The Tories are ‘gerrymandering’ democracy to turn England blue

Boris Johnson
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A website has plotted the proposed boundary changes to Great Britain’s parliamentary constituencies on a map. Based on the 2019 election results, it would increase its majority and lock Labour out of power. Some people are calling it Tory “gerrymandering”. So, will we need a “progressive alliance” of opposition parties to stop the Tories?

Pushing the boundaries

As The Canary previously reported, parliamentary constituencies are changing. The UK has a boundary commission in each of the four nations. In June, England’s commission published its plan. According to the Guardian, the proposals would mark the biggest change to parliamentary boundaries “in decades”. The number of constituencies in England would increase from 533 to 543. Since then, Wales’ and Scotland’s commissions have released their plans.

The process began in January. The commissions must complete it by 1 July 2023 when the recommendations will be “implemented automatically”. As it stands, the current plans will mean the following shifts in constituency seat numbers:

  • England 543 (+10).
  • Scotland 57 (-2).
  • Wales 32 (-8).
  • Northern Ireland 18 (no change).
Broad changes

For England, this would see the South East gain seven seats, the South West three, the East three, and London two. The East Midlands would lose a seat, and the North West, North East, and West Midlands would lose two each.

On Wednesday 20 October, PA reported that the North of Ireland boundary commission released its proposals. The number of constituencies is staying the same. But there are other changes, like the transfer of areas from County Down into the current South Belfast and Strangford constituencies to create South Belfast and Mid Down and Strangford and Quoile. Fermanagh South Tyrone, Mid Ulster and Lagan Valley are also set for changes. But all 18 constituencies are to be altered to reflect population changes.

So, what does that physically look like? Thanks to the website Election Maps UK, we now know.

England: getting bluer?

It tweeted just what the political landscape of Great Britain (without the north of Ireland) would look like based on the 2019 general election result:

Read on...

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You can view the interactive map here. Now, while England and Wales look Tory blue and Scotland SNP yellow, the devil is in the detail. Election Maps UK found that based on the 2019 election result, seat numbers would be as follows:

CON: 373 (+8)
LAB: 197 (-5)
SNP: 48 (=)
LDM: 10 (-1)
PLC: 2 (-2)
GRN: 1 (=)

Speaker: 1 (=)

Conservative majority of 96 (+16)

So, the Tories would increase their majority. This would be nowhere near the size of Tony Blair’s in 1997 (bearing in mind the SNP wasn’t strong in Scotland then). But this is only if the 2019 election was replicated. One Twitter user claimed to have crunched the numbers based on recent polling. And they found that the Tories’ majority would actually be 99 (+18):

Some people were saying that a boundary review is actually overdue. The last one was implemented in 2010 and the UK population has changed since then. So, is this gerrymandering by the Tories? Well, it’s not that straightforward.

The boundary commission: a complex issue

As Ballot Box Scotland wrote, one issue is that under our First Past the Post voting system, the commissions’ reviews were always going to be “garbage”. The new rules require each constituency to have a total electorate that’s within 5% of 73,393 people. That is, every seat in the UK has to have roughly the same number of voters in it.

Ballot Box Scotland noted that in Scotland the current boundaries are based on data from 1999. So, they are completely out of date. Moreover, as it wrote:

there is absolutely nothing sinister or unfair about this… The simple reality is that within the UK the population of England, especially in the South, is growing much faster than the other nations. That naturally leads to areas with slower population growth ending up with slightly fewer seats than before, whilst areas with high growth have slightly more.

On this basis, a boundary review would seem logical. And on the face of it, it may seem the Tories aren’t gerrymandering the process. But it’s when you factor in other changes that the reality becomes clear.

Subverting democracy?

As The Canary previously reported:

Labour MPs have expressed frustration that the… [boundary commissions have] set flexibility over new constituency populations to 5%, rather than their preferred 10%. …

The boundary shifts follow proposed changes to elections, which would require a form of photo ID to vote.

Opposition MPs criticised the plans, saying they would decrease turnout among minority communities that are less likely to vote Conservative.

Also, the Tories are changing the voting system for metro mayors to FPTP. Couple with a decline in the poorest people voting, and you have a perfect storm for the Tories potentially subverting democracy even more. But what to do?

A progressive alliance?

As writer Alex Tiffin tweeted, a progressive alliance of opposition parties who would enact a proportional representation (PR) voting system could be an answer:

Keir Starmer has flip-flopped over this issue in recent months: going from saying he might consider a political alliance in July, to saying Labour wouldn’t form a coalition with the SNP in August, and then refusing to back PR at the party conference in September. But is a progressive alliance all it’s cracked up to be?

As Dr Kevin Hickson and Dr Jasper Miles outlined, it might actually not be in the public’s best interests. Among their reasons against it, they noted that the SNP and Plaid Cymru:

would challenge Labour’s Unionism – also a problem for the Liberal Democrats. Labour believes in economic expansion and redistributing the proceeds of growth.

The Greens believe in restricting economic growth in favour of the environment. The Lib Dems continue to support European integration and obsess over proportional representation, two policies which are unlikely to go down well with a sceptical electorate, especially in the Red Wall seats Labour needs to win back.

Also, many voters will recall the Lib Dems’ role and support in the Coalition Government for austerity, hardly a benchmark for a ‘progressive’ party.

In addition, policymaking in the Labour movement is difficult enough: adding minor parties into the mix will make things even more complex, attempting to satisfy the Parliamentary Labour Party, and broader Labour movement, and the factions in different parties.

No way out?

So, it seems for the moment the Tories’ changes to democracy could well cement their political power – which for the rest of us could be very bad news.

