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REDRAWING THE CONSTITUENCY MAP – WITH A CHANGE OF RULES. Ron Johnston School of Geographical Sciences University of Bristol. THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS. Reduce the number of MPs by 7.7% (from 650 to 600 – was 585) - which necessitates

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Redrawing the constituency map with a change of rules

REDRAWING THE CONSTITUENCY MAP – WITH A CHANGE OF RULES

Ron Johnston

School of Geographical Sciences

University of Bristol


The government s proposals
THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS

  • Reduce the number of MPs by 7.7% (from 650 to 600 – was 585) - which necessitates

  • Producing a totally new map of constituencies to be in place for general election in May 2015 - for which

  • The rules will be altered to give primacy to electoral equality.


What happened before
WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE?

Four Boundary Commissions

Each must review all constituencies within the

relevant ‘country’ every 8-12 years to ensure

that there is a reasonable fit to the rules then

in force (can conduct interim reviews for

particular areas)


The previous rules i
THE PREVIOUS RULES - I

  • The total number of constituencies in Great Britain shall be not ‘substantially greater’ than 613 (currently 632)

  • The number of constituencies in Wales shall not be less than 35 (currently 40)

  • The number of constituencies in Northern Ireland shall by 17, unless the Boundary Commission for NI thinks it should be 16 or 18 (currently 18)


The previous rules ii
THE PREVIOUS RULES - II

  • The number of constituencies in Scotland shall not be less than 71

    until

  • The Scotland Act 1998,

    • The 71-seat guarantee removed;

    • The next (i.e. 2004) review to use the same quota as England (resulted in 59 seats);

    • Orkney and Shetland (current electorate 33,085) must not be combined with any other area


The previous rules iii
THE PREVIOUS RULES – III

So far as is practicable

  • In England and Wales no constituency shall cross a county or London borough boundary

  • In Scotland regard shall be had to local government areas

  • In Northern Ireland no ward shall be divided between constituencies

    [For Wales, the counties are the pre-1995

    preserved counties’]


The previous rules iv
THE PREVIOUS RULES – IV

  • The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable

  • Electoral quota is

    National electorate/constituencies at previous review

  • This rule can be used to override the county and borough boundary rule if ‘excessive disparity between electorates of neighbouring constituencies’ would emerge


The previous rules v
THE PREVIOUS RULES – V

  • The previous rules can be over-ridden if ‘special geographical considerations ... in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency’ render that desirable

  • Commissions should not give full effect to all preceding rules but shall take into account, as far as they reasonably can, of

    • the inconveniences change may create

    • Any local ties that may be broken


So what did the commissions do 1
SO WHAT DID THE COMMISSIONS DO - 1?

  • Calculate the electoral quota

  • Determine the number of constituencies for each local government area (or combined areas)

  • Produce provisionally recommended constituencies for each area

  • Receive representations and, if necessary, hold a Public Inquiry


So what did the commissions do 2
SO WHAT DID THE COMMISSIONS DO - 2?

5. Receive a report from the Assistant Commissioner

6. Change provisional recommendations and re-consult

7.Maintain recommendations and report to Secretary of State


And how long did it take
AND HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

  • Last review in England used electoral data for quota from 2000; reported in 2007

  • These were used for the first time at the 2010 general election, so were 10 years out-of-date

  • Size variations 2010

    Mean SD

    England 71,882 6,091

    Scotland 65,498 9,987

    Wales 56,545 6,501

    Northern Ireland 63,101 7,159


Large local variations
LARGE LOCAL VARIATIONS

2000 2010

  • Islington (2000 entitlement 1.71 – quota 69,935)

    • Islington North 61,054 68,120

    • Islington South 58,839 67,649

  • Brent & Camden (2000 entitlement 4.22)

    • Hampstead/Kilburn 74,573 79,713

    • Holborn/St Pancras 78,307 86,863


Why are the conservatives concerned about the size variations
WHY ARE THE CONSERVATIVES CONCERNED ABOUT THE SIZE VARIATIONS?

Mean electorates in seats won by different

parties

2001 2005 2010

Conservative 72,137 72,950 73,031

Labour 67,544 66,802 69,145

LibDem 69,584 69,430 69,610


AND VARIATIONS?

Seats:Votes Ratios

2001 2005 2010

Conservative 50,625 44,516 35,028

Labour 26,111 26,921 33,468

LibDem 96,287 96,485 119,780

[BUT – that includes turnout variations too]


How disadvantaged are the conservatives
HOW DISADVANTAGED ARE THE CONSERVATIVES? VARIATIONS?

