The Tory leader has told the Financial Times that he is prepared to cut the number of MPs by about sixty and will do so as a first term priority.  He told the FT that “the House of Commons could do the job that it does with 10% fewer MPs without any trouble at all.”

There is fairness, good economics and good politics in Mr Cameron’s intentions:

  • Fairness: Many Welsh, northern English and urban seats in particular are much smaller than southern English and rural seats.  That unfairness needs to be addressed and was the subject of a ConservativeHome campaign last year – quickly answered by Nick Herbert.  "I believe in having seats that are the same size all across the country,” Mr Cameron told the FT.
  • Good economics: At a time of economic difficulty and popular concern at the scale of political perks it makes sense to reduce the cost of the political process.  When Mr Cameron first floated a reduction in the number of MPs the
    savings were to be ploughed into extra state funding for the political
    parties.  I do not know if that is still the intention.
  • Good politics: A move to fair-sized seats will begin to eliminate the disadvantage faced by the Conservatives from the current distribution of seats.  Today’s 10% Tory lead translates into a Tory majority of 34.  If Labour enjoyed the same percentage advantage the Labour majority would be one hundred seats larger at 136.

If Mr Cameron was able to enact these changes in the first term it would make a huge difference to the chances of re-election.  My unconfirmed understanding, however, is that the changes would only be effective for the General Election afterwards.

On Platform today Peter Luff MP recommends other parliamentary reforms.  He’d like smaller, fewer parliamentary select committees and proposes a new committee dedicated to social justice.

Tim Montgomerie