Cameron’s plan backfires in Ulster?

There’s a potentially damaging little spat taking off locally here for the Tories after a Cameron interview in the FT today. Now it’s true, as Jeff Peel of the NI Tories points out that Mr Cameron does not mention Northern Ireland in stating his belief “in having seats that are the same size all across the country.” But, as Iain Dale, rather unhelpfully for his local party colleagues, notes “the aim would be to create 585 seats of equal size”. As I point out over at Brassneck that puts Belfast (it’s four constituencies come in around the 50,000 mark, nearly 20,000 below the UK average) firmly on the target list. One of those would have to go to fit the ‘Cameron Principle’, and perhaps one other. And it’s likely Unionism (including the Tories) would take a direct hit.

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  • Dewi

    Would be delighted if they cut all 40 Welsh seats to be honest.

  • ??

    why wouldnt Northern Ireland not be included, is the cameron project about treating us like the rest of the United Kingdom? Cameron didnt say NI would lose seats, he didnt say they wouldnt either.

  • ??

    why wouldnt Northern Ireland not be included….

    double negative and all that… Why would NI not be included ..

  • slug

    Current approximate average constituency sizes:

    England = 70k
    Scotland = 65k
    NI = 64k
    Wales = 56k
    UK = 69k

    source: Hansard

    NI is currently slightly overrepresented and if it lost 1 that would bring us into line with the overall UK norm.

  • Elvis parker

    Would it be the end of the world if we had 3 seats in Belfast rather than 4?
    Would NI’s influence be substantially eroded – I think not.
    NI’s influence at Westminster IS undermined by a number of other factors:
    1. 5 Sinn Fein members who fail to voice the concerns of their constituents in the body that controls some of the most important powers (Maybe Gerry Adams reckons there is no problem with fuel poverty in West Belfast for example)

    2. All nine DUP MPs are ‘double jobbers’. They give their second jobs as MLAs a bigger priority.
    (Many have third jobs as Stormont Ministers and some such as Jeffrey Donaldson are also Councillors). These MPs largely only turn up for one day a week.

    3. Finally currently all NI MPs are outside the main Westminster party system so they have negligible influence. This massively undermines NI’s influence at Westminster.

    David Cameron is seeking to address two of these – he wants candidates who promise not to ‘double job’ and he wants NI to become part of the main UK party system.

    So David Cameron is expressly involved in seeking in INCREASE NI’s influence at Westminster

  • slug

    It will be interesting to see what the Conservatives propose to do with respect to replacing the Lords with an elected second House.

    Currently the main talk is of a PR system. Under a PR system NI would have greater power because this system tends to throw up ‘hung’ parliaments-and NI could hold the balance. However if the Conservatives propose a FPTP then this is less likely to produce a hung second house of parliament.

  • Ri Na Deise

    This place sponsored by Cameron and co or what?

  • Seymour Major

    Certainly, the celtic countries in the UK are over-represented but I would say the main target of Cameron’s gambit is the large number of English inner city seats that have very small constituencies.

    At the last General Election, the Conservatives had the largest number of votes in England (just), yet Labour had about 100 more seats in England than the Conservatives.

    The Boundary commission’s job is to rectify those anomolies but the system does not seem to work properly.

    PR would solve that problem but that debate is an old chestnut. It will never be allowed to happen by Conservatives and Labour.

    As to an elected house of Lords? Remember that the main benefit of having a second chamber is to act as a check on the first. In making legislation, the Lords’ powers are, effectively, delaying powers but their persuasive influence over commons MPs should never be underestimated. The benefit to the UK of the existing system of appointments is that the House of Lords is a chamber that is full of experts on a range of different subjects. For those reasons, I do not believe that will happen during a Conservative administration.

  • Mick Fealty

    SM,

    That’s as much to do with differential turnouts in Labour and Tory safe seats. In the former they is low, the latter much higher. The Tories stack surpluses; Labour doesn’t.

  • Mick Fealty

    Or rather, Labour doesn’t stack them up anywhere near as high as the Tories…

  • Seymour Major

    Mick,

    I think you are saying that many Labour voters dont turn out to vote in safe Labour seats (possibly because it is safe). Your observation could be correct. Labour had a 7% swing against it in England and most of that loss of vote was in their safe seats.