Bias and its Components

2005 2005E 2010

TOTAL 112 94 54

Electorate size 26 19 18

Between countries 6 6 9

Within countries 20 13 9

Abstentions 38 38 31

Third parties 9 8 4

Efficiency 35 34 0


So the conservatives want to get rid of the size bias against them
SO THE CONSERVATIVES WANT TO GET RID OF THE SIZE BIAS AGAINST THEM

The new Bill proposes?

  • Fixed number of MPs (600)

  • Size the predominant criterion, with a 5%+/- variation only, with two exceptions


How will it work
HOW WILL IT WORK? AGAINST THEM

  • Allocate constituencies to the four countries

  • Allocate constituencies within countries

  • Delimit constituencies within countries, within the size constraint

  • Public consultation


Apportionment and its problems
APPORTIONMENT AND ITS PROBLEMS AGAINST THEM

Entitlements with 585 seats (2010 electorates)

England 38,241,036 491.63 492

Northern Ireland 1,135,835 14.60 15

Scotland 3,864,416 49.69 50

Wales 2,261,816 29.08 29

TOTAL 45,503,103 585 586

Quota 77,783


Apportioning 600
APPORTIONING 600 AGAINST THEM

Current electorates

England 38,241,036 504.24 504

N Ireland 1,135,835 14.98 15

Scotland 3,864,416 50.96 51

Wales 2,261,816 29.82 30

TOTAL 45,503,103 600

Quota 75,839


Who apportions and what rules
WHO APPORTIONS, AND WHAT RULES? AGAINST THEM

  • D’Hondt or Sainte-Lague?

    With 585

    • D’H E 492, NI 14, S 50, W 29

    • S-L E 491, NI 15, S 50, W 29

  • Who decides – the four Commissions together? The Electoral Commission?


BUT AGAINST THEM

Guaranteed seats for

Orkney & Shetland (33,085)

Western Isles (22,226)

Should they be within Scotland’s allocation,

which would mean 49 seats for 3,809,105,

which would be an average electorate of 77,737

instead of 75,839 – should the 5% band be

around that figure? (i.e. Scotland 73,851-81,623 and

England 72,082-79,630)


OR AGAINST THEM

Should those two seats be outside the

general allocation – reducing that to 598

seats, which would give

England 503.17 503

N Ireland 14.95 15

Scotland 50.12 50 +2

Wales 29.76 30

598


AND AGAINST THEM

Guarantee that no seat will be larger than the

largest now – refers to size not electorate;

13,000 sq km (or is it 30,000?!)

Northern Scotland – other than two reserved

areas

Ross, Skye & Lochaber 51,836

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross 47,257


What about the isle of wight
WHAT ABOUT THE ISLE OF WIGHT? AGAINST THEM

Electorate 109,966

Should it be retained as a single, large

constituency or should c.30,000 voters

be allocated to a constituency in

Hampshire?


Allocations within countries
ALLOCATIONS WITHIN COUNTRIES AGAINST THEM

Former procedure – counties etc considered

separately save in some cases of major discrepancies

(London and Mets) not feasible because of the 5%

constraint

Most units not close to the integer

Cornwall 5.52 Devon 11.49

Somerset 5.31 Dorset 7.56

Wiltshire 6.54


SO AGAINST THEM

Commissions will probably have to operate

ad hoc, finding groups of counties etc. that

have entitlements so that all constituencies

will be within the 5% constraint

Should they publish these first?

Could they be contested – alternative

configurations?


Would regions work
WOULD REGIONS WORK? AGAINST THEM

England

Northeast 25.78 Northwest 69.23

Yorkshire/Humber 50.40 East 56.19

East Midlands 44.06 West Midlands 53.97

London 69.43 Southeast 82.28

Southwest 52.90

  • Poor fits in some cases

  • Too big to handle as one – need to be subdivided


Creating the constituencies
CREATING THE CONSTITUENCIES AGAINST THEM

Wards always used as the building blocks,

and Clegg said he wishes to retain that.

BUT this may not be feasible in some

(many?) areas because they are too large

relative to the size constraint (i.e.+/- c.4000

around the quota)


Scotland and northern ireland
SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND AGAINST THEM

Local government wards large because multi-

member (STV used in local elections)

Scottish Commission had to break wards in a

number of cases in recent redistribution of 73

Scottish Parliament constituencies (under old

rules) – one constituency (Edinburgh Southern)

comprises 6 part-wards only


Metropolitan areas
METROPOLITAN AREAS AGAINST THEM

  • Birmingham – electorate 741,286 in 40 wards, average 18,352

  • Sheffield - electorate 383,989 in 28 wards, average (13,713)

    seat entitlement 5; but 3 with 6 wards each and 2 with 5 each would not fit into the 5% constraint; each constituency would need to be c5.5 wards!


