Iain Dale slams Alibhai-Brown for 'undermining public service'
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A £2.5 million review of England’s electoral map is due to be published next week, in a shake-up that could see a controversial “Devon-wall” seat created. Under proposals to make voter populations in each constituency more equal, England is set to gain 10 MPs, while Wales will lose eight and Scotland is on course to be reduced by two. LBC presenter Iain Dale and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown discussed on Sky News that the changes could make it harder for Labour to win seats.
Ms Alibhai-Brown said: “I understand the theory and the reason and the democratic argument but can I trust them to do the right thing that this isn’t about manipulation?”
Mr Dale interjected: “That’s a really terrible thing to say.
“You are impugning of the independent people on the Boundaries Commission and you really shouldn’t undermine public servants.
“They aren’t political appointments, they don’t come from political parties, they’ve got a job to do that they’ve done well in the past and you have absolutely no reason to suspect that they won’t do it properly this time.”
Ms Alibhai-Brown continued: “You can’t deny that there a lot of people… there have been independent people brought in by this government that have not been listened to.”
But even with the gains, the Boundary Commission for England, which is due to publish its initial recommendations on Tuesday before a consultation takes place, said seat-merging areas of Cornwall and Devon could not be ruled out.
The concept met local opposition on both sides of the historic boundary in the southwest of England when proposed in former boundary reviews.
Tim Bowden, secretary to the English commission, told reporters on Wednesday: “You could see a constituency that straddles the River Tamar between Devon and Cornwall.
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“We try the best that we can to reflect those natural and man-made features in terms of rivers, motorways, railways, etc. motorways, railways, etc.
“However, ultimately we have to get every constituency between the 69,000 and 77,000 figure, and if that means we have to cross a barrier such as the River Tamar, then, unfortunately, that is something the commission may have to do.”
Although the overall number of UK Parliament constituencies will remain at 650 as part of the overhaul, population changes mean England is set to have 543 MPs, Wales 32 and Scotland 57 – a net gain of 10 for England, with Wales losing eight and Scotland having two shaved off.
Northern Ireland will continue to have 18 MPs in the House of Commons, but some of the current boundaries could shift as part of the plans, according to the region’s boundary commission.
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In January, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the voter data on which the review will be based, with 47.5 million voters to be divided into 650 constituencies of between 69,724 and 77,062 people in size.
Some island constituencies, such as the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Anglesey, have been granted special dispensation to be outside the population remit.
Currently, UK constituencies range from 50,000 to 100,000 in size and Mr Bowden said one of the benefits of the review would include ensuring every MP represents “roughly the same number of electors in their constituency”.
Mr Bowden said the review, with final proposals due to be submitted in July 2023, in time to be used for the 2024 general election, were projected to cost £2.5 million.
“I believe the 2018 review cost approximately £5 million, so it is quite a significant shift in terms of our total costs that we are predicting to come out at,” he added.
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