Will Tory plan for fewer MPs affect NI?

At a stroke, the Conservatives may have “solved” the political equivalent of Fermat’s last theorem, the West Lothian Question. That’s the conundrum about what to do to remove the anomaly of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs’ right to vote on purely English (or English and Welsh) matters while English MPs have no say over matters devolved to Holyrood, Stormont and in a some areas, Cardiff Bay. The party must hope they’ve lanced a boil which was incubating an “England for the English” backlash and stoking support for UKIP. The shadow leader of the House, the much respected George Young has turned into a pledge their intention to give English MPs the right of veto over English- only matters. And to stiffen the pledge and cut costs, the number of MPs will be cut by 10%, after a boundary revision to equal up the size of constituencies by the time of the election after next. Leaving aside the practical difficulties of achieving this in time – and how to define a purely English measure – it’s hard to believe that Northern Ireland would be left alone in the cull of MPs. Once there were only 12. What would be the implications of 12 again or even 16?

George Young sppech extracts
10% FEWER MPS
We will instruct the Boundary Commission to set out detailed proposals to reduce the number of MPs by ten percent for the next General Election after this one. At the moment, the Isle of Wight has 107,000 voters and one MP – Andrew Turner does a first class job representing them. After the next election and with the new boundaries, Shailesh Vara will still represent 83,000 voters. Our proposals would simply increase the average size to around 77,000 – the size of many constituencies today including my own.

BOUNDARY REVISION TO EQUALISE CONSTITUENCY SIZE FOR ELECTION AFTER NEXT
But, crucially, we will address the disparities that exist between constituency populations. Because just as Conservatives believe in a fairer society, so we believe in a fairer type of politics. So as well as reducing the number of MPs, we will change the law to ensure that every constituency is broadly the same size. Reducing the bill for politics, while also reducing the inequities.” ( Young ends).

The SNP are playing it cool about this, as an exchange on the Today programme (07.34 slot) reveals. While they dismiss talk fo an unholy alliance with the Tories, stiff cuts hitting Scotland could boost support for the SNP’s core aim of holding a referendum on independence during the next Parliament. There’ll be much, much more on this in the months to come. Re a pay freeze for senior civil service, the SNP Scottish government has leapt on board without a murmur. But on a wider freeze as proposed by the Tories, they’re noncommital so far.

  • Greenflag

    Brian Walker ,

    ‘it’s hard to believe that Northern Ireland would be left alone ‘

    No it is’nt . Northern Ireland has been ‘left ‘ alone in it’s use of proportional representation , mandatory power sharing , GFA , D’Hondt, it’s heritage of sectarian head counting elections etc etc .

    As for the implications at Westminster of 12 or 16 or 17 NI MP’s ? It won;t make a blind bit of difference apart from the cost saving . As to the cost in NI ? I doubt if either the Tories or Labour will lose any sleep over the matter . Quite right too . They never see the SF MP’s and neither Unionists nor SDLP MP’s are known for stellar attendance -it’s the double /treble jobbing conundrum.

    The ‘rotten boroughs’ of old have reemerged in a new guise as the ‘rotten province ;(

  • oneill

    “The party must hope they’ve lanced a boil which was incubating an “England for the English” backlash and stoking support for UKIP”

    UKIP are a pro-Union party and anti-devolutionist to boot. If there’s support leaking to them, it’s down to the wider public’s antipathy towards the EU and the MPs’ expenses scandals not because of any “English” backlash against the West Lothian Question.

  • alan56

    Is it just me or is there a real problem getting on to slugger site these days?

  • Drumlins Rock

    have mentioned this issue before on several threads, I think it could have quite a major effect on politics here, almost certainly there will be a cut in the number of NI MPs, which will would be a simple way of reducing MLAs while keeping 6 seats per constituency, and im sure that once the new councils come into operation there will be a desire to redraw the constituencies to closer reflect these areas.

  • Thereyouarenow

    I think that the Tories while talking a good show about the union are hoping to mislay Scotland.

  • fair_deal

    You won’t be able to predict the consequences until you knwo the boundaries. The biggest likely impact of a 10% reduction would probably be on Belfast with the number of seats being reduced to 3 or significant expansion outwards to raise themm to the necessary size (or if the depopulation of Belfast continues some meeting of those two ideas).

    However the big issue is being missed here. The drawing of constituency boundaries is supposed to be an independent process that operates to commonly accepted principles with regular reviews. What the Tories are proposing is directly interfering with this, a full review has been completed (with the 2010 election all on new boundaries). This has seen a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs and greater equalisation of seats in England that will be to the detriment of Labour.

    The Tories are deliberately interfering with this because they believe that further equalisation will be of benefit to them. This is the Tories trying to use the public mood as cover for self party political interest.

  • Dewi

    “has turned into a pledge their intention to give English MPs the right of veto over English- only matters”

    Consider the implication of a Tory majority England but Labour majority in the House (It happened in votes last time if not in seats).

