Tag Archive | "isle of wight"

The Democratic Audit model at the Guardian: How it was calculated

Tags: , , , ,

The Democratic Audit model at the Guardian: How it was calculated

Posted on 06 June 2011 by admin

Click thumbnail for full scale map (copyright Guardian Newspapers)

 

It should be emphasised that this is only a model, not a precise prediction. There are many possible patterns for drawing up constituencies that will be consistent with the new rules, and this is but one solution. The political parties have no doubt done similar work. But the final word will go to the Boundary Commission working in each of the component nations of the United Kingdom – and no doubt the result will be different in significant ways from any other model set of boundaries.

The authors of this work on boundaries hope that it will raise public awareness of the issues involved, and encourage a maximum of informed public participation once the Boundary Commissions invite consultation on their proposals.

There is a hierarchy of four types of decision used in the model. The first two are unavoidable – they are established by law and by the publicly stated policy of the Boundary Commissions. It is possible to draw completely solid and unavoidable conclusions from these facts – for instance, a county such as Dorset with 575,449 electors (i.e. 7.57 times the standard constituency size) cannot possibly be allocated a whole number of constituencies under the new rules. There must be at least one constituency containing parts of Dorset and parts of another county.

1. Rules set out in the new law passed by the Con-LD government in 2011

This specifies that there must be 600 seats (not 599 or 601), and establishes 4 exceptions from the main rule on equal size (2 seats for the Isle of Wight and 2 Scottish island groups left alone). The 596 ‘normal’ seats are distributed to the 4 nations according to a formula, again set in law, so we know that Northern Ireland has 16 seats, Wales has 30, Scotland has 52 (50 normal plus 2 special island seats) and England has 502 (500 normal plus the 2 on the Isle of Wight).

All the 596 normal seats must be within 5% of the average size, as measured by registered electorate in December 2010. The average size is 76,641. Therefore the legal minimum is 72,810 and the legal maximum is 80,473.

(There are 2 clauses that could cause departures from this – technically, there’s a small get-out for Northern Ireland seats that allows them to be slightly smaller, and there’s also a clause in the Act that bans seats being more than 13,000km2 in area and allows seats of 12-13,000km2 to have smaller electorates, but see point (3) below.)

2. Things we know for sure because the Boundary Commissions have published them already

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has decided as a matter of policy that it will allocate whole numbers of seats to each region of England, and what numbers it will give to each. Therefore we can say confidently that London will drop from 73 to 68 seats.

The BCE has also said it will split local authority wards between constituencies as little as possible.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland (BCS)
has said that it wants to produce as few constituencies that mix parts of different local authorities as it can. The BCS has for technical reasons the most difficult task of any of the four Commissions.

3. General policies. This is where the educated guesswork takes over

The law also sets out a number of ‘rules’ for redistribution which are subsidiary to the overall rules about the permitted size of constituencies and their distribution to the nations of the UK. These cover desirable qualities of parliamentary constituencies – having regard to local government boundaries where possible, geography (‘the size, shape and accessibility’ of a seat), local ties, and avoiding unnecessary disruption. The text of the Act is available at here.

Based on knowledge of past principles and decisions of Boundary Commissions, I believe they will tend for instance to give a high priority to county boundaries in England where they can (it is not going to be possible in many areas).

They will also have a bias towards ‘no change’ – if a whole county or current seat can be left alone, it will be. They will also tend to avoid splitting smaller towns unless they have to. They will probably try to avoid ‘orphan’ wards, i.e. small sections of one town or county finding themselves in a seat completely dominated by another area. They will probably have some reference to previous sets of boundaries that existed – for instance where a county gained a seat in the boundary changes of 2010 but now needs to lose one, the new seat will be most at risk from the chop.

I have assumed that the BCE will also try to ensure that its constituencies that cross county boundaries will prefer to cross the county line in areas where there are significant cross-border links in terms of economic, social and commuting patterns, and where there is a significant element of both counties included in the cross-border seat. In a couple of cases in the model (Suffolk and Derbyshire) counties that might have been given individual treatment are grouped in the interests of producing better cross-border seats; the BCE may or may not follow this approach.

I have also assumed that the Commissions will only use the get-outs for seats with big land areas, or Northern Ireland, if they really have to (they will have regard to the high priority Parliament put on achieving equal numbers and apply this where they can). My model does not involve creating any small seats in Northern Ireland or the Highlands.

