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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The Electoral Quotient - a big issue with a boring name

The faux outrage of Labour, Welsh or Scots MPs at the publication of the Boundary Commission's final report is theatrical, at least in part. Conformity of constituency boundaries with a uniform number of voters in each - the EQ, or Electoral Quotient - has long been outside developed nation standards. An EQ of +/-5% is just about acceptable, but advanced democracies such as New Zealand achieve +/-3%. For years we have been way outside even the farthest limits, with the vote of an elector in one constituency being worth the votes of two voters in another. Any complaint at correcting this anomaly is an anti-democratic whinge. The threat to democracy is not from having a fair and robust democratic system but in gerrymandering voters equality to pander to the self interest of MPs who don't want to lose their jobs. 

Let's be clear. MPs are expendable; lose one, and there's a thousand more individuals neither less nor more capable ready to take their place. As individuals they are unremarkable and replaceable. It is the form and function of the parliament, the way the Commons works that is important. As Churchill noted, the confrontational layout of the chamber is vital, two sword lengths apart, as is the small size. Churchill opined that a chamber that never had seats sufficient to sit all members at once was an advantage -
... a conversational style of speaking, which has long been held to be the model of English Parliamentary life. How much better this is than foreign assemblies, where they all sit in a semi‐circle, and everyone has a place, or even a desk, which he can bang when he is displeased, and where every speaker goes up to harangue an audience scattered through a large arena. The essential of keen debate is the sense of a crowd, clustering together, craning forward, gathering round the speaker, with the cheers flung back from side to side.
The total number of MPs is also fairly critical. Proposals to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600 featured in both the 2015 and 2017 Conservative manifestos. The essential elements of the Parliament would be preserved, and representation would not be diminished beyond comparative standards of democracy in the advanced nations.

Two matters however must be addressed. One is the social worker role that has fallen to MPs, who now spend much time intervening in social welfare and immigration disputes between their constituents and the State. This is not a beneficial or useful use of their time and attention, which should be devoted to the business of the legislature. Secondly is the sheer number of government posts, including the scores of junior appointments that bind an ever increasing number of MPs to the government, hobbling the scrutinising function of the House.  

Correcting the EQ is the last of the measures taken by Conservative governments since 2010 to correct the drift of our democratic systems under Labour into crookedness and democratic corruption. We will all be better off for it.


Poisonedchalice said...

And about time. I thought this long-overdue correction was going the way of other election promises.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps each MP should have some permanent staff employed as civil servants? That doesn't mean each one having their own Sir Humphrey but rather junior level staff that would allow the MP to provide a continous service to the constituency should the MP be replaced. This is particularly important when dealing with 'social services' work.

Edward Spalton said...

IMHO the " social worker" role grew out of the provision of paid staff for MPs. " work expands to fill time available". This, together with the introduction of things like second home allowances, began in the early Seventies just at the time we were entering the EEC. It is my belief that MPs saw how well their continental counterparts did themselves, thought " We'll have a bit f that" . MPs salaries were decided not by the House itself, as previously, but by something called the Top Salaries Review Body. However, it was a time of high nflation and prices and incomes policy, so MPs had to show a good example and take far less. They were given a nod and a wink to make up the difference by fiddling their expenses.

With regard to the " equal vote" - even Bismarck ( no great believer in democracy) insisted on this. He was also the chap who said " If you like laws and sausages, don't go to see them being made"

Budgie said...

With a few exceptions MPs are just here for the beer. Most of them seem to be thick as two short planks and display both arrogance and low-level corruption.

MPs gave us the choice of being an independent nation, or remaining as the main offshore province of the fourth resurrected Roman empire. Then they've taken that choice back off us.

Theresa May's plan to re-join the EU via bi-lateral treaties and agreements means our own government is entirely superfluous. Westminster and all its MPs, and hangers on, should be closed down. Bitter - moi?

Another Anon said...

re: MPs as Social Workers

I pay enough to Local Government for them to have sufficient social workers to fill the real needs of people who cannot manage for themselves. I pay my MP to consider whether legislation (proposed or existing) actually meets the needs of his/her constituents, and to hold the government of the day to account on my behalf.

I don't get good value for money on any measure. Mostly they abdicate legislation in favour of that required by the EU, or that proposed by self perpetuating agencies that are only nominally accountable to Parliament. And as for the social work aspect, all my MP does is forward my letter to the minister concerned, and then send the minister's (or rather his civil servant's) reply back to me.

In a different country, have a listen to a legislator owning up to how his chamber doesn't do what it is supposed to do. US Supreme Court confirmation hearing extract:


right-writes said...

I reckon that an individual candidate should only be allowed to have two bites at the cherry... I hesitate to use the word "serve" in this context, unless it is preceded by the word "self"...

And bearing in mind the current arrangement, I feel that the introduction of stabbing instruments for a temporary, trial period might be useful.

jack ketch said...

Ahh yes 'electoral reform'...remind me again when they first started on that one...1832 and the Rotten Boroughs, wasn't it?

Rome wasn't sacked in a day.

David Bishop said...

Another Anon

Thank you for that link to Sen Ben Sasse's video. "Refreshing" - as only a gale can be.

A stunning speech - Nebraska must be proud. Would that the UK parliament had one MP even remotely as principled and eloquent.

David Bishop

Anonymous said...

And the House of Lords reduced to an elected Senate about half the size of the Commons, and acting as a Chamber of The Nations.

James Higham said...

We shall see.

jack ketch said...

"Bitter - moi?"-Budgie

Probably justifiably so. The runes have been cast and the bones thrown and it looks increasingly like the ERG have backed down. No doubt May's Project Fear 'Chequers or No Deal' worked more than that disgusting Ian Bone ever has. The best the ERG seem to be hoping for now is to prevent their amendments being removed from the white paper IF the Lords do send it back to the Commons (by a bit of legal legerdemain) . Seems the ERG have no desire to force a leadership election nor risk a 2nd referendum or GE.