Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Interview with Andrew Gwynne MP

A few days ago I interviewed Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, concerning the recent boundary changes that were defeated in the House of Commons.


What was it about the governments boundary proposals that your party objected to?

I think the biggest issue was the arbitrary nature of the proposals. No one really answered why a Commons of 600 was any more acceptable than a Commons of 500 or of 650.  Also the rigidity of the review by having strict electoral quotas meant that the new constituency boundaries were based less on natural and identifiable communities, but rather on a strict number of electors.  That in itself is flawed when you consider that the numbers of people of voting age, but not on the electoral register, in mainly inner city areas, are excluded from any quota. Finally, cutting the 'cost' of politics by removing 50 MPs from the next Parliament would be more truthful if the Government hadn't increased the size of the Lords at the same time!

Do you have any alternative suggestions?

I would like to see us return to the old periodic review process. There is far too much disruption in changing constituency boundaries every five years, as was proposed.  Under the old rules, the Boundary Commission would review each county every 10 years or so, and could be flexible at how to draw boundaries within that county so that it could better reflect actual communities on the ground. That meant that whilst each county would have the correct amount of Parliamentary representation under the quota, each seat would be determined according to local circumstances.

Given the recent Commons vote what will happen next?


All that has happened is this review is now killed off. The next 5 year review will take place in 2018, and every five years after that, unless the next Government alters the law to reinstate periodic reviews, and retain a 650 seat Commons.


Can we do something about the population differences between some seats?


Two things: one, is to get more people registered - or at least allow the Boundary Commission to consider other registers such as the Census data so that we don't end up with under representation of urban areas in Parliament. The second thing is to loosen the rules so that seats can reflect proper communities again. As long as each county retains its correct quota of MPs, then it should be for the Boundary Commission to decide which pattern of seats best fits that county, to avoid arbitrarily splitting communities up, as the last set of proposals did.

One Peer suggested this was part of Nick Clegg's sulk as he did not get what he wanted over Lords Reform, how much of that do you think is true?


Personally I think there is a great deal of truth in this.  I also think there was a convenient exit for the LibDems to avoid a bad set of boundary changes for them.  I don't think they had envisaged how their key seats - where they do benefit from incumbency - would be carved up, making winning the new seats much more difficult. At least for them, now the boundaries aren't changing, their sitting MPs (who tend to be bedded in more solidly than the current opinion polls would suggest) stand a greater chance at holding their seats than they perhaps did!

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