    I’m sure you dont disagree that the Cameron proposal, if implemented, would result in a large net loss of Labour and gain of Conservative seats on the basis of the 2005 poll.

    At the next GE, the Conservatives will probably win with an overall majority but they still need a swing of just under 8% against Labour (and to win 138 seats) to achieve that. That is still a big hill to climb. Considering they only need a 1.5% swing to achieve parity of vote share, you can see why the proposal is being made. They are thinking ahead to the Election in 2014/2015.

    Just bringing GEs back to a NI context, whether one seat is lost in a re-distribution or not, NI will remain important to the Conservatives. Even at the forthcoming election it is just possible that a few UUP/Con seats gained in NI could make the difference between a majority and a minority Government or between a minority conservative and a minority labour government.

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, I would not be surprised if the proposal emerged to revert to NI’s original 12 seats a couple of Parliaments hence, once devolution is held to be established. I also guess that the idea for a drastic reduction of Welsh seats presages the Tories coming round to an expansion of the National Assembly (60 members compared to the NI Assembly’s 108) and more powers for Cardiff Bay – if the Welsh public can be persuaded to support them. The Cameron move might also be a bid to outflank Labour who are badly split on more Welsh powers. But overall, I agree that the speech was a bit of ill-thought out kite-flying. Stand by for an almighty row on all this, up to the general election at least

  • Mick Fealty

    Agree re Wales Brian. It’s tickled the cockles of heart of some in London, but it smacks of the kind of thing that will be conveniently forgotten when it comes to the crunch.

    But they may have had their first lesson is the restrictions of running a serious project across the devolved areas.

  • autocue

    Tory policy seems to be that because they can’t win seats in places like Liverpool, Manchester and Wales they want to abolish them. How very democratic.

    Labour of course could trump that by introducing PR (unlikely I know) and confine the Tories to perpetual opposition.

  • autocue

    I should add of course that the Tories have also recently suggested creating 2 different types of MPs in the House of Commons because they can’t win seats in Scotland either! Just who exactly are the people who on care about one part of the Union? Little Ulster?, try Little England!!

  • AJJM

    I welcome these proposals. They are about developing a fairer, fitter, leaner, cheaper but just as good/better? parliament.

    I’m a Unionist, and if it means we lose a seat to Nationalists, I’ll be disappointed. However, if we do I’ll accept it. It is the fair thing to happen in that circumstance. The DUP-style electoral pacts are not fair, and shows how stuck in the past they are.

  • autocue

    AJJM

    I’m sure the people of South/North Belfast will be delighted that the Tories have no problem with Gerry Adams or Gerry Kelly ending up their MP. Unionism? “Call Me Dave” wouldn’t know it if it jumped up and bit him.

  • AJJM

    So, autocue, you would like to suspend democracy and appoint the MP you think is right for the job? Presumably they would represent your own opinion, not the opinion of the consituents who elected them!

  • autocue

    No. I am perfectly happy with the number of seats we have. I don’t want to see people condemned to a Sinn Fein MP because the Tories are so desperate to scrap seats they can never win. The Tories might think more SF MPs is a good thing, but I do not. Furthermore, it takes a bizarre person to say Northern Ireland’s position would be strenghtened by reducing NI parliamentary representation.

  • AJJM

    This isn’t about scrapping seats the Tories won’t win, but about making sure everyone has the potential for equal representation across the UK. I assumed you would welcome the opportunity for NI being treated as an equal with England, Scotland and Wales?

    It is up to the people to decide whom they want to represent them – it could be a part-time DUP MP, or a no-time SF MP. Or they could choose another candidate who would actually represent them full-time. If people want more representation, then they should vote for someone who would provide that.

    Incidentally, I can’t remember ever reading you complain about the DUP not giving constituents like you and I the representation we deserve. For example, Jeffrey Donaldson has four jobs…

  • autocue

    AJJM

    Yet he has a better attendance record at Westminster than one-job Hermon, the sole UUP/Tory MP.

  • DUP Voter

    The tories are wrong. I haven’t decided why but I’m sure that they are. Jeffery says so.

  • AJJM

    RE: DUP Voter

    Jeffrey says they are right…

    http://tinyurl.com/9kkfog

    😉

  • Conquistador

    They suggested a 3 seat Belfast in the provisional recommendations in the Bounday comission in the mid nineties.

