The electoral boundary review has started to put forward its proposals to reduce the number of MPs in the UK from the present 650 down to 600.
The aim of this is to ‘cut the cost of politics’ and, after boundary changes, there is hoped to be a fairer distribution of the population per MP. Good aims when you remember that we have whole tiers of politicians from MEPs down to local councillors with differing areas and constituencies.
The first round of the review has opened with the Boundary Commission for England proposing that the number of English seats be reduced from 533 to 502. The Commissions for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to join the fray.
So the game of musical chairs has started, with MPs, some of them very senior, now being faced with fighting a real battle at the next election in 2015, not just taking up their safe seat after an electoral rubber stamping exercise.
There is the prospect of senior figures squaring up against each other such as Vince Cable v. Zac Goldsmith, as well as some potentially having no seat to fight for at all.
These proposals however can only get through if the LibDems support them and the jury is out on that one at present (especially if the Guardian is right).
But with a reduction in MPs must come either a reduction in workload or more of a commitment from MPs (i.e. no secondary ‘interests’). Without this the costs of politics will probably remain the same if not increase.
MPs will arguably need bigger offices, more staff and greater travel expenses (or they will claim they need them) to service more people. There will be fewer MPs to sit on all those committees and possibly more importantly a smaller gene pool to select ministers from (it’s probably hard enough to get the right people now).
We would therefore in a logical world be looking at fewer ministers and fewer committees. But, with the current scope of parliamentary work (and politicians’ desire to control) would that not just lead to more unaccountable advisers and Quangos? No wonder there has been no real bonfire of the Quangos, just a bit of a damp squib.
There is also the issue of democracy. Will fewer MPs be more democratic? I would argue that pulling out of the EU and reducing the number of politicians by 72 MEPs, not 50 MPs would be a far greater service to democracy and cost saving in the UK.