Downsizing politics – preserving old buffers or promoting ability?

DC hopes to reduce the number of MPs in parliament while promoting equality of size of parliamentary constituencies but the Liberals are threatening to take their bat and ball away.  Labour has enjoyed an inbuilt bias in the electoral system which has given them more MPs than they deserve but I am afraid Conservatives have failed to explain this simple statistical fact adequately to the electorate.  

Quite a few councils are exercising a similar downsizing although for different reasons.  Council wards (in District, London, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils) or Divisions (in County Councils) have always been designed to give as close as possible to population equality and are regularly reviewed and adjusted when populations change.  Some local councils, including Oxfordshire County Council, are reducing the number of councillors elected to their authority to make a budgetary saving.  

This can be a bloodthirsty and aggravative process, both at the national and local government level, setting members of the same Party group against one another as they fight to retain their seat and their parliamentary or council income.

My advice to local interested electors is to watch this process carefully.  Ask yourselves if your area was adequately represented in the process?  Did you have a chance to feed in on the past performance of a sitting member and to check out the credentials of challengers?  If there were questions about candidates and their past record, were they challenged and given the opportunity to respond and explain?  Given that we need to increase representation by younger people, women and ethnic minorities has this been achieved in the selection process?  Given that people with the relevant talent and time are frequently in short supply, has the system given a genuine opportunity to stand down older members who have given sterling service but may be past their sell-by date and to replace them with young and talented individuals with a good political brain?

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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