If nobody hears a debate, has it happened? (2 Dec 2005)

Posted on 02 December 2005 by admin

Sigh. Another week, another Conservative going on about the iniquities of the parliamentary boundaries. Despite repeated efforts to explain why it isn’t the solution to their problems, the Conservatives still seem to imagine that the electoral system is biased against them because the boundaries are unfair.

The latest entrant, John Maples, is an intelligent and experienced MP who takes the trouble to listen to evidence, so I have some hopes that the speech on his Ten Minute Rule Bill, the Parliamentary Constituencies (Equalisation) Bill, might be better informed than many other Conservative contributions to the discussion.

I hope Maples will note the importance of the distribution of the party’s vote, and differential turnout, in his remarks. I also hope that he will show awareness of some of the problems of equalising constituencies, in terms of frequent reviews and a lack of community identity with a seat. I hope against hope that someone in the debate will point out that the US House of Representatives features the most appalling gerrymandering, despite its seats being of equal size within each state.

But none of it matters – Ten Minute Rule Bills are futile mini-debates on legislation that goes no further. In any case, it’s discussed on Wednesday 7th December, right after David Cameron has had his first tilt at Tony Blair in Prime Minister’s Questions. The Chamber will be empty, apart from Mr Maples and someone who has annoyed the Labour whips and is being punished by having to speak in reply to Mr Maples. Everyone else will be marking Cameron out of ten for his performance in another futile parliamentary ritual. Pointless debates, media spin, misbegotten pseudo-reforms, the weekly joust… And it could be worse. We could be in America, home of equal-sized constituencies. I’ll show you into the House of Horrors next week.

Until then, Schönes Wochenende.


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