16 September 2011
Ask your average man or woman in the street, and many will struggle to tell you the difference between their local councillor and their local MP.
Add in another layer of political bureaucracy of the Greater London Assembly, explain that there are borough boundaries, wards within those boundaries, GLA members who cover more than one borough, and MPs whose parliamentary constituencies can also, although not necessarily, cross over different borough borders, and the eyes really start to glaze over.
In the face of this, the proposed changes from the Boundary Commission for England this week look to add yet more confusion to the mix, making it ever harder for the public at large to work out who it is who represents them, and to whom they should go in times of difficulties.
Of course the Boundary Commission will argue that the changes are a necessary evil, with MPs inheriting disproportionate numbers of constituents around the country. The changes would mean five London seats were lost, and in Southwark the changes would affect all three of our MPs.
Both Simon Hughes in the north and Harriet Harman in the centre of the borough would have ‘minor’ changes, as the number of constituents in each case is within five per cent of the parameters.
However, in Mr. Hughes’ case, he would extend out into Waterloo - and suddenly find himself hurriedly swatting up on Lambeth Council practices. Ms Harman, meanwhile, would have to learn all about Walworth, while somewhat bizarrely, her Camberwell and Peckham constituency would no longer contain Peckham Rye. Clear as mud, isn’t it?
And those are the minor changes. Down in the south, Dulwich &?West Norwood MP Tessa Jowell would have to square off against fellow Labour MPs for a redrawn constituency, which would be split three ways under the proposals.
Unsurprisingly, all three MPs have raised eyebrows over the proposals - with both Labour MPs suggesting that the changes amount to little more than a waste of money and a politically-led attempt by the coalition government to gain more seats.
Politics aside, and we do feel for our longstanding MPs, who may suddenly find their wards redrawn or even disappearing under their very feet, the most important aspect to consider is the electorate themselves.
If you do indeed know your local MP and a strong bond has been forged between them and your local community, it makes you wonder just how sensible it is to rip all this up in the name of progress.
Trust in politicians doesn’t grow overnight, and similarly it takes time to build links between communities - how much better will these parts of society be served, should our MPs constituencies have to be reshaped?
Agree or disagree?
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