McDonnell, Long, Campbell and Paisley Jnr will sleep easy for another three years …

In a highly understandable piece of political tit for tat, the Liberal Democrats have delayed their support for Parliamentary boundary changes in response to the Tory’s contribution to the slow death of any House of Lords reform. (The proposed boundary changes to Westminster constituencies were judged to have favoured Conservative MPs.)

Alasdair McDonnell, Naomi Long, Gregory Campbell and Ian Paisley Jnr will breath a sign of relief as this buys them another opportunity for re-election in 2015.

As Mark Devenport reports:

The delay in the Westminster review means an expected reduction in the number of MLAs from 108 to 96 will no longer take place automatically. Stormont politicians have been considering the future size of the assembly but could not reach consensus.

While the cost saving would have been relatively small when compared with the cuts to health and education, it’s a token gesture that local politicians will avoid.

  • Drumlins Rock

    All this “will they wont they” mucking about with boundaries just makes me want to take my anorak off and stamp on it in a muddy puddle.

    Saying that the proposals were pathetic, at least the delay might allow for them to be redrafted based around the new wards, DEAs and council areas, that is if they happen, finger cross they also crash.

    I wonder how much the boundary review has cost? for the LibDems to throw it out in a tantrum. They got, and lost, their referendum so much for holding up their side off the bargain.

    As for Stormont It looks like the 108 are here for another term at least, can’t see them doing 5 seaters in the time remaining, would have to be part of a full package too, time for the talks about talks?

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    I’m still waiting for to see if my submission is published in the autumn review. Does make you wonder though. How they can get people to go to all this bother just to bin it?

    By the way, I get confused as to what the boundary reviewers do the rest of the time? We have four tiny Belfast seats and four rather large seats. Part of the point of the reduction was to also equalise them. When the number isn’t being reduced, why are they not equalising them the rest of the time? Does the existing legislation allow for them to have huge discrepancies to accommodate local ties etc..?

    How frequently do they adjust them otherwise? Every parliament?

    Would that imply another boundary review would have to take place on the 18 existing seats? So stupid.

  • Framer

    Clegg and the LibDems insist on a gerrymander of seats, unequal votes and more MPs’ snouts at the trough.
    You heard it here first.

  • FuturePhysicist

    They could perhaps remove the 6th MLA from each constituency and raise the quota to around 16% … Jim Allister,

    Anyway why should Ian Óg worry, had Gregory Campbell any designs on his seat??

  • FuturePhysicist

    *Jim Allister would be amongst the more high profile casualties.

  • RyanAdams

    Meanwhile in North Belfast Nigel Dodds will be shitting it!!

  • Lionel Hutz

    Dodds not safe. But am I right in thinking that keeping the boundaries will make it harder for Long to hold on? Gavin Robinson MP then?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Agree Lionel … A South-East Belfast could easily lean Alliance if Long did a bit of nationalist outreach.

    Wonder if Unionists and others might give Dominic Bradley a free run against Connor Murphy for the whole nonsense of treating unaffiliated protestants as second class citizens to party insiders in his former role as RD minister.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Ryan, why should Nigel Dodds be doing a #2???

  • Kit_Carruthers

    If the boundaries remain the same then it will most certainly make the DUP more competitive in East Belfast. It would be difficult to see Naomi Long “losing” the proposed South East seat but it is impossible to predict with the current boundaries.

    There was roughly a 10% difference in the Alliance vote between the Westminster 2010 and the Assembly 2011. It will be interesting to see how much of that is a personal vote for Naomi Long.

    I doubt there will be any sigh of relief. Given that the Alliance MP has a reputation for hard work, I ‘m sure that will be the mantra going into the next Westminster elections.

    That is, after all, what the personal vote is based on. The question is, “is that personal vote worth the 10% likely needed to fend off the DUP”?