    Belfast North : Court, Oldpark and Castle

    Belfast West : Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Balmoral and Shaftesbury ward

    Belfast East: Victoria, Pottinger, remainder of Laganbank.

    The DUP and Sinn Fein were against it and the UUP and SDLP largely for the arrangements.

  • autocue

    Conquistador

    Alisadair McDonnell most certainly was not in favour of the recommendations. Nor was the UUP.

  • fair_deal

    In Northern ireland terms these comments by Cameron are interesting as they display either:
    a) an ignorance of their impact in Northern Ireland
    b) that he didn’t care about their impact in Northern Ireland

    It also raises the question of he is happy so publicly shaft the Welsh and Scottish Conservatives why would he be any more worried about a party he has a pact with?

  • Dewi

    He’s not shafting Welsh Tories (and not proposing much, if any Scottish changes). A reduction in 10 seats in Wales would pan out something like Labour minus 7 Plaid, LD and Tories minus 1 each. Strangely enough I see no reason why Wales should be over-represented at Westminster cf other nations especially with the (abmittedly paltry level of) devolved powers now in place.

  • Kensei

    Dewi

    If we look at America (and elsewhere), we see mechanisms in place to stop larger states from dominating smaller ones – in the case of the US, by each state returning the same number of Senators regardless of size. This is independent of the fact that the states have their own legislatures and executives, and quite considerable powers.

    Why should England completely dominate a supposedly equal union of states?

  • Dewi

    Kensei – I have a far more elegant solution to avoid English domination….

    Technically:

    a) I can’t recall the Union ever being described as equal even by its apologists.

    b) The influence of 40 out of 600 cf 30 ain’t that different (Every single Welsh MP voted against drowning Tryweryn to provide water for Liverpool -it still went ahead)

    It’s a scale thing – which in the “British” context leads me to doubt the feasibility of Federalism

  • fair_deal

    Dewi

    This move clearly implies he does not consider the Welsh tories capable of taking these seats. Also it is easier to take smaller seats so he will make it an even greater struggle for the Welsh Tories to grow at Westminster level. Hence he has shafted them.

  • autocue

    Little Englander Cameron!!! Where’s Jeff Peel, where’s Reg Empey, where’s all those smug fools who were gloating about Cameron’s committment to Northern Ireland? Tories = English National Party

  • Kensei

    Dewi

    a) I can’t recall the Union ever being described as equal even by its apologists.

    Well, in Welsh terms no, because England doesn’t consider you a real country but with Scotland certainly in theory.

    b) The influence of 40 out of 600 cf 30 ain’t that different (Every single Welsh MP voted against drowning Tryweryn to provide water for Liverpool -it still went ahead)

    It’s not a great solution, but it is the justification for Wales and Scotland gettig mroe seats in a way that say an English region could not use.

  • Dewi

    “This move clearly implies he does not consider the Welsh tories capable of taking these seats. Also it is easier to take smaller seats so he will make it an even greater struggle for the Welsh Tories to grow at Westminster level. Hence he has shafted them.”

    Astonishing that I’m defending Cameron (how has thia happened??) but he really might think it’s fairer all round…

    “Well, in Welsh terms no, because England doesn’t consider you a real country but with Scotland certainly in theory.”

    Yep
    To quote our Act of Union:

    “The first section of the 1535 Act states: “the people of the same dominion have and do daily use a speche nothing like ne consonant to the naturall mother tonge used within this Realme” and then declares the intention “utterly to extirpe alle and singular sinister usages and customs” belonging to Wales.”

    “It’s not a great solution, but it is the justification for Wales and Scotland gettig more seats in a way that say an English region could not use.”

    True but it’s a tokenism that “pretends” that Wales has a powerful role at Westminster.

  • “Little Englander Cameron!!! Where’s Jeff Peel, where’s Reg Empey, where’s all those smug fools who were gloating about Cameron’s committment to Northern Ireland? Tories = English National Party”

    Ahh… it appears autocue is embarassing himself again.

    Cameron is so committed to NI that he wants its MPs to only have one job so they can represent it fully. Not like Jeffrey ‘32%’ Donaldson.

    The Tories are not an English National Party. The Tories are about fairness, which judging by your previous comments, you despise. I’m sure everyone across the UK agrees that everyone should have equality of representation, and the party who gets the most votes gets the most seats?

