Boundary changes are not the answer to creating more fairness in our political system
The latest proposals for boundary changes were published on Tuesday. Constituency boundaries are not a trivial concern, particularly when there is the opportunity for gerrymandering, and it’s important for there to be an independent body making recommendations for changes as constituency populations change - as the Boundary Commission has done.
But hailing boundary changes as a solution to the unfairness in our political system, as some Conservative MPs are doing, is to overlook some of the most serious issues plaguing our politics.
There are a number of problems with the boundary review itself. For one, the way constituency sizes are being calculated is based on data solely from the electoral register. This tends to benefit rural (and generally Conservative) constituencies, which have more or less consistent population sizes.
Meanwhile, the electoral register overlooks demographic groups that are less likely to be on the register, such as BAME individuals, students, and those in rented accommodation - all of whom tend towards voting Labour. As a result, this could leave Labour seats with greater population sizes, and Labour MPs with more case work but less resources.
So if the aim is to correct inbuilt unfairness in our political system, then the flaws in the boundary review itself mean it wouldn’t deliver the truly fair system being aimed for.
When it comes to unfairness in our political system, our first past the post electoral system should jump out as the most obvious and urgent issue that needs addressing.
Every election, large swathes of the electorate turnout to vote, knowing that the value of their ballot paper means more or less depending on what constituency they are in.
For many, this breeds a lack of trust and undermines hope that our electoral system will deliver. In a representative parliamentary democracy electing your MP is one of the most important acts a person can undertake. And yet with first past the post creating a raft of safe seats many individuals are left powerless to hold their MP to account at the ballot box.
Now, these changes aren’t mutually exclusive - the government could of course implement the recommendations of the boundary review whilst also undertaking electoral reform. But if the government is genuinely concerned about rectifying wrongs in our political system, they would be looking far beyond constituency boundaries. Which they aren’t.
Put simply, the government has got its priorities wrong. Bringing more fairness to our political system is an admirable and necessary goal, but changing boundaries is not the place to start, nor should it be a priority when there are so many burning injustices plaguing our political system.