This blog reported a year ago on the prospect that the redrawn constituency boundaries for the House of Commons would provoke disputes based on identity. Now that the Boundary Commission for England has published its first report, those disputes have started.
Here is Vince Cable, whose Twickenham seat is slated to be divided into two new seats, two thirds into a new seat of Teddington and Hanworth and the remaining third into Richmond and Twickenham, a constituency that would span the River Thames:
“In order to get the right size of constituency, no account has been taken not just of borough boundaries, but any sense of identity. That will cause a lot of concern.”
Indeed. Of the 533 current constituencies in England, only 77 are set to be unchanged. The 456 MPs that represent all the other ones will to fight over the 425 new seats that will emerge (the total number of seats is being reduced, as well as the equalisation that has led to the redrawing of boundaries). Many of those seats will gain a few voters but will remain substantially based on an existing seat, but some will change considerably and take their current MPs away from a large proportion of the voters they currently know (and know them).
Clearly, any MP with hopes of re-election will be concerned if they are separated from their personal following. The organisation and identification of local political parties will also face upheaval.
Whatever the mathematical reasons for redrawing the boundaries, identity in democratic politics is not to be taken lightly.