Constituency Boundaries Should Be Different

Thanks to the House of Lords (and a nasty internecine coalition spat), different-sized constituencies for the House of Commons have been preserved from abolition this afternoon. The Conservative plan, launched because they currently suffer from a slight disadvantage in the system known by the official name of 'Toxic unelectability', was to abolish some fifty seats and replace the remaining ones with standardised, supermarket-style voting areas.

This folly repeats the worst instincts of a certain sort of Tory rationaliser, previously reflected in the disastrous abolition and reorganisation of historic counties and shires in the 1970s by Edward Heath's administration. Current boundaries, which are not perfect, allow more weight for urban areas, but compensate by making rural areas a bit bigger, resulting in minor differences which do not even begin to compare to the differences between, say, Wyoming and Delaware. This is good. This is a very old country, in which local attachments run deep and often are expressed at a ward level. Different attachments are to areas of different size. Britain is not yet a supermarket shelf for tetra-pak living units.

Moreover, urban areas are more productive than rural ones, and there is no badness in this economic fact being reflected, and effectively equalised, in bigger rural constituencies; in fact, it would be wrong if it were not.

This is not a young or post colonial country. I find it amazing that people in a party which styles itself Conservative consistently fail to realise that, and that, worse, they adopt the tin-eared and proven failed brutalism of the past to show that they do not understand that.

So my only response to today's confirmation in the Commons of the changes which the House of Peers made to the government's ideological vandalism is quite simple, and one often made on this blog--in the best Old Labour style. Many thanks, My Lords.


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