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Crossing the Boundaries

The government has announced its intention to press on with proposals to overhaul the current configuration of parliamentary constituencies across the UK. Under the recommendations constituency boundaries would be altered in order to even out the number of registered electors in each group. Government spokespeople cite the aim of the adjustments as trying to make “votes fairer across the country”.

If implemented, the new rules would mean that there would be 600 constituencies in the UK, 50 less than the current number. The number of MPs the East Midlands sends to the Commons would be cut to forty-four; a reduction of two. The new blueprint would be achieved by segmenting some constituencies whilst amalgamating others, the latter of which could leave some MPs up against each other for the same seat. If the changes go through, MPs from every corner of the political spectrum would be at risk with some of the highest profile potential casualties including business secretary Vince Cable, Chancellor George Osborne and former education secretary Ed Balls, of the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour parties respectively.

Under the current system some votes carry more weight than others, depending on where the voter lives. For example, one of the smallest constituencies, Na h-Eileanan an Iar in Scotland (Population: 21,780) and, one of the largest constituencies, Ilford South in London (Population: 87, 765) each send one MP to the commons, effectively giving each voter in the former the same amount of leverage as four people in the latter. Leader of the opposition, Ed Milliband, has condemned the proposed changes which could prove highly detrimental to his party in the next elections, accusing the government of gerrymandering; attempting to manipulate geographical boundaries in order to gain a political advantage. The proposals are also set to cause turmoil within the coalition as Deputy Prime minister Nick Clegg has reportedly instructed the Liberal Democrats to vote against the changes. The boundary commission for England, an independent and impartial public body, will make its final recommendation by 1st October 2013, after which there will be a parliamentary vote on the issue.

Ramsha Jamal

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