Jeremy Corbyn 'trying to rig election' by blocking reform to system that leaves 27 million voters under-represented
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “gerrymandering” by blocking reforms to an electoral system that is biased in favour of Labour and has become “an affront to democracy”.
New analysis shows that 27 million voters are being under-represented by their MPs because they live in constituencies where the MP has a higher than average number of constituents, making it harder for each voter to get their voice heard.
Constituency boundaries are more out of date than at any time since the Second World War, but Labour is opposing changes that would equalise constituencies in a slimmed-down Parliament of 600 MPs, 50 fewer than at present.
The majority of the larger constituencies are in Conservative voting areas, which has led to claims that the system is biased against the Tories.
Chris Skidmore, the Minister for the Constitution, has accused Jeremy Corbyn of “political opportunism” in trying to block reforms, saying that any future general election result would be “tainted” without the necessary changes being made.
The Conservatives would secure a majority government under the proposals Forecast number of seats per party under proposed constituency boundaries (excludes Northern Ireland)
Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Skidmore says that with mainland constituencies varying from 41,000 to 93,000 electors, some MPs are effectively “twice the value” of others.
As Parliament prepares to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018, Mr Skidmore says it is time to ensure “fair and equal representation” for all voters for the first time since the Chartists first proposed it in the 1830s.
In September the independent Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will bring forward their proposals to Parliament to update constituency boundaries for the next general election.
The changes would equalise a system which currently means that the average Tory MP has 74,500 constituents compared to average Labour MP who has 70,500 voters.
After the changes the average electorate for a Tory seat in a 600-seat Parliament would be 74,600 and for a Labour seat 74,900.
The current boundaries system sees large disparities in regional representation...
Telegraphanalysis found that the average electorate in a constituency in the UK is 72,055, based on the electorate in the 650 seats at June's General Election.
Some 347 constituencies have an electorate larger than this, affecting 27.1 million people.
Mr Skidmore said the analysis showed why the boundary reforms were needed.
He said: “This new research revealed by the Daily Telegraph reinforces the need for up to date and equal boundaries.
“It is an affront to democracy that 27 million people are under-represented, and it is disappointing that the Labour Party are trying to disenfranchise them yet further.
“Without a boundary review, the constituencies at the next election would be based on electorate data from 2000, making these the most out-of-date boundaries since the modern system was established by Herbert Morrison during the Second World War.”
Labour is expected to oppose the changes next year when they are put to a vote. Mr Corbyn’s own Islington North constituency is among those that would be abolished by the proposed reforms, meaning he would have to fight for another seat at the next election.
Experts said reform was long overdue. Anthony Wells, YouGov’s director of Political and Social Research who runs the UK Polling Report website, said the changes would mean “the system is no longer skewed towards the Labour party”.
... while proposed constituency boundaries reduce regional disparities
Lord Hayward, who advised the Conservatives on the changes, said: “It makes sense that we work to equal sized constituencies across the UK.
“This was a proposal put forward originally by the Chartists almost two centuries ago. Surely it’s time has come.”
Sam Hartley, the secretary for the Boundary Commission for England, added the changes would “make a more equal distribution of voters across the country”.
Afzal Khan, the Labour MP, has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to Parliament proposing that the boundaries are changed without reducing the number of MPs.
He said he hoped his Bill will “resolve the current impasse on Parliamentary constituencies boundaries.
Cutting MPs’ numbers was wrong given that Brexit “will lead to significant powers returning to Parliament and an increased workload for constituency MPs”, he said.
Mr Khan added: “This is a debate about our democracy. The Government is trying reduce the number of MPs at a time when our workload is increasing with Brexit.”
The Government has estimated that the reduction in the number of MPs will save approximately £13.1 million each year.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “Everyone agrees that a boundary review is needed, and Labour stands ready to work with other parties to ensure it goes ahead in a way that benefits our democracy and not just the Conservative Party.
“Labour supports a review which will benefit our democracy and representation of all communities, based on the most up to date register, but the Tories only seem interested in their own political advantage.”