  • Framer

    Kit writes, “Given that the Alliance MP has a reputation for hard work.
    Remind us of which MP hasn’t told us of their hard work; better still remind us of the achievements of our MPs since 2010 – remembering much of it is about being there and participating in the market place which Westminster should be.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Wonder if Unionists and others might give Dominic Bradley a free run against Connor Murphy for the whole nonsense of treating unaffiliated protestants as second class citizens to party insiders in his former role as RD minister.
    —————–

    I doubt it, but him being out of the picture for a while and the last memories being calamity might make some think that Bradley has a chance. That could make more unionists for him. If this Westminster government collapses earlier than 2015, there’s a very outside chance it could happen.

    The implications for East Belfast are interesting. I took it that Peter Robinson said he wouldn’t go for it because he thought that the new boundaries could make it too much of a gamble. Would he be tempted to go for it again??

  • john

    Good news for Campbell and McDonnell, disaster for Dodds

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    On one hand McDonnell will be happy, on the other hand, the SDLP remain (on these boundaries) in 7th place in a whole load of places. Which serves them better? I see McDonnell has come good on his pledge to raise money and more than doubled the donations. Will they mount a better campaign in N Antrim, S Antrim and FST and grab those 6th seats?

    What makes people so sure about Dodds being toast? SF’s vote share dropped between 2010 and 2011 (as did DUP’s mind). But there’ll still be enough residual support for Dodds surely?

  • Tonight’s shenanigans means the Tory rebels have shot themselves in the foot, because, while Lord’s reform was only cosmetic bragging rights for the LDs, for Cameron it’s a significant blow since real political interest was invested for the tories there. Unless the Tories thought Clegg wouldn’t follow through on the threat, they’ve miscalculated in their rebellion as he has left no manoevre room for himself tonight and the commons reform which the Tories badly needed, has gone the way of Lord’s reform.The coalition wil carry on to 2015, but Labour will be the winners after tonight, [in spite of themselves]. DC must be wondering who his friends behind him are.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    That’s largely right Daniel but for the cosmetic bragging rights comment. It’s more than that. It was the Lib Dems consolation prize for losing the AV referendum. They were getting a proportional voting system for an elected chamber. It would have given them a permanent veto on things coming through the 2nd chamber while they are cast into irrelevance in the 1st chamber.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Robinson has given at least one interview where he has talked of winding down so I really doubt he plans to resume a career at Westminster. By 2015 he will be 67 and will have had ~7 years behind him as FM and will be looking at a further 4 – that’s a long time to be in one job.

    However there is no doubt that the DUP see it as a target seat and they’ll throw the kitchen sink at it with whatever candidate they choose. Gavin Robinson seems like an obvious choice and of course having him in there as Lord Mayor is a good way to raise a bit of profile.

    North Belfast/Dodds is a tough one to call. I’d say he’ll hold the seat by scaring the crap out of UUP voters with the threat of a Gerry Kelly victory.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It would have given them a permanent veto on things coming through the 2nd chamber while they are cast into irrelevance in the 1st chamber.

    What I find hilarious about the anti-PR crowd is the way that they assume that people will vote the same way they currently do except with preferences. In reality PR completely changes the way parties campaign for votes and creates opportunities for many smaller parties not just the Lib Dems. In this case it would include other forces such as the UKIP.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It would have given them a permanent veto on things coming through the 2nd chamber while they are cast into irrelevance in the 1st chamber.

    What I find hilarious about the anti-PR crowd is the way that they assume that people will vote the same way they currently do except with preferences. In reality PR completely changes the way parties campaign for votes and creates opportunities for many smaller parties not just the Lib Dems. In this case it would include other forces such as the UKIP

    On the contrary, I believe the Tories anti-PR crowd was done in the full fear of losing seats to UKIP. Completely vested interests … now they’re begging UKIP for a coalition because some of the Lib Dems are turning red not blue.

  • Valenciano

    Chris, to answer all your questions. The review will continue as scheduled. The Boundary Commission would, at an educated guess, publish slightly modified recommendations some time next month. The other commissions will do likewise and report by the October 2013. Sometime after that, the review will be offered to parliament who will likely reject it, unless Cameron can stitch together a deal between now and then.