    Who proposes English only law? If the Government then they get beat if it’s the Tories then they need civil service back up and a sort of Government structure with an English first Minister.

    Can’t see it myself. There is an elegant solution of course – an English Parliament.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Zero would be a good target number to aim for.

    The slim chance that an Orange tail might wag the British bulldog will be reduced further and it will be very amusing if the Tories force feed this policy to the UU – the less seats the better.

  • loki

    Scotland has too many MPs for the size of its populaiton when compared to hte rest of the UK. They have a population of circa 4.5million and about 80 MPs. Compare with Ni, we have 1.75 million (give or take) and 18 MPs. Scotland is disproportionally represented. I think that’s where we’ll see most cuts along wiht some re-jigging in England. Wales and NI should largely be left alone. Let’s wait and see

  • fair_deal

    BW

    “The shadow leader of the House, the much respected George Young has turned into a pledge their intention to give English MPs the right of veto over English- only matters.”

    Did he say this on the Tv because I’ve had a scan of the speech text and can’t seem to find a reference to this? Did I miss it?

    loki

    “Scotland has too many MPs for the size of its populaiton when compared to hte rest of the UK. They have a population of circa 4.5million and about 80 MPs”

    Your information is incorrect/out of date Scotland has been reduced to 59 MPs (as a result of Scottish devolution) down from 72 MPs and it has a population of over 5m by the 01 census (latest estimate seems to be 5.2m). If the 100K population is the rough guide it’d be in line for a cut of 7.

    It does have the smallest constituency in the country but this is the problem with using numbers as the sole/over-riding consideration for boundaries you can end up with constituencies that are physically too large for an MP to provide any decent level of service e.g. Highlands and Islands. Although this could be possibly ameliorated by making special provision for such constituencies in terms of constituency allowances.

  • Dewi

    “Did he say this on the Tv because I’ve had a scan of the speech text and can’t seem to find a reference to this? Did I miss it?”

    Yeah – I couldn’t find it as well but was too scared to say unless I’d look daft….

  • loki

    Ta for that F_D. I was in a hurry, so happy to be corrected. However, basic premise still stands- too many MPs for population size in sunny Ecosse. Why not move to US style system- 1 MP for each county? Just to play devil’s advocate?

  • The distribution of seats in the UK is calculated on the basis of electorate and NOT population. Personally, I would prefer it to be done on the basis of population but it isn’t.

    The distribution of population and electorate are not identical. Areas with lots of people under 18 (NI, most areas of GB with a large South Asian population) and areas with lots of non-Commonwealth citizens (London, Bournemouth) are underrepresented in population terms. Similarly, areas with lots of older people and few non-Commonwealth citizens (Scotland, Sussex, the North East of England) are over-represented in population terms.

    People shouldn’t bandy the two about as if they are the same as they aren’t.

  • Why not move to US style system- 1 MP for each county?

    That’s only the system for the Federal Upper House; elsewhere it is not only not the system but would be specifically illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

  • alan56,

    It is not just you.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Why bother with MPs at all when Marty and Robbo are correctly treated as visiting heads of state whenever there is a problem and go straight into No 10 to get things sorted out – in fact Grizzly has been going there since he was about 22 – no need to feck about in the chamber.

    Stormo is where Norn Iron politicans have actual influence over afairs – and increasingly Westminster will become irrelevant – provided of course it surives the latest excitement.

  • Dewi

    1) It’s a strange fact that when NI had 12 MPs it was deliberately under represented to reflect the existance of Stormont.
    2) As to George Young’s veto pledge – Brian – are you sure you are not making this up???

  • Brian Walker

    Fair Deal, You’re right; the West Lothian point was adddressed by William Hague, on Monday, not George Young. I should have made that clear. Apologies. Full quotation:

    “ENGLISH MPS TO HAVE VETO ON ENGLISH –ONLY LAWS
    And there is, of course, one additional change we will bring to parliamentary proceedings. Scotland now has its own parliament. We are committed to its success, and as we have all seen today in Annabel Goldie we have a highly effective leader working hard for the people of Scotland. Now a Conservative Government will complete the devolution settlement by ensuring that when legislation at Westminster affects only England, or only England and Wales, then the English, or English and Welsh MPs will have a veto on its contents.”

  • fair_deal

    BW

    Appreciate the clarification, as long as my eyes weren’t failing me.

    Such a move, as well as being a very dodgy answer to the West Lothian question (I’d be interested to see the detail of the proposals as it could create some interesting precedents), undermines the UUPCon argument on NI MPs not turning up enough at parliament because they are going to change the rules that there will be little to no point them being there.

  • loki

    F__D doesn’t say Ni and Scots can’t vote- says there’s a veto. Different thing as Mr Morse pointed out earlier.

  • fair_deal

    loki

    “doesn’t say Ni and Scots can’t vote- says there’s a veto.”

    That distinction is pretty meaningless, turn up for the first vote if you want we’re going to veto it 5 minutes after.