    You clearly have an axe to grind against the Conservative Party. Might I suggest it is because you are a pitiful fool of the past, who doesn’t want Northern Ireland to move onto normal politics? Or maybe you are a DUP member and are worried about the Conservative/UUP group becoming the dominant Unionist group? Whatever it is, get over it and move on. Look towards the future of this country. A future which David Cameron has pledged to help bring us.

  • fair_deal

    AJJM

    “everyone across the UK agrees that everyone should have equality of representation”

    Agree to it as a principle or a rule? The Isle of Wight and Highlands and Islands issue shows how geography can make such a rule an idiocy.

    Another principle everyone across the UK could agree is the process should be independent. Our system has regular general reviews of all westminster seats every 8-12 years. One such review has just been completed and the next election will be fought on these new boundaries. For a government/political party to interfere in that process to ensure changes to its benefit is dubious in the extreme.

    “who gets the most votes gets the most seats?”

    Sorry but no constituency based system of election can guarantee that outcome because equality of turnout cannot be assured.

  • autocue

    AJJM

    You can suggest whatever you like but please try harder than: “A future which David Cameron has pledged to help bring us.”. Yes. And I can pledge to turn lead into gold it doesn’t mean I mean it or that it will happen.

    The notion that the Tory Party stands for “fairness” has to be one of the most laughable yet ventured forth on Slugger. Ask yourself this: if the Tories held all these inner city seats do you think Cameron would be talking about reducing the number of MPs? If every MP in Scotland was a Tory (smirk, fat chance!) do you seriously believe that the Tories would be looking for a “solution” to the West Lothian Question?

    This has more to do with Cameron self-interest than any notion of fairness – he can’t win seats in Liverpool, Manchester, Scotland and Wales, so he’ll abolish them – it just happens to be extra amusing in a NI context because it means the Conservative and “Unionist” leader seems to be advocating reducing NI representation which would actually had 2/3rds of Belfast over to Republicans. How embarrassing.

  • Conquistador

    Autocue

    Alisdair McDonnell was at that time a mere councillor, and I doubt he had serious Westminster ambitions. The SDLP liked the suggestion because it would keep SF Poleglass and Twinbrook out of West Belfast and add an area where SF barely registered and more tactical votes were up for grabs.

    The UUP, whilst losing SB would have picked up areas in the rapidly redrawn map of Ulster.

  • autocue

    Coquistador

    At that time he was an MLA with designs on the Westminster seat. Are you seriously telliing me that the UUP was happy to see a seat they held for donkey’s years abolished? Pull the other one.

  • RE: fair_deal

    “For a government/political party to interfere in that process to ensure changes to its benefit is dubious in the extreme.”

    I think the issue here is that the current system is extremely detrimental to the Conservative Party. Labour can get a majority on 36% of the vote, whereas the Tories need 42% or an 8 point lead.

    As for the Isle of Wight example – it is ridiculous that there are 100,000 electors there compared to many constituencies half (or less than) the size. Why should my vote count for more than someone in the Isle of Wight?

    RE: autocue

    “Yes. And I can pledge to turn lead into gold it doesn’t mean I mean it or that it will happen.”

    The difference is you have no chance of being able to do that.

    “Ask yourself this: if the Tories held all these inner city seats do you think Cameron would be talking about reducing the number of MPs?”

    I can’t claim to read Cameron’s mind, but I’m sure he isn’t the type to impose unfair boundaries on the country. The changes proposed may actually mean Lab/Lib Dems take some Conservative constituencies (or turn them into marginals) with the potential enlargening of edge of urban seats…

    “This has more to do with Cameron self-interest than any notion of fairness – he can’t win seats in Liverpool, Manchester, Scotland and Wales, so he’ll abolish them”

    What you are saying is that David Cameron is going to abolish every seat which isn’t held by the Conservative Party at the next election? Do you know how ridiculous that makes you sound? Plus, the Tories actually do have seats in Scotland and Wales. Woops…

    “it just happens to be extra amusing in a NI context because it means the Conservative and “Unionist” leader seems to be advocating reducing NI representation which would actually had 2/3rds of Belfast over to Republicans. How embarrassing.”

    I suppose you think NI should have 100 MPs then to increase it’s representation? Preposterous. Maybe NI’s representation should be in line with the rest of the UK… Now that’s an idea!

    So you think Unionism is about keeping those pesky Republicans out undemocratically? How embarassing. Guess what – that actually used to happen… Just goes to show how some people are stuck in the past.