    As for the commission, they’re generally appointed for the duration of the review process. There isn’t really a permanent membership. The reason they don’t equalise them the rest of the time is that such constant change gets confusing for constituents. Currently they’re due to review them every five years, before this review, it happened every 8-12 years and they had a bit more leeway to work with: there was no requirement that they had to be within 5% of the average and usually 10-12% was sufficient. It’s likely that a Labour government would return to that system though maybe with the change that constituencies would be based on population (as they are for the Dail) rather than registered electorate.

  • Comrade Stalin

    On the contrary, I believe the Tories anti-PR crowd was done in the full fear of losing seats to UKIP

    In fairness the Tories have always been anti-PR (the clue is in the name – “Conservative”) – perhaps because FPTP favours them more than anyone else.

    But the stupid excuses people give for opposing PR are a separate matter.

    Completely vested interests … now they’re begging UKIP for a coalition because some of the Lib Dems are turning red not blue.

    There is no serious prospect of UKIP winning any seats under FPTP, as such the notion that there is a prospect of a coalition is quite ridiculous. It’s rather more likely that the Tories will win the next election with a slim but workable majority.

  • The general consensus, particularly so among centre-rightists, is that “equal-constituencies” are plainly and simply a “good thing”. Even if they inevitably require some wholly outrageous and gerrymandered revised boundaries. The obverse of which is Clegg is a dirty renegade, which inversion — and he — is a “bad thing”.

    Yet, is it quite that binary, that Manichean?

    Last year, Emily Thornberry was noting:

    In my constituency the problems are stark. Nearly 80,000 adults live in Islington South and Finsbury – but when the new boundaries were drawn up fewer than 67,000 “counted”. Because the 8,000 Europeans who live in Islington can’t vote in general elections, they were ignored. Many who come from outside the Commonwealth or aren’t on the electoral register weren’t counted either. The government shouldn’t pretend these people don’t need an MP, and they deserve to be counted as my constituents.

    Add to that the high “churn” experienced by inner-city constituencies (especially so in London and university towns), which can amount to a turn-over of 20, even 25% of the electorate each year.

    Those who were close to the ground knew full well that the 2001 Census was particularly inadequate. Even the final official report conceded:

    … for a relatively small number of areas, particularly some inner city ones, there is now evidence that the methods used were not equal to the challenges they faced. Substantial follow-up work has been required in these areas to produce revised, generally higher, estimates of the local population.

    Not many urban local authorities went along with that “relatively small”, especially so when their “needs allowances” were sliced accordingly, and political boundaries re-aligned to fit. We’ll watch and wait for 2011 to be similarly eviscerated.

    We have then two levels of unfairness at “official” level. Let’s have a third: that tired statistic (here from an LSE document):

    In 2010 it took:
    33,470 votes to elect a Labour MP
    35,030 votes to elect a Conservative MP
    119,780 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP.

    That is rehearsed regularly by Tory polemicists — not, alas, to validate proper PR, as it does — but to ground this fallacious “equal constituencies” thing. As if, ever, the same number of Labour votes on Merseyside or Humberside would deliver each MP as the Tory herds do in stockbroker Surrey or the fox-chasing shires.

    Personalising and localising the argument, as this headline piece does, does no justice to a serious matter.

    Now here’s a curious thing: i’d diffidently suggest the 2010 general Election in NI produced a picture remarkably akin to the ethnography of the province: 8+(5+3)+1+1. Muck with that at your peril.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Comrade Stalin (profile) 7 August 2012 at 10:33 pm

    In fairness the Tories have always been anti-PR (the clue is in the name – “Conservative”) – perhaps because FPTP favours them more than anyone else.

    But the stupid excuses people give for opposing PR are a separate matter.

    Hardly look at the European Election not only UKIP but the bloody BNP would’ve earned seats from the Tories.

