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I was prompted to speak solely by the words of Ms Bagshawe, who said that this was about people. It is not about people; it is about dividing areas and regions into total numbers, rather than understanding the community. The communities in Devon and Cornwall, in Wales, in Northern Ireland and in Scotland exist in my part of south London-homogenised suburban south London-but people live in villages, they live in communities, and they want to be represented by people.
Some of my constituents do not vote. They cannot vote. They do not register. We all know that someone who is black, someone who lives in private rented accommodation or someone who is aged between 17 and 24 is unlikely to register, but those people still need to be represented. When they come to my surgery, I do not ask them whether they are from Afghanistan or from Germany. They live in my area, and I represent them.
We know that harsh, strict, numerical determination never takes account of the value of what we all do as individuals in representing our areas and communities. Dare I suggest that that is part of the big society? A big society that has no representatives and does not understand the meals on wheels ladies, the people from Somalia, or the people who enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy will be unable to represent. If we cannot represent and understand our areas, we are completely lost, and the value of our system is lost.
The role of constituency Member of Parliament is not respected in the House of Commons, although it is talked about a great deal. The essence of our democracy lies in encouraging people to vote when, having lost faith in parties and the system, they are still prepared to confide to their Member of Parliament-someone they do not know-the greatest secrets about their lives and their values, and to tell that Member of Parliament about a pub or post office in their community that is about to close.
If we break up our areas, whether they are urban like mine, suburban or rural, we will rue the day. We must hang on in order to continue to make our political system work-and our political system works because people see us representing them and understanding their communities.