Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Dog's breakfast boundary review
We had a meeting on Monday of a Gateshead Council advisory group to consider the review of Parliamentary constituencies. Under the electoral quota, Gateshead is entitled to 1.89 constituencies. We currently have 2 that are fully within Gateshead (Blaydon and Gateshead) and a couple of wards in Jarrow. Under the new proposals, we will not have a single constituency fully in Gateshead. Instead, we will have bits of 6. It is clearly a mess though clearing it up does not look easy.
What struck me was the expectation held by Labour that others, particularly the Conservatives, will pull the irons out of the fire for Labour. A belief that Conservative MPs will force the proposals to be abandoned was expressed by some Labour councillors. Others talked about public opinion needing to be won over to get the plans thrown out. One said she had already talked to "people" in her ward who expressed concern that the proposed constituency was so vast, it would take ages to get to "constituency meetings". And there lies a typical problem of the current Labour party: they talk to themselves, not the people outside the Labour party.
I warned the meeting that this was an issue that was barely on the radar screens of ordinary residents. Generating a public campaign of opposition to the boundaries was very unlikely to happen. I also pointed out that the system of single-member, first-past-the-post constituencies, supported by Labour, is always going to be a mess in terms of boundaries. To be fair to Labour, one of their members did say that winning over public opinion was going to be very difficult as people generally are favourable to reducing the number of politicians.
My own constituency of Blaydon is completely broken up. The biggest chunk, including my own ward, is joined up with a part of western Newcastle. Given the complexity that will need to be overcome when general and local elections are held on the same day, the last job in the world I would want to have is an electoral officer!