Banish the poor from the electoral register!

The development of the politics of the Boundary Commission review is moving with immense rapidity. In the area I live, we have a rather awesome local web site called Brockly Central which has reported on the Boundry Commission’s review in an article called “Deptford & Greenwich”. The Tory/LibDem coalition have decided to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons. While this may on the face of it be poplar, it’s a ruse to disguise the rewriting of the rules in their favour.

The Brockley Central article talks about the splitting of Lewisham Deptford constituency represented by Joan Ruddock MP and the lumping of the North of the area in with West Greenwich. Some of the comments on the article, about Joan are either “willfully blind” or merely malevolent since she is the hardest working MP that has ever represented me and I have had 9 MPs. Joan is in the process of recruiting a new constituency assistant since the growing case work caused by the cuts and incipient recession requires more effort to effectively represent her constituents, and this is in addition to her effective parliamentary agenda in defending the people of Lewisham Deptford.

The impact of reducing the number of MPs is to increase the number of voters per MP. This strikes me as exactly the opposite of what we require.

The decision to reduce the number of MPs is a partisan manipulation of the electoral system in favour of the Tory party and their voters and supporters; it has been taken in the context of the House of Commons, No consideration has been made as to how it impacts the MP/Voter relationship. I acknowledge that the numeric relationship as represented by the average number of votes it takes to elect an MP by party has been studied, but the wrong conclusions have been drawn because the Tories want one answer, and its not about fairness. Smaller constituencies mean

  • more chance of a decent personal relationship with your MP. Over nine MPs I have met only two, including Joan
  • a lower case work load for MPs which should mean higher quality
  • would also lead to fairer voting, since it would be easier for geographically concentrated minorities to win seats (Greens in Oxford), and large majorities would be exercised over more than one seat (Tory Shires and the inner cities).

Basically this is “arse about tit”. We should decide how large we want our constituencies to be, and let that decide how large the Commons is.

Furthermore what gives the lie to the idea that this is about fairness is the additional ‘small’ changes being made, which resurrect the old Tory tactic of driving the poor off the electoral register. The vote belongs to the citizen, not to those registered; I actually met a person who couldn’t vote last year because he didn’t have a home he could register in, the small detailed changes in the current law are even more anti-democratic . They propose individual applications, not household based. Co-operation with the electoral registration officer will no longer be mandatory. These petty, partisan reforms expose the heart of the reasons that Labour believe that constituencies should equalise on residents, not voters, the less well off and less educated are less likely to register. The proposed laws will create a vicious circle, they deny non registrants representation, drive the marginalised off the  electoral register, then redraw the boundaries, reinforcing their advantage. Rinse and repeat!

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