Smaller building blocks
SMALLER BUILDING BLOCKS? AGAINST THEM

  • Polling districts – subdivisions of wards for administrative purposes; variable in size etc; no statutory basis; no mapping; subject to change

  • Postcodes – administrative; no fit with wards; frequent change; errors; no mapping (except Scotland)

  • Census output areas – nest into wards; but population and dated

  • Parishes – not urban areas!


A welsh example
A welsh example AGAINST THEM

Lewis Baston and OwainLlyrap Gareth (for ERS

Wales) attempted to define 30 constituencies

using the new quota and +/-5%

Eleven of them involved splitting council

electoral divisions (i.e. wards) – including two

of the three proposed Cardiff constituencies

and both in Swansea


Solution
SOLUTION? AGAINST THEM

Commissions will have to take ad hoc decisions,

perhaps not using any defined areas (as for

Scottish Parliament, 2010)

BUT

What happens if in public consultation

interested parties want to suggest other

configurations with different splitting of wards?

What data? What software? (Scottish example)

Issue could become very difficult to control


Public consultation
PUBLIC CONSULTATION AGAINST THEM

Current rules:

  • Provisional recommendations published

  • Four weeks for representations (not Cabinet Office recommended 12)

  • If either 100 separate objections or one from an affected local authority – Public Inquiry

  • Assistant Commissioner’s report

  • Commission either maintain original recommendations or proposes alterations

  • Consultation again (could be second Inquiry) –even if only name changes


TIME AGAINST THEM

On average it took over a year from publication

to final decisions being published in last English

review – total time taken 18 months each?

BUT

Bill requires it all to be done within three years


Options
OPTIONS? AGAINST THEM

  • Eliminate public consultation?!

  • Eliminate Public Inquiries – give 12 weeks for written representations

  • Increase Commission staffs and (in England at least) number of Commissioners


Issues for the representations inquiries
ISSUES FOR THE REPRESENTATIONS/INQUIRIES AGAINST THEM

  • If size is the predominant criterion that the Commissions have to apply, will any alternative scheme have to be at least as good on that criterion, or will it be acceptable if it fits within the size constraint?

  • What other criteria can be applied –

    • Local ties

    • Not changing unnecessarily

    • Special geographical considerations

    • Better fit with local authority areas and wards?


Frequency of reviews
FREQUENCY OF REVIEWS? AGAINST THEM

If keeping within 5%+/- bounds predominant,

then a redistribution every Parliament might be

logical (if unpopular with MPs) – fixed-term

Parliaments makes this feasible.

Interim reviews of particular constituencies or

areas hardly feasible – spillover effects and fixed

number of MPs


Use electoral forecasts
USE ELECTORAL FORECASTS? AGAINST THEM

  • Linked to frequency of reviews

  • Very difficult (LGBCE experience)


What do the coalition conservatives expect
WHAT DO THE COALITION (CONSERVATIVES) EXPECT? AGAINST THEM

Labour will lose their advantage because no

longer winning in smaller seats on average

LibDems could lose out because some of their

pockets of support small – larger could

disadvantage them. But many contiguous

pockets and increase in average constituency not

that great


And what would be the impact
AND WHAT WOULD BE THE IMPACT? AGAINST THEM

2010

Conservative 306 297

Labour 258 223

Liberal Democrat 57 53

Other (incl. NI) 29 27

650 600

Estimate that compared to what would happen if

number of seats just reduced by 7.7% for each party, a

further 15 seats change from Labour to Conservative; no

change LibDems or other


Add in av
ADD IN AV??!? AGAINST THEM

2010 = AV? AV&=

Con 306 297 283 261 276

Lab 258 223 248 229 214

LibDem 57 53 89 82 82

Other 29 27 30 28 28

650 600 650 600 600

BUT – what if preference allocations change at next

election reflecting ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of coalition?


Knock on effects
KNOCK-ON EFFECTS AGAINST THEM

  • Welsh Assembly currently same number of FPTP constituencies as there are HoC constituencies, plus half that number in five regional lists, so will be reduced from current 60 AMs to 45.

  • Northern Ireland Assembly six members for every Parliamentary constituency – fall from 108 to 90.

  • Amending legislation?


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