only has one MP.
When constituencies have different numbers of people in them you can win a small one with fewer votes than a big one. But, this isn’t the only source of bias.
Turnout is different around the country, so you need fewer people to vote for you if fewer people in general vote in your constituency.
But General Elections are not only Labour vs Conservative battles. The more people there are voting for third parties (as long as they don’t win), the easier it is for the major parties to win a seat – the threshold for the winner gets lower. You just need one more than the second-place candidate. In Belfast South, a candidate in 2015 won on 24.5%.
Of course, few MPs win with one vote more than their main opponent. Some MPs pile up massive majorities while others sneak a win by a handful of votes. These thousands of extra votes are wasted as they don’t make any difference to the make-up of parliament.
First Past the Post means our votes will never be equal
While the government like to claim that the boundary review will mean “Every vote cast in a general election will carry equal weight”, Westminster’s voting system ensures a dramatic inequality in the number of votes it takes to elect an MP.
Whichever way you design the boundaries, Westminster’s voting system will mean our Parliament only barely represents the UK. To solve this, we need to abandon the idea that each constituency should only elect one MP.
Instead, proportional electoral systems like the Single Transferable Vote elect groups of MPs from slightly larger constituencies. Rather than trying to divide a town or county into three arbitrary lumps, each with its own MP, you add the constituencies together into one big constituency with three MPs. The group of MPs reflect the variety of political opinion in that area.
And by ranking candidates on the basis of preference, you get not only political diversity but ensure that if your first choice can’t win, your vote isn’t entirely wasted.
The fact that the new boundaries will change election results isn’t a sign that it has been gerrymandered – it’s a sign that Westminster’s unfair system is working just as expected.
It’s high time we got rid of this outdated, unequal voting system. Let’s scrap First Past the Post once and for all.
Sign our petition to scrap First Past the Post