• All Change for Central Devon?

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    07 October 2016

    The Boundary Commission has recently set out its initial proposals for the changes to our parliamentary constituencies. Boundary changes were included within the Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto and will deliver on the legislation that was originally passed under the coalition government. The rationale for change is clear – the current constituency boundaries are 20 years out of date with some seats including significantly more electors than others. The Isle of Wight for example has around 4 times as many electors as the constituency with the lowest number and whilst this is the most extreme example there are many seats that have 25% less electors than others. The legislation made provision for the new boundaries to ensure that constituencies have a number of electors equal to a quota figure plus or minus 5%. In some cases this has led to proposed seats that cross county boundaries and Devon and Cornwall are to have one such example. The other key change is the cutting of the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 – the aim being to cut the cost of politics. This will clearly, on average have the effect of increasing the physical size of constituencies. For MPs representing highly rural seats such as Central Devon this will mean an even more vast area to look after. Currently the Central Devon seat comprises around 550 sq miles of scattered towns and villages. It takes an hour and a quarter with clear traffic to drive between its furthest points and includes 125 towns and parishes. Under the initial proposals Central Devon will lose a little to its East (including very sadly Chudleigh and Exminster) but gain a very large amount on its Western flank including Torrington and a major area to the South West of Okehampton. This will make the seat even more of a challenge. Overall at the national level these changes favour the Conservatives with Labour and the Lib Dems over-represented on the current boundaries relative to the governing party as people through time drift out of inner cities and into the countryside leaving over-represented Labour seats in urban areas and under-represented Conservative seats (with larger electorates) in the shires. Labour under the current proposals are projected to lose around 20 seats relative to the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to half their MPs from 8 to 4. Some have argued that the position the parties are taking – broadly Conservatives in favour with Labour and the Lib Dems against is reflective of this political calculus and to some degree no doubt it is. But wherever you stand politically it is surely hard to maintain that we should retain a set of boundaries that are 20 years out of date, provide a huge advantage to one or more parties within the first past the post system whilst undervaluing some electors relative to others. So I say bring it on. Let’s have fairer boundaries and if it means extra miles to cover - so be it.