Constituency reform: how very unconservative

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The Tory plan to cut 50 parliamentary constituencies and so 50 MPs comes before the Commons today. Tristram Hunt — a Labour MP — has written in the FT:

A Tory party with any notion of conservatism should be troubled by a bill that places utility above tradition, separates people from place and past, and ruptures the unwritten constitution in order to hold a coalition together. It would certainly have worried Edmund Burke, who mourned the passing of an age of chivalry when “that of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded”.


On the pretext of reducing the cost of politics, the new plan will cut the Commons down by some 50 seats, to an arbitrary total of 600. In the process, a little of the political fabric of Britain will be lost. The legislation demands that constituencies average out at 75,000 voters. So whereas current boundaries take account of geography, local government, history, and identity — producing seats with an electorate ranging from 65,000 to 85,000 — the new legislation puts place or loyalty aside

Take the Isle of Wight, represented since the Great Reform Act of 1832 by a single MP, but soon to be dismantled into a crazy series of seats criss-crossing the Solent. County boundaries will be straddled too. So far only west country MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has cottoned on that this might not constitute a conservative approach. “Will the minister bear in mind the fact that people have historic loyalties to the traditional counties of England, not to administrative regions?” he recently pleaded of his front-bench. “Will the people of Somerset be allowed their historic county, not some monstrous, vague, administrative nonsense?” Fat chance.

I suspect there is fat chance of opposing this.

But it is profoundly unconservative, and the simple process of cutting MP numbers is profoundly undemocratic at a time when we need to strengthen and not undermine parliament.

But of course — being unconservative and being anti-democrtic are both very neoliberal. And that’s what this lot are. And nothing must get in the way of that.

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