  • Fungus Addams

    Just to clarify one further small point. The UKIP is not working towards an English aseembly or Parliament. None of the mainstream parties are. The need for this is only being addressed by the English Democrats Party, an English nationalist party who are campaigning for a devolved English assembly comparable in powers to that currently enjoyed by the Scots.
    The EDP has gained much ground in recent years and is starting to make inroads into the mainstream of polital debate. In several recent local elections the EDP was able to gain a very credible number of votes, in some areas more votes than some of the main parties. It has also notched up considerable support in the European elections and, whilst it failed to gain a seat this time, is well placed to suceed in the near future where it will continue to campaign for England’s withdrawl from the EU.
    Some political commentators have dismissed the EDP as an ‘also ran’, which is of course the same mistake they made with the Scots and Welsh Nationalist parties several years ago.
    The Tories are attempting to stifle growning English resentment at political interference from other countries, particularly the Scots; and an increasing feeling, rightly or wrongly, that our unelected Scottish PM and our Scottish chancellor see England as a cash cow to be milked to subsidise the rest of the UK’s needs.

  • Bill Baker

    In an attempt to still English Voices the current political parties have missed the opportunity to unite England as a political force in the EU and allow us to have at least some say over our own political destiny. Undermining democratic values in England has backfired on both the Conservatives and labor party and the majority of English people are seeking alternatives to try and restore their country and unite it against the EU doctrine of rule by division and devolution. Scottish socialists who have managed to usurp the Labor Party and force the English electorate into doing their bidding, will only have themselves to blame when the party comes crashing about their heads and no country that wants a par with them due to their treasonous behavior over the last decade. with the SNP taking control of an independent Scotland and an English Democrat surge into political representation for the English and forcing a referendum on England’s retraction from the current Union of the UK and the EU, the whole political map of the British Isles is about to change. The only people who are to blame for this are the greedy Scots who thought that a minority Scotland could contain a majority of England and the resentment this has caused will take many years to heal. The only voice the English are hearing that is in favor of their heritage and restoration is the English Democrats party and they are slowly but surely rallying behind them as the word spreads of this great new political era that is upon us. I suggest the Scots gather their fleeces and head into the highlands once more as its going to be a long cold winter for them indeed.

  • Greenflag

    Bill Baker ,

    ‘Scots see England as a cash cow to be milked to subsidise the rest of the UK’s needs.’

    Of course . We Irish in the Republic became so embarassed about this aspect of our political relationship with England prior to 1922 that we revolted and fought a war of independence and later a civil war so as to help England keep it’s own cash and use it for the betterment of the long downtrodden exploited English people .

    But no yiz would’nt listen to us .Instead yiz were hooked /addicted to the cash cow syndrome and insisted on partitioning Northern Ireland from the rest of the island so that they i.e Northern Ireland could continue milking the English cow .

    Per capita in the UK there is no other area or region that knows how to milk the English cow better than Northern Ireland 😉

    Question:

    If the Scots are greedy and the Welsh predatory what does that make the Northern Irish ? A new word is needed and avaricious does’nt come close .

    Answer 🙁 circa 1974) ‘Spongers’ was one attempt used by Harold Wilson British Prime Minister . It brought forth merely hoots of derision from cosseted Unionists who took to sporting pieces of sponge on the lapels of their coats .

    Answer: 2009

    World Champion Milkers ;)?

  • Greenflag

    ‘In an attempt to still English Voices the current political parties have missed the opportunity to unite England as a political force in the EU and allow us to have at least some say over our own political destiny. Undermining democratic values in England has backfired on both the Conservatives and labor party and the majority of English people are seeking alternatives to try and restore their country and unite it against the EU doctrine of rule by division and devolution’

    Substitute Ireland for England and it’s almost Dave in his new ‘Bill Baker’ clothes with the same old arguments . Should’nt take too long for Bill to demand a UK or preferably English referendum on Lisbon etc etc etc .

    ‘I suggest the Scots gather their fleeces and head into the highlands once more as its going to be a long cold winter for them indeed. ‘

    Most Scots btw don’t live in the highlands and it’s been a few centuries since they sidled up to a sheep for body warmth .Whisky does the same job and they say it’s tastier 😉

  • Sarah Lavender

    If England got a parliament, a first minister and the same level of devolution that Scotland has then I’d be happy for the Tories to reduce the no. of English MPs to the point where they can’t dominate any ‘UK-wide’ issues over the other parts of the Union. Then it might be a Union worth having.

    Somehow I suspect that the local pig farm might, in its entirety, take to wing long before this happens…

    “Now a Conservative Government will complete the devolution settlement by ensuring that when legislation at Westminster affects only England, or only England and Wales, then the English, or English and Welsh MPs will have a veto on its contents.”

    Its nice to know what Mr Hague thinks the English people are worth… everyone else gets a parliament, we get a half-arsed measure that’s unlikely to function in any sensible way. And apparently we should be so delighted that the English Question will instantly disappear…