Amanda Milling is the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase and co-Chairman of the Conservative Party.
Our democracy allows eligible voters up and down the country the chance to have their voice heard by voting for a representative they believe will best make decisions on their behalf.
But crucially it gives everyone eligible to vote, 18 and over, an equal vote and an equal say. Or, at least, it should do.
However, the constituency boundaries as they presently stand fail to ensure that a vote counts the same in one area as it does in another, even just a few miles away.
This is because the present constituency boundaries are based on data that is already 20 years old. Without the changes to the boundaries, by the time of the next election this data would be a quarter of a century out of date and by the time the next government conducted a review and implementing boundary change, the information will be more than three decades out of date.
At the moment some constituencies have twice as many electors as others. Bristol, having over 100,000, whist the smallest, Stoke-on-Trent Central – has a little over 55,000. It is also true that after the 2017 election, our party would have won a significantly greater number of seats if constituency sizes were equalised and updated, removing the unfair bias in the outdated system.
There is almost unanimous acknowledgement that the status quo is neither fair, nor sustainable.
The Boundary Review that is being undertaken by the independent and judge-led Boundary Commissions, with extensive public consultation, is looking to reset all of this.
This review isn’t about the party building a power base in any part of the country, nor to make it harder for opposition parties to make gains, but about ensuring that Parliamentary boundaries are equally sized and based on up to date figures.
By making sure we have Parliamentary boundaries which finally take account of the huge population change which has taken place in parts of the country, we are ensuring that each constituent will know that their vote counts the same as their neighbour’s. It also delivers on our promise at the 2019 General Election to strengthen our democracy by ensuring every vote counts the same.
I know that for some this review could bring unexpected change. Representing a seat is a unique privilege, and often a very personal one. I have represented Cannock Chase for six years and still feel pride in the community each time my train from London pulls into the station.
Each of us who are MPs will know like the back of our hands every community hall and summer fête. We will see families in the supermarket who we have supported and we will have listened to campaign groups on whose behalf we have spoken out in the House of Commons.
No one wants to lose any constituent who they have been privileged to represent and who has been part of their community.
MPs are rightly proud, and fiercely defensive of their own patch where they have canvassed doors and worked hard for years, so the thought of change at a local level will raise concerns, even if we can all broadly agree to the concept of the changes.
Equally, for long-standing Conservative associations built on boundaries that have been in place for decades it will require some adjustment. Associations take pride in their area, in their membership, and many still operate active ward associations.
But I am confident that our hardworking and committed association officers have what it takes to adapt — and we are committed to supporting them along the way.
Over the course of this pandemic, I have seen fantastic examples of associations being at the forefront of adapting and improving, working together on events and fundraising. I have joined scores of Zoom quizzes, welcomed colleagues as guest speakers and met hundreds of members and activists at Q&As. And we will continue to adapt.
For some these proposed changes will be challenging and that’s why we will be listening and working with colleagues in Parliament and across the party to hear any of the concerns people may have.
As the consultation period begins on these initial proposals we need to come together to collectively work out how we can make the proposals work. We will make formal submissions in response to the Boundary Commissions initial proposals. MPs, associations, organisations and individuals will also all be able to make representations during the consultation phases. I have no doubt there will be changes from the initial proposals as additional local concerns and counter proposals are taken into account.
These equal and updated boundaries are sensible and necessary. They are the consequence of a manifesto which was written with fairness and uniting the whole country written into every pledge. They make sure everyone’s vote from Cumbria to Canterbury, Dover to Darlington carries equal weight at a General Election.
The Conservative Party will now collectively engage with the independent Boundary Commissions’ extensive consultation process, to ensure all parts of the United Kingdom are fairly represented in the UK Parliament.