I voted to reduce the number of MPs by 50 when it last came up, and am willing to do so again when the boundary review is complete. I read that some Lib Dems are no longer happy about this Coalition policy.
I voted for it because I think public spending has to be reduced and it seemed like a good idea to start with a cut in Parliament, to show we can do more for less. We need to raise public sector produtivity across the board, so Parliament should show how.
The press comment these days makes out that the main purpose of the change is to help the Conservatives win the next election. This turns the argument into a grubby dispute between Lib/lab on the one hand, who resist boundary changes for ignoble motives because it makes their electoral task more difficult, and the Conservatives, who reckon it makes their task easier. On the merits of the case there is justice in moving to more equally sized constituencies, which does favour the Conservatives. On current boundaries it takes more Conservative votes than Labour votes to get an MP elected. All this gets lost when the public just think it is political parties “in it for themselves” squabbling over the issue.
It is wrong for Conservatives to argue the main reason for the change is the electoral impact. The main reason must be to get a better value Parliament as part of general public sector reform. It is also quite wrong for Conservatives to think the boundary changes will win them the election. The government needs to concentrate on solving the nation’s problems. To win the next election well the Conservatives need many more votes than last time, whatever the boundaries.
The best way to win the election is for Conservative policies to be applied to turn the economy round. The public are primarily worried about the cost of living, jobs and living standards. If the government shows good progress in improving the economy, and can say in 2015 they are well on the way to restoring good growth and prosperity, the Conservatives may well attract the extra votes they need. If the main problems of the nation are not being solved, no amount of boundary change will create a majority Conservative party in the Commons. The Prime Minister will also need to set out in that election how he intends to create a new relationship with the EU that frees us from the tentacles that bind us against our will and interests.