  • ??

    So you think Unionism is about keeping those pesky Republicans out undemocratically? …

    How is it undemocratic, it is the electorate who will decide whether or not they wish to have a SF MP.

  • AJJM

    “How is it undemocratic, it is the electorate who will decide whether or not they wish to have a SF MP.”

    Exactly. Dear autocue here believes boundaries should be fixed to keep SF out of South Belfast.

  • ??

    Exactly. Dear autocue here believes boundaries should be fixed to keep SF out of South Belfast.
    Posted by AJJM on Jan 15, 2009 @ 09:29 PM…

    no this is about tory incompetence , they don’t understand Unionism in N.I. plain and simple

  • frustrated democrat

    ??

    What is wrong will all votes in the UK being equal?

  • Conquistador

    Autocue have you any idea of the context?

    At the time of the said boundary commission no one was an MLA, (MLAs were a blessing only to come to Ulster in 1998).

    The expanded Belfast South (that was eventually adopted) had the SDLP nominally in third place so there was little incentive to argue for that option at that time.

    The UUP did support the proposals (dig up details on the public enquiry). This is not speculation.

    I suspect it was highly likely they would have won the suggested Belfast East (or Belfast South East as it was proposed at the enquiry). They may have even held it in 2001 (had it been adopted).

    Although The Castlereagh and Ards would probably have been a DUP stronghold I’d imagine, even then.

  • Dewi

    Some backtracking in Wales

    Quote

    “Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said: “We believe there is a strong case for reducing the overall number of MPs across the UK.

    “In addition, as recommended by the Committee of Standards in Public Life, constituencies should be so far as possible of similar population size, to allow all MPs to best serve the electorate in their seat and ensure fair representation in Parliament.

    “Our proposals would, however, respect the current special arrangements for Wales.”

  • bob Wilson

    ‘no this is about tory incompetence , they don’t understand Unionism in N.I. plain and simple’

    Correction the Tories understand Unionism – a concept which involves the unity of the four elements of the UK on a fair and democratic basis and which regards every citizen of the UK as equal.

    The DUP thinks Unionism stops at the North Channel. What they call ‘unionism’ is actually Protestant communal solidarity which is the antithesis of Unionism. Indeed it undermines the Union.

    So if you are saying the Ulster Tories dont understand that warped mindset you are right.

    Those who promote this parochial mindset are actually the biggest enemies of the Union

  • autocue

    AJJM

    “What you are saying is that David Cameron is going to abolish every seat which isn’t held by the Conservative Party at the next election?”

    No it is not. What I am saying is that he plans to abolish a raft of seats which are by in large held by the Labour Party for his own selfish interests. You might think “Call me Dave” walks on water and is incapable of selfishness but I do not.

    As for your claptrap about Scotland and Wales. Yes indeed the Tories do hold seats in Scotland and Wales. 1 in Scotland and 3 in Wales. Guess which party holds the overwhelming majority of seats in both countries? (hint. they are currently the government and Dave’s principal opposition).

  • autocue

    Bob Wilson

    “The DUP thinks Unionism stops at the North Channel.”

    You believe that if it gives you any comfort. Totally untrue and a fine example of the sort of sneering condacension one has come to expect from the local NI Tories, who at the last test of public opinion in Northern Ireland actually polled fewer votes throughout Northern Ireland than the DUP did in West Belfast.

  • autocue

    Conquistador

    Was there not a Boundary Commission circa 2005?

  • AJJM

    Re: Autocue

    “No it is not. What I am saying is that he plans to abolish a raft of seats which are by in large held by the Labour Party for his own selfish interests. You might think “Call me Dave” walks on water and is incapable of selfishness but I do not. ”

    So you think it is in David Cameron’s interests to take away the inbuilt advantage Labour currently unfairly enjoy? Well done sherlock!
    However, this may turn safe Conservative seats into marginals, so it is hardly “selfish”.

    “You believe that if it gives you any comfort. Totally untrue and a fine example of the sort of sneering condacension one has come to expect from the local NI Tories, who at the last test of public opinion in Northern Ireland actually polled fewer votes throughout Northern Ireland than the DUP did in West Belfast. ”

    Bob Wilson has a point though – so far on this thread you have done nothing to dispel the notion, with your ‘fiddle constituencies to keep out the nationalists’ narrative which belongs in the past. Your figures are from the past too – why not look to the shared and better future our country should enjoy?

