Saturday, 17 September 2016

One rule to divide them

The more detail pinned down in any rule, the more likely it is to make the rule difficult to apply in a balanced way.  The less flexibility which is built into a process, the less discretion there is available to make it work.  It can actually be the degree to which one strives to write in fairness which is what produces anomalous results.

So the Boundary Commission has been given a task to produce Parliamentary Constituencies as close as possible to equality in numbers of registered electors and has been given very specific parameters within which to deliver this.  And the predictable result is that many people will be less obviously ‘represented’ as a result.

The particular public focus has been on Cornwall.  If the number of registered electors in the county had been a few hundred fewer, the county could have been divided into Cornish constituencies of approximately equal size.  But, because the total population is a fraction too big to make this work, a whole set of Cornish constituents will be represented by an MP the majority of whose electors live in Devon.

The particular focus ought to be on Grimsby, represented in parliament as a Borough since the thirteenth century.  It historic heart is too small to justify a parliamentary seat on its own (it has 84% of the registered electors needed) and, given it is tucked away in a corner of a region, the only way to make the maths work is to divide it in two and add each of these halves to a neighbouring constituency. 

Half the electors in the area of the historic Borough will in future be represented by an MP the majority of whose electors live in Cleethorpes and its fringe of suburban villages.  The other half (including this parish) will be represented by an MP the majority of whose electors live across a swathe of rural northern Lincolnshire, some up to twenty miles away.

The ‘inner city’ East and West Marshes of Grimsby including the town centre and along with this parish to its west have been represented in parliament since before I was born in turn by Tony Crosland, Austin Mitchell and Melanie Onn, three striking and independent Labour personalities.  We will provide 38% of the elctors in a new constituency and our next MP will soon be someone chosen for us mainly by the residents of the market towns of Brigg and Barton and of the ‘Brocklesby Hunt’ area in between them.

And don't get me started on what 'equality of representation' means when it is registered electors rather than population which is used as the basis of the calculation in a country in which the rate of registration correlates with levels of deprivation; it is quite a feat even for a Tory Government to have invented a totally new category of the 'undeserving poor'.

The stained glass window of the discovery of the empty tomb isn’t a recent photograph; I think I took it because I liked the satchel on Mary Magdalene’s back, an entirely practical choice of bag in which to bring the ointments needed to anoint a dead body.

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