Recently we have seen the demise of two national institutions many of us have grown to love and possibly loathe in equal measure, namely Last of The Summer Wine, and Big Brother, proof if ever it was needed that the tide of change cannot be resisted.
On top of these terrible blows to the culture of our nation, speculation is now rife that a whole raft of other institutions are now also be under threat, probably the most famous of which is currently know as Fermanagh & South Tyrone, but the list of those at risk also includes East Londonderry, Strangford, East Antrim and a quarter of Belfast, in fact a grand total of 18 such national treasures may cease to exist in their current form within the next 3 or 4 years! These drastic measures have been decreed by the recession hit Westminister Board, and as a result of this down sizing, at the stroke of a boundary commissioners pen the landscape of our province will be changed forever.
But do not fear a bright new world exists with 16 ( or is it 15? ) brand new precisely designed and constructed entities to take their place, what the names will be and which Honourable members shall bear them proudly in the Mother of Parliments remains some distance, but in the meantime I think we have almost enough information available within the public domain to make a good stab at drawing those new boundaries, with one little question to resolve first, 15 or 16?
Apply mathematical equations to the problem should provide an answer, therefore starting at the top, the plan is for 600 MPs elected by 45 million electors, making each constituency 75,000 potential voters, with the exceptions of the Scottish Islands, ok so far? The current Tory plan will only allow a 5% leeway on either side so the max is 78,250 with the min 72,250, I know its gonna cause problems with resident of those semi independant states of the Isle of Wight & Cornwall, but we shall confine or deliberations to the North East section of the Emerald Isle and see what happens.
Currently we have 1,195,503 registered voters, lets call it 1.2 million by 2015, divided 75,000 gives us 16 seats by my calculations, if we go for 15 that makes each seat 80,000 well over the upper limit. If anyone works this out differently let me know! ( the electorate last year was 1,177,000 approx, although this might partly be due to excluding foreign nationals from Westminister votes )
As for the existing boundaries, Upper Bann and Newry & Armagh are already over the 75k, N Antrim is spot on, the rest are between 5 and 25% under, scrapping one Belfast and one Antrim or Down seat might do the trick, but I think a complete redraw is more likely, for one simple reason, everything has already been redrawn printed, stamped and quietly awaiting Pootsy signature!
Ok maybe the Parlimentary & Assembly boundaries have yet to be looked at, however as the basic building blocks of constituencies are Wards, most of which are now hopelessly out of date, the Boundary commission has already completed redrawn new wards to fit within the new Super Council borders, therefore the blocks are currently in place merely awaiting ministerial approval!
What have the Councils to do with Westminister? well as anyone involved in grassroot politics will tell you it is extremely annoying when council boundaries and constituencies do not overlap, presuming the Super Councils eventually set sail then obviously Constituencies will if possible reflect these new boundaries where possible.
You may be aware of a slight problem at this point, there are 11 councils and 16 constituencies proposed, even if we add another 2 for Belfast, it still means a bit more rejigging is required, I have looked through the figures and have come up with a few ideas of the possible carve up, but will save that for the next post and shall leave this thread open for general comments. To finish I must add I have got no special insight or tip off on any of this, just guestimations using whats available in the public domain.