  • ??

    fiddle constituencies to keep out the nationalists’ …

    nationalists are anti-union and anti-unionist, so you and the tories are in favour of them gaining seats, some unionism

  • AJJM

    RE: ??

    I am in favour of democracy. Which is more than I can say for you and other Duppers on this thread.

  • autocue

    AJJM

    What’s democratic about abolishing seats because you don’t like who holds them? Is it now the policy of the Northern Ireland Tories to reduce NI representation at Westminster? I would like an answer from them on this please.

  • autocue

    Also I see David McNarry firing a helpful shot accross the bows of the “liberalisto wide boys” in the NI Tories. Well said that man!

  • fair_deal

    It strikes we as strange that the electoral growth of the SNP in votes and seats is seen as dangerous for the Union and needs to be thwarted but in a Northern Ireland context the electoral growth and strength of Irish nationalism is to be treated in a blase manner. Why the different attitudes in the different parts of the UK?

    AJJM

    You did not respond to the point and whether or not you agree with the principle that boundaries should be an independent and non-political process. What is your position?

    “I think the issue here is that the current system is extremely detrimental to the Conservative Party.”

    No that is what you prefer the issue to be and discussion restricted to. It is not the only one. There were times when the bias was against Labour but they did not propose intervening in the regular independent process of review. Neither do I remember the Conservatives having such deep concerns.

    If you are really concerned about equality of votes what about the massive under-representation of the Lib Dems? These boundary changes will do nothing on that issue.

    If you are concerned about equality of votes how come 42% or 36% of voters (a numerical minority) is an acceptable basis to form a governement?

    “As for the Isle of Wight example – it is ridiculous that there are 100,000 electors there compared to many constituencies half (or less than) the size. Why should my vote count for more than someone in the Isle of Wight?”

    Because if you apply the equal size rule you end up with the Isle of Wight not big enough for two and end up with 30% of the island joined with a mainland constituency. In the Highlands and Islands you end up with a constituency so big that it is practically impossible for it to be properly served by their MP. As a principle equality is fine as a rule you end up with some daft constituencies that people can’t relate too.

  • fair_deal,

    … it is practically impossible for it to be properly served by their MP.

    Are MPs really supposed to ‘serve’ their constituents? That smacks a bit of clientalism. I thought that they were elected to represent their constituents at Westminster.

    And since they are subject to fairly tight whipping, the only time they need to actually listen to what their constituents really want is at the time of their election. After that, regardless of their constituent’ wishes, they will follow the party line.

    All other ‘serving’ of the constituents should be done by the competent authorities appointed by the Parliament for that purpose (i.e. state bodies) – the MP should have no further role in pulling strings, or looking for special treatment, for his/her constituents.

  • AJJM

    RE: Fair Deal

    “You did not respond to the point and whether or not you agree with the principle that boundaries should be an independent and non-political process. What is your position?”

    Apologies – didn’t actually see that. I firmly believe the boundary changes should be decided by an independent non-political body who will make constituency sizes fair to put all parties on an equal footing.

    “There were times when the bias was against Labour but they did not propose intervening in the regular independent process of review.”

    Where, pray tell, has Cameron proposed that? He merely wants the number of MPs reduced, and will legislate so there can be a boundary review at the same time. The rest of this is speculation.

    “If you are really concerned about equality of votes what about the massive under-representation of the Lib Dems? These boundary changes will do nothing on that issue.

    If you are concerned about equality of votes how come 42% or 36% of voters (a numerical minority) is an acceptable basis to form a governement? ”

    Both of those are very reasonable questions, but are mre to do with the type of system we use. Having a PR system could be perceived as more democratic, but actually puts too much power in the hands of the party elites rather than the electorate. I heard a story last year of a constituency near Dublin where realistically only 1 of two FF candidates could have been elected. It ended up that the candidate that Bertie backed the night before the election was elected. PR also leds to clientelism, and reduces the scrutiny role of TDs in Ireland.

    To be honest, the PR/FPTP argument is another kettle of fish and is a grey area. Changing the system we use is realistically not going to happen. What we must do is make the current system as democratic as possible.