4. Local detail

This is where the most guesswork comes in: there will usually be several sensible alternatives at a local level which fit the statutory and non-statutory rules and the rules of thumb described above. This is particularly the case in the centre of large urban areas, where areas can be combined in many alternative directions, and to some extent in rural seats in the middle of counties. For instance, one can say with a high degree of confidence what the seats at the far end of counties and regions will look like (for instance St Ives and Hereford) but matters are much less certain in inner London.

The data has been compiled into a spreadsheet showing new constituencies, predecessors and how party changes would occur. It also details which seats would be abolished and which would be newly created. The table below shows
the overall impact the changes would have by party.

Lewis Baston is the main author of the projection, with help from Kevin Larkin. 

Comments Off

Liberal Democrats could lose twice if AV fails in referendum (13 May 2010)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Liberal Democrats could lose twice if AV fails in referendum (13 May 2010)

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Favourable boundary changes may mean Conservatives have last laugh in Lib Dems’ campaign for electoral reform

The coalition agreement combines a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) system with reducing the number of MPs and rewriting the rules for drawing constituency boundaries. The parties’ interests point in opposite directions – the Conservatives would prefer a boundary review but no AV, while it would be in the Liberal Democrats‘ interests to have AV but not a boundary review – and it is not clear whether the Tories will get their new boundaries regardless of whether AV passes in the referendum.

If the Tory proposal to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 585 was implemented, the average size of a constituency would rise from 70,000 to 77,000 voters. The Tories have insisted the current rules – where variation around the average is tolerated in the interests of not having constituencies crossing county boundaries, splitting wards or with bad internal communications – would be replaced with a rule allowing only 3%-5% variation.

Wales would lose proportionately the most seats, falling from 40 MPs to about 28, with Scotland and Northern Ireland falling too. All regions of England would be reduced slightly, although the south-east would lose least (three seats out of 84) and the north-east most (four out of 29). New constituencies would be unfamiliar blends of territory, such as a seat crossing the Devon-Cornwall border, one spanning a ferry route to the Isle of Wight, and a vast Highlands and Islands seat in Scotland.

The Conservatives will gain a little from the change. Each boundary change tends to abolish a few Labour seats and create a few Tory ones, as population tends to decline in industrial towns and grow in suburbs and the countryside, although the “depopulated inner-city” constituency’ is a myth: Manchester Central has more than 90,000 electors, for instance.

The smaller seats are in Wales, Glasgow and industrial boroughs such as Wolverhampton (plus the occasional Tory shire seat such as Kenilworth and Southam), while many inner London seats are oversized. The Conservatives are also hoping that local detail will alter boundaries in their favour, because they control the most local authorities.

The coalition also plans to accelerate individual electoral registration (IER), already timetabled by Labour, to be phased in by 2015. IER will make the electorate fluctuate in size more than at present (as it has in Northern Ireland), and risks worsening under-registration of young people and city dwellers. A boundary review using inaccurate numbers that are further skewed during the IER phase-in would face allegations of gerrymandering.

The Tory policy will mean continuous change in boundaries – more than 100 seats will grow or shrink by more than the tolerated variation each parliament. This disruption of the relationship of MP to constituency will undermine the Lib Dems in particular, because they rely on personal votes. If AV fails at the referendum, but we get new boundaries, the Tories will have had the last laugh at the expense of their partners.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/13/coalition-alternative-vote-liberal-democrats

Comments Off

The message from Henley is clear: the Tories are on the march (27 June 2008)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The message from Henley is clear: the Tories are on the march (27 June 2008)

Posted on 27 June 2008 by admin

Labour’s trouncing in Oxfordshire, and the less-reported loss in Blackpool, is a definite indication of a Conservative future

Henley was never going to be a good result for Labour, but the outcome was horrific beyond imagination. The lost deposit was perhaps predictable, but the embarrassment of coming behind the Greens was not, and the abject humiliation of limping in behind the BNP in this affluent home counties seat was an entirely unexpected blow. At least, at 3.1%, Labour’s share of the vote in Henley was not the worst ever – the Isle of Wight (1983), Newbury (1993) and Winchester (1997) have all seen Labour sink lower.

