A new article I wrote that was published by start-up blog www.politicsonmymind.co.uk  – read it here!

On Monday 12th September, we found out the proposed new MP constituency borders.

Effectively, the Boundary Commission for each part of the United Kingdom has been given the task of eliminating 50 of the current 650 MP constituencies. In Great Britain, no seat should be smaller than 72,810 and no more than 80,473 – 5% either way of 76,641.

Many accusations have been levelled – that it is gerrymandering, that the Boundary Commission is biased, that Liberal Democrats will proportionally suffer far higher than any other group.

These concern me, but I want to write about something else – identity.

In its desperate obsession with numbers, the Boundary Commission has forgotten about identity. Constituencies are being dismembered, losing crucial regions, and whole nationalities are being ignored. This is a far worse consequence.

What would happen if a town was over the prescribed number of constituents? Simple – divide it up, ignore the community, in search of that sweet spot of people – 76 thousand.

The town of Formby could be torn asunder, it’s electorate put into two separate seats – one in Southport and one in Aintree. Where can the possible logic occur in this? What happens when an issue affects the entire town? To which MP will the people turn? What will happen to the feeling of community in Formby?

The new constituency of Mersey Bank will actually cross the Mersey. Bromborough and Eastham in the south and Halton on the north bank of the river will make up the new seat, despite each surely, logically, being more tied to other towns on their own side. As Emily Thornberry pointed out, the new MP will need to divert 12 miles through another constituency to travel between the two banks. Surely whichever side the MP lives on will receive more of his day?

Gloucester will lose its historic cathedral, docks and shopping centre to the Forest of Dean. This totally ignores the rather large and obvious River Severn that bars the two. It pointlessly breaks a town in two, giving us the same problems as Formby. However, this is better than increasing the Forest of Dean constituency’s numbers by breaking across the Welsh border…

Which is exactly what is happening in Cornwall. The Border Commission shows utter disregard for national sensibilities.

A new “Devonwall” constituency will include Bude in North Cornwall and Bideford in West Devon. These two towns on opposite banks of the River Tamar should not be put together. To create the proposed constituency of Bude and Bideford would only attack the fragile national identity of Cornwall. While I am under no illusions as to the prospects of Cornish independence, even autonomy, or simple and logical moves such as promotion of the Cornish language, cannot take place when one of their MPs may live in Devon.

Moreover, it shows that the Tory government in Westminster only cares about the Home Counties – not its devolved regions, not regional differences, and not Europe. London is God, and for no greater reason than nationalism.

Indeed, David Cameron recently quipped “It’s the Tamar, not the Amazon, for Heaven’s sake”.

Amazon it may not be, but it is a very important symbol of Cornish identity, and the frontier of its culture, language and people. To ignore community, linguistic or national identities is regressive, and a step back in localism and self-determination.

How would Cameron feel if some constituencies in Kent (all 17MPs are Conservative), were tied to French départements in Nord-Pas-de-Calais? The same logic follows, but I can only imagine Cameron’s double-standards would show through. Bude and Bideford? What about Dover and Dunkerque?

If this government truly believes in localism, in giving the power to the people, why is it dividing them, threatening fragile national identities and language, ignoring and dismembering tightly-knit communities… just for the sake of numbers?

If the Westminster-set truly believes in localism, in giving power to the people, then it should vote down this bill. Not because of supposed gerrymandering, but because it goes against the basic principles of democracy, community and identity.


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