    “Because if you apply the equal size rule you end up with the Isle of Wight not big enough for two and end up with 30% of the island joined with a mainland constituency. In the Highlands and Islands you end up with a constituency so big that it is practically impossible for it to be properly served by their MP. As a principle equality is fine as a rule you end up with some daft constituencies that people can’t relate too.”

    Should constituencies then not be brought up in size, so the gap between them and the Isle of Wight is less? That is what we are specualting will happen.

    I take your point on the highland constituencies.

  • AJJM

    “What’s democratic about abolishing seats because you don’t like who holds them?”

    Nothing. The boundaries will be changed by an independent commission to make the sizes more equal to stop inbuilt electoral unfairness. Whats democratic about not changing seats because you don’t like who would hold them?

    “Is it now the policy of the Northern Ireland Tories to reduce NI representation at Westminster? I would like an answer from them on this please.”

    I think Jeff Peel made a statement on their website about this.

    The fact is this is mere slugger speculation on what might change. No-one knows if NI will lose a seat or not!

  • Conquistador

    autocue – a case of crossed wires it would seem

    The one in 2005 suggested an Antrim Coast and Glens but asides from that was relatively timid.

    The one I was talking about (circa 1993/4) suggested a 3 seat Belfast and radically redrawn set of county seats.

  • fair_deal

    AJJM

    “Where, pray tell, has Cameron proposed that?”

    You seem not to understand the consequences of this being a first term priority i.e. between 2010-2015. The final part of the process of reviews was only completed in 2008. The gap between reviews is 8-12 years. Scotland’s changes came in in 2005, Wales 2006, England in 2007 and NI in 2008. Thus a review is not due in Scotland until 2013-2017, Wales until 2014-2018, England 2015-2019 and NI until 2016-2020. Also general reviews are a thorough process so it would be unlikely that proposals for Scotland and Wales would be through parliament before an election in 2015. To hold two successive Westminster elections under significantly different boundaries is probably unprecedented.

    Under the present system it would most likely be 2018-2020 before there were new boundaries for a Westminster election. To bring forward this process is interference especially because you expect to be a beneficiary is seriously dodgy. Our model of boundary revisions is pretty robust and honest and we should all be wary of anyone seeking to muck about with it.

    Also the boundary commission is not allowed to take any account of election results in its work to keep politics out of its work. Cameron’s motivation puts this distinction under clear threat. In fact the last review was to the overall benefit of the Tories and the Labour party kept with convention and didn’t interfere.
    http://www.epolitix.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/boundary-changes-favour-tories/

    “Both of those are very reasonable questions, but are mre to do with the type of system we use.”

    If the rule/principle is equality of vote then they become relevant especially the issue concerning Lib Dems.

    I would agree there are flaws with PR but none of the systems is perfect.

    “Should constituencies then not be brought up in size, so the gap between them and the Isle of Wight is less?”

    If constituencies are to be equal there would be little or no gap. Yes but under an equality ‘rule’ unless you increased all constituencies to 105,000 a segment of the island would end up being paired with part of the mainland.

    Also it should be remember that the Isle of Wight is a special geograhic exception under the present rules. It is not the norm. Most constituencies are within a closer band.

    There is also the fundamental problem that population patterns are by no means uniform so achieving the equality is extremely difficult.

  • Conquistador

    I never really understood why they didn’t just cut the Isle of Wight into two constituencies of 50000 or so. It would be roughly the same as a Welsh seat.

    Being an island it is a special case and I suspect it’s better being over represented than under.

  • autocue

    Conquistador

    The 2005 one also mooted 3 seats in Belfast if I recall and this was opposed by the UUs and the SDLP.

  • RE: Fairdeal

    Tim Mongomerie wrote quite a telling piece in which he said –

    “If Mr Cameron was able to enact these changes in the first term it would make a huge difference to the chances of re-election. My unconfirmed understanding, however, is that the changes would only be effective for the General Election afterwards.” Which, if you count two maximum term times (after the latest time this election will be held), is May 2020. In otherwords, after the end of the latest time you said a NI review will be done.

  • Conquistador

    I have a feeling you may be right there. I haven’t read their report in detail but I suspect any three seat Belfast would not have been contained within the city boundary (in contrast to the suggestion in the nineties).

    I don’t think there was any support for a 3 seat Belfast in the last decade so when the last comission did report the idea was not included.

    Nicholas Whyte has some detail

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/gboun03.htm

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/gboun04.htm

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/gboun07.htm