Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

September 7, 2010

Gerrymandering isn’t just a character in Seinfeld…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 11:05 pm

Well, this is an old topic for this blog, but I feel I ought to visit it again, as it’s gaining purchase in the mainstream once more. Democracy Specialist, Jack Straw, is at it again vis-a-vis electoral reform, in which the headline informs me – “Labour hints at alliance with Tories to delay voting reform“. It’s nice that Labour can agree with the Tories on something. Prison reform? No. Scrapping ID cards? No. But they can get down with Tory backbenchers who want to delay voting reform. That’s cool.

Up to 60 Tories have said they will oppose the 11 May date for the referendum on the proposed electoral changes, arguing it should not be held at the same time as the Scottish parliamentary elections, or the local elections. Labour has said it will oppose the bill at tomorrow’s second reading, claiming it supports the principle of referendum but not the alleged gerrymandering of constituency boundaries that has been included in the bill.

For future readers, those 60 Tories, if they follow through, are what we can call the Hefferite wing of the party. Or just the screaming arsehole wing (which frankly I thought was a larger portion, but there you go). At least the Guardian had the good graces to call it “alleged” gerrymandering.

And there’s this from Jack Straw:

The shadow justice secretary, Jack Straw, challenged the timing of the plebiscite, claiming the chances of a yes vote would be diminished by the “deep unpopularity” of the government by May.

He condemned the changes to the number and size of parliamentary constituencies as the “worst kind of political skulduggery”. 

I’m glad of that principled stance. They’d support the reform of an electoral system that may erode their seating in Parliament, but are against obviously unfair constituency boundaries. Because they have never benefited from such a thing. Ever. 

By the way, I tripped over some statistics on my way in. 

Did you know…

that in 2005 and 2010, both winning parties secured roughly the same proportion of popular vote, but only in 2005 did this command an overall majority of seats

that 35.2% in 2005 equated to 355 seats for Labour

that 36.1% in 2010 equated to 306 seats for the the Conservative party

that 29.0% in 2010 equated to 258 seats for Labour

that 23.0% in 2010 equated to 57  seats for Lib Dems

So, the Conservatives this year, won almost one percent more than Labour in the popular vote did in 2005, but netted nearly fewer than 50 seats for the effort.

The main reason for this discrepancy is unequal apportionment of constituency sizes, which are historically recognised as antithetical the democratic distribution. 

The main reason for the lack of fortune for the Lib Dems is the uneven electoral system, which favours the fundamental institutional strengths of the two front-running parties in what used to be a two-party system.

Now both of these are manifestly unfair, yet I do not mention them to complain – I mean to point out that Jack Straw and, indeed, any member of the Labour party weighing on this topic, is on especially thing ground when they refer to unfair electoral boundaries.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable


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