LETTER: Boundary Commission should save Burnley and Pendle and abolish Ribble Valley

your edition of November 25th carried a report that local people might make representations to the Boundary Commission concerning the proposed new Parliamentary seats.

Wednesday, 21st December 2011, 1:55 pm

Your report said the reasons for the proposed changes are “to ... reduce the cost of politics, by reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600” and to “... give everyone’s vote a more equal weight.” (because constituencies will be as nearly as practicable the same size).

This sounds fine in principle. Who could oppose saving money or being more fair - and politicians as a class are rarely popular.

In reality, these changes are purely cosmetic and will achieve nothing worthwhile while causing a lot of disruption for no very good reason.

We believe in more democratic representation, not less, and that political power should be devolved to the lowest rung possible rather than concentrated at the top.

The real savings would come from abolishing the top tier altogether, the European Parliament and all its MEPs. Most people will know who their MP is, but how many of your readers can list all their MEPs?

The plain fact is the larger the institution, the less it is capable of being democratic, which is why the European Parliament is a charade simply because it is impossible to legislate for countries as different from each other in their ways as the Scandinavian countries and those of the Mediterranean.

Recent British Governments did, at least, have the sense to keep our own currency rather than commit us to the Euro experiment as a precursor to the creation of a single country to be called “Europe” which almost no European of any nationality actually wants; a wiser course would be to return to a Europe of nation states working together within a free trade area, but in all other respects able to pursue their own national policies.

To return to the Boundary Commission proposals - the commission was presented with a very difficult task which it could never perform without upsetting many of those affected.

Unfortunately, the representations to the commission opposing its proposals have generally been motivated by the one thing it is not allowed to take into account - namely the political effect of its proposals.

One sympathises with Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson. Pendle is presently a marginal seat (not perhaps a bad thing if it keeps an MP on his toes), but under the proposals, most of Pendle would be lumped in with part of Burnley to create a safe Labour seat with the rest being added to the safe Conservative seat of Ribble Valley.

Not surprisingly, Mr Stephenson suggests keeping the Pendle seat intact with the addition of the parts of Burnley which probably do actually contain a majority of Conservative voters.

We don’t like the commission’s proposals either, but we think it should make the best of a bad job and has failed to do so. Certain principles we think should have been applied which have not.

First, Parliamentary boundaries ought to coincide as nearly as possible with local Government boundaries, even though complete conformity is impossible because the number of Parliamentary seats in Lancashire must differ from the number of local authorities to allow the numerical correctness the Government requires.

Second, changes to existing boundaries ought to be kept to the absolute minimum to cause the least upset to sitting MPs and political parties.

It won’t please everyone but we conclude that to reduce the number of MPs, it would be most satisfactory to retain the Burnley and Pendle seats while abolishing the Ribble Valley seat which would be broken up and its various parts added to the adjacent existing Parliamentary constituencies, including Burnley and Pendle.

We would, however, have preferred if a saving must be made, that the number of MPs be kept the same but just pay them each a little less. We don’t think there would have been any difficulty in finding persons willing to do the job.


(BNP borough and town councillors for Marsden Ward)