    Completely vested interests … now they’re begging UKIP for a coalition because some of the Lib Dems are turning red not blue.

    There is no serious prospect of UKIP winning any seats under FPTP, as such the notion that there is a prospect of a coalition is quite ridiculous. It’s rather more likely that the Tories will win the next election with a slim but workable majority.

    I believe there is … many would’ve said the same thing about Alliance or the Green Party. All it takes is for a candidate to build a constituency profile, particularly in many of the right-wing strongholds with low turnouts. If I were UKIP I’d target them.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Now here’s a curious thing: i’d diffidently suggest the 2010 general Election in NI produced a picture remarkably akin to the ethnography of the province: 8+(5+3)+1+1. Muck with that at your peril.

    It so often didn’t though. It certainly doesn’t represent the partizan breakdown of the parties … clearly the DUP and Independents are over represented and the UUP is under-represented.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hardly look at the European Election not only UKIP but the bloody BNP would’ve earned seats from the Tories.

    Setting aside the interests of the Tories for the moment, it’s worth adding that if you look at what happens when the fruitcake parties get elected in Europe or indeed the UK, they seldom tend to last beyond one term. For example the BNP took control of Barking and Dagenham council a few years back, and then in the next election lost every single one of their seats. Turns out that shouting racist or extremist crap down a megaphone doesn’t lead to better government.


    I believe there is … many would’ve said the same thing about Alliance or the Green Party. All it takes is for a candidate to build a constituency profile, particularly in many of the right-wing strongholds with low turnouts. If I were UKIP I’d target them..

    I don’t think Alliance and the Green Party are really in the same bracket as the BNP or UKIP. A more appropriate might be the UKUP or NIUP, uncompromising extremists who were comprehensively rejected by the electorate. Jim Allister’s victory in North Antrim is the only thing keeping the TUV in existence.

    It’s never right to debate the merits of electoral systems based on who they might favour the most. It should be a debate about accurately reflecting the political needs and desires of the country. On that score FPTP is about the worst you can do. It actively distorts the country’s political map – and this distortion is held up by its proponents as a virtue.

  • Comrade Stalin

    While the UUP’s current plight is something that I take tremendous satisfaction from – the country will be better off without them – the fact that they have no seats in Westminster is an injustice; they are among the biggest victims of the FPTP swindle. The party obtained two-thirds of the vote of the DUP, yet the DUP has 8 seats and they have none. That isn’t right.

    Still, there’s a certain kind of poetic justice in that they ran in that election allied to the Conservatives who completely oppose changing the FPTP system.

  • Comrade Stalin (@ 2:56 pm:

    So we should be lobbying for (say) four or five NI Westminster constituencies, elected on STV? In effect, the system which gives us that magnificent example of democracy inaction in action, the NI Assembly.

    Wasn’t STV prescribed in the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919, and in the 1920 Act establishing the NI parliament? Remind this senile antique: which party felt that a 66% vote, delivering 77% of the seats was unfair, decided that STV was “unBritish”, so abolished it, and insisted on FPTP? As is often said, be careful what you wish for — you may get it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So we should be lobbying for (say) four or five NI Westminster constituencies, elected on STV?

    We’re talking about the merits of PR/STV versus FPTP as applied to the UK as a whole. The faults seen in NI apply elsewhere.

    In effect, the system which gives us that magnificent example of democracy inaction in action, the NI Assembly.

    I think you’re smarter than to believe that the failure of the NI assembly is anything to do with the fact that STV is used.

    Wasn’t STV prescribed in the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919, and in the 1920 Act establishing the NI parliament? Remind this senile antique: which party felt that a 66% vote, delivering 77% of the seats was unfair, decided that STV was “unBritish”, so abolished it, and insisted on FPTP? As is often said, be careful what you wish for — you may get it.

    I think it’s self evident that I am not trying to defend the UUP. As I said it’s really a kind of bitter poetic justice that the system that they favour is ensuring their supporters are disenfranchised at Westminster.