Well, the results are now in and the tories have the most seats. Nick Clegg is sticking to what he said during the campaign about giving the party with the most votes and seats the first chance to form a Government. Thats a very noble position to take for a politician.
However, theres one big problem with that position. The Liberal Democrats want proprtional represenations, and David Cameron’s version of electoral reform involves redrawing the boundaries of seats to remove the so-called “Labour bias”. All this will do is reinforce the conservative majority which currently exists, and will result in no action being taken on the other, more progressive elements of the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto.
But let’s look at that “Labour bias” for one minute. We have independant bodies, the boundary commisions (one for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) whose role it is to set the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies based on certain rules – one of which is the aim to equalise the sizes of contituencies where possible. Its that “where possible” part that causes problems. They tend to use local government boundaries (wards, parishes etc) and give special consideration to island communities. For instance the Ise of Wight has one MP, but 108,000 electors, whilst the Western isles have a fifth of that number.
Other issues relate to the validity of the population data, as the recent boundary changes were based on the 2001 census, whilst the electoral roll is based on the population of 2009. There has been, in recent years, a gradual move out of the concentrated urban areas into the more affluent, rural areas. In other words, people have moved from constituencies which elect Labour MPs into ones which elect Conservatives. This means that places like Houghton and Sunderland South are smaller that places like Richmond.
But a bigger problem is the different levels of turnout. In those urban areas, people are disengaged from politics. There are many reasons for this, but the result is that there are smaller turnouts in those seats, and therefore fewer voters are needed to elect a Labour MP than a Tory.
Does this mean that its unfair? No, of course not. Do the tories know this? Of course they do. The insinuation from their proposal is that the Boundary Commissions are corrupt or inept – and both of these are disgraceful allegations, so the real puprose of their version of electoral reform is to simply gerrymander the boundaries to suit their political ends.
The best way to make everyones vote count is to introduce a form or Proportional Representation. And Nick Clegg, if you’re reading this – theres only one party that will help you do that.