Boundary tinkering won’t fix a broken electoral system

Electoral demographics are changing dramatically and yet the Boundary Commission is busily shuffling deckchairs while the ship of democracy lies becalmed (UK electoral officials announce biggest shake-up of boundaries in decades, 8 June).

While it attends to the arithmetical niceties of rejigging electoral boundaries, in an attempt to ensure that they all contain around 73,400 constituents each, the fact remains that, due to the distortions of our first-past-the-post voting system, these changes will do nothing whatsoever to correct the absurdity of the existing democratic deficit, and may actually make it worse.

For example, in the last election it required 866,000 Green electors to cast their votes to secure each Green parliamentary seat, 336,000 votes for each Liberal Democrat seat and 51,000 for each Labour one. But it required only 39,000 votes per Tory seat and 26,000 per SNP equivalent. Surely democracy requires not only that we are all given a vote, but also that all votes count equally when we cast them. Why are we prepared to tolerate anything less? Apart from Belarus, the UK is now the only country in Europe that still operates this unfair and outdated voting system in which most votes are wasted and only those in marginal constituencies determine which political party forms the government.

Surely our electoral officials could be much more constructively employed in addressing the issue of how to design a fairer system of proportional representation that ensures all votes count equally.
Alan Fowler
Newcastle upon Tyne

The British have always been adept at drawing arbitrary lines on maps. Here in Chester, neighbours on different sides of a small brook in the south of the city will henceforth be in different constituencies. But it’s nothing new. Residents living in odd-numbered houses on Boundary Lane are in England; those with even numbers are in Wales.

Cheshire West and Chester council, having suffered £466m in cumulative central government funding cuts, is looking to charge £40 per year for garden waste collection. Welsh residents already pay – but they do have free prescriptions. It is no wonder politicians are held in disrepute, with residents not knowing who provides their services or to whom to complain. The government should call a halt to this farce, stop splitting neighbour from neighbour, and have the Boundary Commission start to align parliamentary, council and other local boundaries.
Phil Tate

Unwittingly, by insisting on, at most, a 5% variance in average electorates for the 2023 parliamentary boundary review, the over-representation of mainly wealthier people registered at two addresses becomes more significant. This will also casually rip up many more established historic political identities than necessary.

No other country with a single seat electoral system has such a mathematical straightjacket. Germany allows for 15% divergence, 25% in exceptional circumstances. US congressional districts go up in whole numbers between states, and the French would never allow their constituencies to straddle departmental boundaries.
David Nowell
New Barnet, London

Comments are closed.