You can find out how to submit your views to the boundary commissions’ consultation processes here.

Featured image via Wikimedia and Election Maps UK – screengrab and additional reporting by PA

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  • Show Comments
    1. The Danger is that The PEOPLE have no concrete, long term plan! The overnight plan was blown by the Worst TORIES of Thatcher’s Torydom, The Neo-New-Labour Party Parasite TORIES, in 2017 and 2019.
      Boris’s Blue is the same colour Blue as Keef’s colour Blue! There is only ONE flavour of Reagan/Thatcher’s Neoliberalism no matter what sweet words/names you throw at it!
      There are 3 options:
      1. Vote for Blue Keef and his Starmersstruppen and get the same Colour Blue for another Unnecessary Extension of The 43 Years of Thatcher’s Neoliberal TORY HELL! Sure, MSM Paints them Red, but the cracks shine TORY Blue! The map might be filled with Red instead of Blue but that doesn’t stop the assault on The PEOPLE! It doesn’t put Corbyn and the other back in their Party! It doesn’t change the fact that the ONLY racism The Neo-New-Labour Party TORIES are interested in dealing with is the White European Zionist’s politically motivated lies and smear, while Black, Muslim, other Minorities including “Fringe” and Black Jews are kicked under the never, never Rug! Now Of Course the severity of White Zionists’ racism experienced must be mentioned as it was so severe that it prevented the Woman MP who suffered Extreme Abuse more than all the Commons Woman MPs combined! There was ONE CPS Conviction, the severity of Racism against White Zionists that prevented all other investigations including Antisemitism against the Non Zionist “Fringe” and Black Jews, was ONE OUT OF 550K MEMBERS, WHICH IS A TOTAL OF 0.00017%! “It is totally understandable and rational that MPs and Members of all other Races and Cultures are moved to one side for 5 years so that the White European Zionists can get Justice for ONE CPS Prosecution ou of 550K 0.00017% of UK Labour Party Membership! And much, much more, from Blue Keef and his Starmersstruppen and all that will not vanish it WILL GET MUCH WORSE! How People can call Blue Keef and his Starmersstruppen “Labour” is an Absolutely Despicable Joke, a far worse joke than BoJoke won GE2019!
      2. Vote for your choice of one of the MANY NEW Flavours of “Labour” and you are guaranteed BoJoke or Blue Keef, there is NO DIFFERENCE!
      3. Vote Tactically and wipe Blue Keef and his Starmersstruppen out of our Party and their seats, to END ONCE AND FOR ALL the Bulk of the Backstabbing, Undermining, Smearing, Lying, Conniving and Sabotaging, by voting for the Strongest Candidate against each and every Neo-New-Labour Party TORY MP or potential Candidate.
      Wherever a UK Labour Party MP or potential Candidate VOTE FOR THEM!
      BUT The Neo-New-Labour Party TORIES vote them out!
      Who knows, without the negative energy the Members Back, possibly Jeremy Corbyn, Laura S and Laura P back even with a small Party but HUGE Membership, CLP, Union Support we could take the following GE.
      This is how I see the situation feel free to say your ‘plan’ for a better future for The PEOPLE, not the Elites/Establishment and their Neoliberal TORY Puppets Blue or Blue, badly covered in red! No Difference.

    2. This old chestnut again….Yawn….
      Britain is a monarchy with a feudal system for land management..
      Her Majesties’ Parliament.. (Major clue).
      If you really think your vote actually matters you are mistaken, at best it is but an opinion poll and nothing more……
      Kakistocracy continues

      1. The one blackhole that URGENTLY needs to get plugged is the 22:00 vanishing act of 650+ Ballot Boxes, all of our votes. There are several more tricks up HRH’s sleeve.
        One TORY Dominated Company that supplies EVERYTHING General Election related. Which is also owned by CIVICA, the online/postal votes People, who work closely with The Electorate Commission!
        As with all the Commissions, Orgs, Watchdogs, etc in the UK, they are all singular and in controll of Neoliberal Puppets for their Masters. Who are watching the Watchdogs!?
        The PEOPLE are still by far the many you just need to look at any Household income graph to confirm that.
        However The PEOPLE are making the Elites/Establishment wear their Crowns as Masters of The PEOPLE, by accepting every divide imposed, every Manufactured Consent from the Elites/Establishment owned MSM and Polls.
        The PEOPLE need to drop their Shit and start working together, workshops, meetings, planning how we can secure Fair Play, Equality, Justice and Freedom from those few that keep us their serfs.
        No need for violence or bloodshed, it can be done by a NEED over WANT Revolution, Boycotts of not just a single contraband item, but the entire Supermarket Chain, Stay at Home General Strike organising food, medical, fire service etc within our communities. That all means we have to get out again and mix with conditioned/manufactured “enemies”, “the Torch People”! That means we have to do some work outside of our already exhausting work schedules. It is not impossible, it is difficult and few people possess the magic ability to inspire. So we have to keep thinking and talking accross the divides, until we find the way. I reckon it will all be about simplicity.

    3. I am NOT going to break another generation of young activists hearts by telling them that Herr Starmertrooper will support PR if we all get behind him. FFS.

      There is NOTHING progressive about New Labour except more divisive identity politics, and undoubtedly more wars to ‘prove that they are loyal’ (To WHOM, exactly?)

      Yes, we need PR to have more than two choices. Will we be given it? No. The only place we’ll get PR is on the streets. Parliament will do everything it can to stop this, and even if forced, will once again ‘offer us’ a choice of the crappiest form of PR or continue with FPTP.

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