The Plastic Hippo

September 10, 2010

Walsall moves to Brownhills…

Filed under: Law,Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 10:10 am

…and Brownhills moves to Walsall.

Not many politicians have exerted enough influence to have a word in common usage based on their name. The words Machiavellian, Churchillian, Thatcherite and Marxist have entered the language as every day terms and will remain in lexicon forever. So will a word derived from Governor Eldridge Gerry of Massachusetts (1744 – 1814). His bright idea was to re-draw district boundaries to ensure electoral success. His gift to the world is called gerrymandering.

The ever resourceful blogger from beyond Barr Beacon, pheaseyviews, has unearthed a report commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society which offers a solution to the pledge by the coalition government to reduce and equalise parliamentary constituencies in the UK. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is currently before parliament and proposes an alternative vote system where we are asked to list the candidates in order of preference. Tagged onto the bill are proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and to re-draw boundaries to give each constituency a roughly equal amount of eligible voters, around 76,000.

Pure mathematics, in itself, is a thing of beauty and the ERS report in the name of fairness and objectivity is a massive achievement in balancing the predicted number of voters in each individual constituency. Geography and community need mathematics as a tool but mathematics has no need of geography and community. The proposal suggests scrapping existing constituencies and “building” new ones based solely on getting as close to the arbitrary 76,000 figure as possible. Presumably 76,000 is the result of the total electorate divided by 600.

Locally, three new constituencies have been suggested, Walsall and Pelsall, Brownhills and Aldridge and Wednesfield and Willenhall. The need to equalise the number of voters in each constituency has resulted in some rather bizarre geographical anomalies. But, hey, maths is above that kind of thing.

In the new world order, the charming town of Brownhills will be in the Walsall and Pelsall constituency and the equally picturesque ward of St Matthews around Walsall town centre, as well as Palfrey and Pleck, will become part of Brownhills and Pelsall. Willenhall North and South part company and Pheasey Park Farm sails off to join Erdington, newly twinned with Stockland Green. Bilston will be absorbed into the newly created Wednesfield conurbation.

This social mobility is replicated across the country and to the casual observer, the absurdity of the boundary changes may seem laughable. But the proposal, and the Voting System and Constituency Bill, gives an insight into how the coalition government operates.

The Liberal Democrats, and before them, the Liberals and probably before them, the Whig Party in decline, have whimpered over the unfairness of the electoral system and have vainly sought the holy grail of proportional representation, a little like an England football team after suffering a 5 – 0 drubbing demanding that they be awarded a goal because they bothered to turn up and play. The price of the collective Liberal Democrat soul in forming a coalition is a compromise on PR and they have settled on an AV referendum as pay-back for supporting a minority government and being the closest they have been to power since Herbert Henry Asquith and David Lloyd George.

But, when closing the deal on a coalition, the Liberal Democrats were outmanoeuvred. They got their referendum, but the Conservatives insisted on adding boundary changes to the bill which, according to Labour, give the Tories an advantage. The referendum is likely to take place at the same time as local elections on May 5 2011 and polling station venues including schools have already been informed of this intention.

Voters in communities with a strong sense of local identity may not take kindly to geographical extraordinary rendition and together with historically low turn-outs for local elections the result could be that the electorate rejects boundary changes and, therefore, the introduction of alternative voting. Clever, huh?

If this were to happen, a new word could enter the English language:


1. To be unsuccessful at a single chance of fame, wealth, power or glory.
2. To destroy a political party that has existed since the time of Charles II.
3. Putting style above policy.
4. Supine compromise of principles.
5. Wearing a yellow tie as the last vestige of political commitment.

On the plus side, perhaps in the future we can take our annual holiday in the lovely Bloxwich-on-sea or in Darlaston, jewel of Snowdonia.



  1. thanks for the mention, good write up

    but clear up one little thing the referendum only votes on AV not boundary reorganisation

    Comment by ianrobo — September 11, 2010 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Ian, first for finding the Electoral Reform Society report and posting it, then for your welcome comment and then for pointing out that the referendum will not give us a say on boundary changes.

    The bill will be accepted or rejected with AV and boundary changes joined at the hip. There will be no local inquires or consultation regarding constituency changes and MPs will have to take both or nothing, the public will have no say on boundary changes.

    Should the bill and subsequent referendum be successful, it will result in the end of parliamentary members representing distinct communities and local issues and be replaced by journeymen chancers imposed by central office at the whim of party strategists. In other words, the end of local democracy in parliament.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work on pheaseyviews.

    Comment by theplastichippo — September 11, 2010 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

  3. thanks for that

    your right on the vote for the whole bill, I believe Cameron added them both together knowing labour would HAVE to vote against it and his own rebels would ensure it is brought down

    check out

    for more information on how the whipping for the Tories failed

    the dimension is that as we get closer to any possible reorganisations the tories at local level will sense they are losing as well in any possible reconfiguration.

    Comment by ianrobo — September 11, 2010 @ 11:35 pm | Reply

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