Burnley MP slams parliamentary boundary proposals

Julie Cooper MP would vote to allow 16-year-olds to vote
Julie Cooper MP would vote to allow 16-year-olds to vote

Burnley MP Julie Cooper has slammed Boundary Commission proposals – which will see Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley completely re-shaped – and accused the Tories of “gerrymandering” in order to maximise votes for their party.

The Labour MP was speaking as the Boundary Commission unveiled proposals which will see the parliamentary area of Pendle broken up and merged with Burnley and the Ribble Valley.

The real aim of the proposed reconfiguration is to unashamedly create more Conservative MPs

Burnley MP Julie Cooper

Other proposed changes include Padiham, Hapton and Coal Clough with Deerplay in Burnley moving into a new Accrington constituency.

The number of MPs would be cut from 533 to 501 in England, from 40 to 29 in Wales, from 59 to 53 in Scotland and from 18 to 17 in Northern Ireland.

Lancashire would see its MPs reduced from 16 to 14.

But the Burnley MP poured scorn on the idea that the proposals were a cost-saving measure, labelling it as “a disingenuous attempt to mislead the public.”

Mrs Cooper said: “On the one hand the Government says that it wants to reduce the cost of democracy by reducing the number of MPs while on the other hand they have created 260 unelected peers to sit in the House of Lords. Savings are already being made through the demise of the 73 UK MEPs.

“In addition to this the Government has ignored the millions of extra voters in their calculations, who registered on the run up to the EU referendum, simply pretending that they don’t exist in a review that pretends to be all about numbers.

“Obviously the real aim of the proposed reconfiguration is to unashamedly create more Conservative MPs and as such is blatant gerrymandering – it should be recognised as such and held in contempt.

“These are early days and there is still much consultation to take place as Parliament will not vote on this until October 2018. However let me make it clear that I will be opposing these proposals because I want to prevent the breakup of Burnley as a parliamentary constituency.

“I know that if the Government was really serious about cutting costs, they would not have created hundreds of new Lords, who are answerable to no-one.

“My primary concern will always be what is in the best interests of people in Burnley and Padiham. The identity of our communities is paramount and the status quo has worked well. I don’t want to see our towns ‘carved up’ for self-serving political gain.”

But Pendle’s Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson, who looks set to lose his seat under the proposals, denied the claim of gerrymandering.

He has described the proposals as “a complete mess for Lancashire” but insisted the Boundary Commission had acted independently.

He said: “While I don’t agree with these proposals for Lancashire, I reject the idea of gerrrymandering completely. This is an independent process led by an independent commission.

“I support the proposals for re-drawing the boundaries and reducing the number of MPs in principle, but I think the Boundary Commission’s proposals for Lancashire are a complete mess.

“Pendle is basically being split into two whereby 60% of my current voters ending up in a Clitheroe and Colne constituency which would stretch from Preston to the Yorkshire border.

“The other 40%, which would roughly comprise Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley would become part of Burnley.

“The Boundary Commission should try to work with the status quo, and not create colourful lines on a map that have no relevance to local people.”