The phrase is Tim Montgomerie’s. He used to deploy it roughly as follows. Yes, politics means making choices. But they doesn’t always have to be either/or. The Conservatives can have immigration control and international development. Green growth and more fracking. Same-sex marriage and transferable tax allowances.
The new majority Tory Government won’t necessarily smile on these examples. But it will want to follow the principle. To this end, ConservativeHome is reviving The Politics Of And. In one series, we will examine Securing the Majority. In another, Growing the Majority. Boris Johnson will want to do both.
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Securing The Majority 1) Equalising boundaries
There are a number of actions which the new Government will want to take which are good for their own sake. But which will also have the side-effect of helping to secure the majority.
One of these is equalising boundaries – not the cure-all that some believe the move to be (as Government sources concede), but likely to be helpful to the Conservatives, since Tory constituencies are larger on average than Labour’s.
There is a separate-but-related debate on whether the number of seats should also be reduced. The manifesto itself says –
We will ensure we have updated and equal Parliamentary boundaries, making sure that every vote counts the same – a cornerstone of democracy.
Proposals were presented to Parliament in September last year to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. If the 2017 election had been fought on them, the Conservatives would have won a majority of 16.
The argument for change is essentially that the number of constituencies has risen steadily from 615 in 1922 to a peak of 659 in 1997 (and now stands at 650).
A Parliamentary committee argued for reform in 2007. The then Labour Government agreed in principle; the Coalitiion tried to act in practice, passing a Bill to empower change and introducing five year reviews.
The core of the case for change pre-Brexit is that MPs didn’t have enough to do – with powers being passed up from Westminster to the EU and downwards to new devolved institutions – and that a numbers reduction is therefore sensible. The argument gained new force after the expenses scandal.
A new case against reduction is that this was all very well pre-the EU referendum and this general election. But Britain is now going to leave the EU, and powers will return to Westminster. It might therefore be unwise to give MPs a bigger constituency workload at the same time as returning to them larger legislative responsibilities.