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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby 9:45 pm, 19th October 2010

I rise to speak-briefly, I hope-in support of amendment 127. I gather from my hon. Friend Chris Bryant that we are going to press it to the vote. I also support amendment 341, which I hope Greg Mulholland is going to put to the vote-he must. I support amendment 38, too, tabled by my hon. Friend Graham Stringer, which he is going to press to the vote.

All three amendments are an attempt to soften the rigours of the brutal redistribution proposed in clause 8. Indeed, it is a redistribution so brutal that it amounts to a gerrymander. The pretext is that the unequal seats work against the Tory party. We have heard that argument put at length by Gavin Barwell. It is true that the inequality in seats helps the Labour party and works against the Tory party, to which I would reply, in the classic words of Demosthenes, "Ah, diddums. What a great shame"! Various factors are relevant, including turnout, people taken off the register, which happens all the time- [Interruption.] Ah diddums, rural seats and so forth. Another factor, which has not been dealt with in the debate so far, is hat the population moves.

There was a similar bias in the 1950s, but then it favoured the Tory party because of rural seats and the rurality factor. I hope Members will remember-I certainly do; I am old enough to remember-that the Conservative party won power in 1951 and had a working majority, but Labour had secured over 500,000 votes more than the Conservatives. The system then worked in favour of the Conservatives, who at that time were not so adamant about the need for a redistribution and a massive upsetting of the whole system to make it fairer. Now they are adamant. That unfairness towards the Conservatives persisted until the 1960s. Now it has worked the other way because of the subsequent drift of large Labour majorities out to the suburbs, where the vote is more evenly distributed.

These amendments all provide an opportunity to modify the brutality of the redistribution that the Government propose, with Liberal support, to remedy this deficiency. Clause 8 is effectively creating what I would call a doomsday machine. It is rather like the monsters my grandchildren watch on television. They are called transformers-they are huge metal monsters that go out clumping all around the country. It is a kind of redistribution by Blitzkrieg! It is just like that when this has to be done so suddenly and in defiance of any community centre or local government boundaries.