We’ve got far too many legislators in this country, according to the Tories. More specifically, according to the Tories we’ve got far too many elected legislators who aren’t Tories. This is terribly unfair and an affront to democracy, although the Tories being offended by an affront to democracy is like the composer of the Birdy Song being offended by an affront to musical good taste. Mind you, you’d think that a defiency of Tories needn’t be a problem for the Tories as far as Scotland is concerned, because they’ve only got the one MP here and yet they still get to call all the shots and overrule the 58 Scottish MPs who aren’t Tories.
The single Tory they do have is David Mundell, who’s a deficiency all by himself. Fluffy has recently grown a beard in an attempt to convince us all that he’s a bit of a bear. It’s just that the bear in question is Paddington, and we were all convinced he was a stuffed toy to begin with. So it does kind of beg the question of why he bothered. Unless it was because he wanted something to snack on.
Anyway, seeing as how the Tories have about the same chances of increasing the number of their elected representatives as Ruth Davidson does of passing a tank without leaping on it for a photo op, the party has decided to remedy the situation by cutting the number of seats held by the parties which don’t belong to the Conservative and Unionist Party. Or to give them their official name, the DurrtyConnivingToryBasterts. Because the Tories trying to make themselves more popular is a bit like a cholera bacillus trying to win friends at a conference of water bottlers, another tactic is required. If you can’t make yourself more popular, you can at least screw over your opposition. This is something that the Tories are experts in.
In order to achieve their goal of winning a majority in the Commons forever and a day, the Conservative government is embarking upon an electoral pauchle to decrease the number of seats in the House of Commons to 600, but will ensure that most of those seats that vanish will be Labour ones, and to a lesser extent, SNP ones. But only to a lesser extent because there are fewer Scottish seats to begin with. Remember that respect agenda that David Cameron said he had for Scotland, oh how we laughed, well they’re showing their respect by cutting Scotland’s influence in Westminster even more than they’ve already cut it.
It’s not just that the Tories are cutting the number of seats in the House of Commons and disproportionately cutting Labour and SNP seats, they’re introducing a new method of deciding the size of constituencies. The goal is that all constituencies should have approximately 75,000 electors, which sounds just fine and dandy. But historically the population size of a constituency has been decided on the basis of how many people are actually living in the constituency, as counted by the census. The change that the Tories are making is to base constituency size on the size of electoral register. Now if you’re not registered to vote, you don’t count as far as determining the size of your constituency is concerned, even if you are a British citizen who is eligible to vote.
This comes on top of recent changes made by the Tory government which make it more difficult for people to register on the electoral roll to begin with. There are already certain groups in the population who are less likely to be registered to vote, poor people, people on benefits, students, and the young, all of whom are statistically less likely to vote Conservative. The changes that the Tories want to make to the voting system disproportionately hit those groups who are less likely to vote Tory. And if you’re surprised by that you probably didn’t expect that at the end of Finding Nemo that they’d actually find Nemo.
Funnily enough for all their talk of making the system fairer, the Tories don’t seem to be overly concerned by all the unelected legislators that they keep appointing to the House of Lords. It’s only legislators who are actually directly elected and accountable to the voters whose numbers need to be reduced. And it’s only people who don’t vote Tory whose right to representation needs to be curtailed in the interests of Toryfairness.
Currently there are 796 members of the House of Lords who have the right to scrutinise bills, investigate government activity through committee work, and question government ministers. This figure doesn’t include those who were announced in Davie Cameron’s resignations dishonours list. 90 of these are hereditary peers, 26 are bishops, and the remaining 680 are appointees for services to the community, as a retirement perk, or giving big wads of dosh to political parties. There are no plans to reduce the number of members of the House of Lords despite the fact it doesn’t even pretend to be democratically representative, and despite the fact it’s the second biggest legislature in the world. The Chinese National People’s Congress is the biggest legislature in the world, but it represents a population of 1.4 billion. Mind you, even it doesn’t contain any representatives who snack on their beards during lulls in the proceedings.
The boundary changes which favour the Tories are due to be implemented in 2018. With the unfair first past the post electoral system, British representative democracy was always hanging by a shoogly peg, but these new changes only make a bad situation even worse. The intent is to lock in a Tory majority in the Commons, and to make it far more difficult for the Labour party to gain a majority and unseat them from power. Although to be fair Labour is making it all but impossible for it to unseat the Tories all by itself.
In Scotland we’ve already unseated all but one of the Tories, and there’s not much more unseating that we can do. Nevertheless it looks like we’re going to be stuck with Conservative governments stretching out into a dim and unpleasant future for as long as anyone cares to predict. There’s only one way out into the light. And it’s one which doesn’t involve the Westminster parliament. Every change the Tories make just gives us one more reason for independence. We can have a proper representative democracy when we reduce the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster to zero.
Audio version of this blog, courtesy of @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/cutting-the-number-of-scottish-mps-to-zero-august-29th-2016
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