In previous byelections in safe Conservative seats there has often been a swing to the Liberal Democrats. In 2006, Bromley & Chislehurst came within 633 votes of an astonishing upset, with a 14% swing to the Lib Dems, and in 2000 the Tories lost Romsey. One might have expected a significant swing to the Lib Dems in Henley and a reduced Conservative majority, but there was actually a small net swing from Lib Dem to Conservative. The turnout was relatively high for a safe seat by-election at 50% (10 points higher than in Bromley). The pro-Tory swing and robust turnout are, if anything, more remarkable and worrying for Labour than the crash in the party’s own vote. It shows that the Conservative vote is more solid and committed than it has been for many years. This should worry Labour greatly, and also send a shiver of alarm through the many vulnerable Lib Dem MPs in the south of England.

There was another less conspicuous byelection last night, in the Park ward of Blackpool, where the Conservatives scored a gain from Labour on a big swing even since the May 2007 elections when Labour polled very poorly in the town. This ward forms part of the marginal Blackpool North and Cleveleys seat, number 80 on the Conservative target list, and is generally one of Labour’s better areas of the constituency. Yesterday’s byelection confirmed the message of Henley that the Tories are on the march.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/27/henley.conservatives

Comments Off

Re: Stolen Tory Votes – Peter Oborne, Spectator 6 August 2005 – (30 Aug 2005)

Tags: , , , ,

Re: Stolen Tory Votes – Peter Oborne, Spectator 6 August 2005 – (30 Aug 2005)

Posted on 06 August 2005 by admin

There are a number of errors in Oborne’s article about the Parliamentary Boundary Commission. For a start, population and census data are not (unlike in the US) the basis for constituencies – the basis is registered electorate, which is different. Population would include people not on the electoral register for reason of foreign citizenship, age or under-registration (a serious problem particularly in the large cities, that was aggravated by the poll tax when the current boundaries were drawn up).

Neither is the requirement for the boundary commission to use out of date figures as big an issue as Oborne claims. If the boundary commission were to use the latest available figures, rather than the 2000 electoral register, three more counties would gain seats and three more would lose seats – not dramatic stuff, and worth only 6 to Labour’s majority rather than up to 20 as Oborne suggests.

The examples quoted by Oborne and most other critics of the boundary system – the small electorate in the Western Isles and the large electorate in the Isle of Wight – are not a consequence of the slow pace of the review. They are rare, long standing anomalies permitted by the ability of the boundary commission to take ‘special geographical circumstances’ into account. A few islands having rather too few or too many electors is not a threat to democracy. There is something to be said for making constituencies more rigorously equal-sized than they are at the moment, but advocates of this course have to accept that it would undermine one of those pillars of first-past-the-post (FPTP), namely that strong and stable link between MP and constituency. Frequent boundary changes would destabilise the link, as would the fact that many constituencies would cease to bear any relation to natural communities. Would people really prefer a seat such as ‘Southampton Central and Cowes’ to an oversized constituency covering the whole Isle of Wight?

Oborne says that ‘it would be an easy enough matter to change the basis of calculation to reflect votes cast rather than population.’ This, to put it bluntly, is bonkers. The number of votes cast in a constituency, and its relationship to the turnout in other constituencies, is not fixed. It will vary with each election and instantly throw the calculations out each time. If this bizarre suggestion were to be enacted would give rise to anomalies even greater than those under the current system. It is also dubious in principle, as it implicitly regards the non-voter as undeserving of representation. It amounts to a collective punishment of electors for low turnout (often the fault of the political system rather than the electors). It is an example, like the creation of constituencies that are not communities, of a suggestion made for the convenience of one group of politicians at the expense of what voters want from their local representatives.

There is no way of ensuring that FPTP produces equal treatment between two major parties. There are all sorts of reasons, including political geography, tactical voting (very important in the contrast between 1992 and 1997), the parties’ strategies, differential turnout, the distribution of each party’s vote, and – in a small way – boundary determination, which can affect the way FPTP works. Many of these factors work unpredictably. The only way of ensuring that there is a proportional relationship between votes and seats is to introduce a system of proportional representation – it really is that simple. Ferdinand Mount, and Keith Best of Conservative Action for Electoral Reform (CAER) are quite right to see PR, rather than tinkering with boundaries, as the solution.

http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/blog/archives/2005/08/peter_oborne_id.html

Comments Off