Category Archives: Boundary Commission

Magic Numbers


I have news for you. Somewhere in the murky world of government there lives and plots a numerologist. Yes, a practitioner in the black arts of the occult world of numbers in our very midst. I kid you not, I was put on the trail of this mysterious and unnamed person by a Member of the House of Lords. As you may know, the House is in the midst of a giant fillibuster in a vain attempt to stop the gerrymandering of our electoral system. This Lord – blessed be his name – pointed out the Government’s seeming obsession with prime numbers. Think of it. Why does the Government persist in the notion that the House of Commons limit itself to 600 members, far from the dizzy heights of the past, and flying in the face of a growing population all queuing for the time and attention of their local MP? And why 600? Would not 591 or 617 do as well? Why 5 year and not four year Parliaments? And what number shall we set for the membership of the House of Lords? Not, 861 surely not. Or 913? How about 900? The advantage of 600 and 900 is that they are both divisible by 5. I think there is something sinister, from the occult point of view, in suggestions to the Electoral Commissiion (sorry commands) that each constituency should represent, give or take, 75,000 electors. There used to be a time when the Commission was charged with taking all sorts of things into account : local communities, traditional links the feelings and aspirations of local electors. There is to be no more of this kind of thing. No the numerologist is to have the last  and final word.

I do not think this numerologist, whoever he or she is, has been elected. Speaking for myself I resent his/her influence. Here I must take some account of the counter attack. We shall be told that we all practice the black arts. What about lucky numbers? How do we choose our lottery numbers? How many of us refuse to go out on the 13th of any month falling on a Friday? You see what I mean. Gotcha.

Something serious is happening in the House of Lords. Proceedural laxity encourages independence of mind. Could it be that it is the Lords who are speaking for the people of Britain? I do not expect the Coalition will last long. While it has a majority in the Coomons and members are in thrall to the Whips , the Constitution can be fixed to preserve the will of two political parties. When the Coalition is gone we shall be stuck with a Constitution that is unfit for purpose. So much for a thousand years of Parliament.

There is a solution to the awful Constitutional mess that is being composited for us. The Labour Parliamentary party must appoint a numerologist of its own from the white-wing of the occult. Every black number must be fought by a white number. If it is said that there are three prime numbers in a Government proposal Labour must come up with an alternative which has five. In this way all these daft proposals can be beaten off and the Constitution preserved. If I had the right mathematical qualifications I would volunteer. But you might have them. Volunteer, please, without delay. Your country needs YOU!

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Boundary Commission, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Guardian, House of Lords, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Politics, Referendum, Take Back Parliament, Voting reform

Too Important for Politicians


Clemenceau, a French Prime Minister, is credited with the remark that war was too important a matter to be left to Generals. It invites comparisons. Is Parliamentary reform rightly a matter for politicians or should we the people have the upper hand in all this? And at this moment should we place our trust in Nick Clegg, the self-appointed Reform Czar, or  take matters into our own hands.

How have we done it, this reform business,  in the past? Isn’t it true that Magna Carta which started all this in our time, in 1215, was the result of a group of Barons determined not to pay for King John’s foreign wars by the surrender of their rights and property? Did King John take any notice? Yes, he moderated his ways, which is all that could be expected, and we the people, established the principles of of ‘public’ consultation and justice under the rule of law.

The seventeenth century, that established for ever the principle of the sovereignty of Parliament, experienced a bloody civil war and the beheading of a King; and the Bill of Rights in 1689 was the result of an invitation to a European monarch, William III, to protect us against the ambitions of an English one,  to re-write the script for the understanding between monarch and people,  and to limit  the powers of Parliament. And  it was also an assurance for us that we would be protected against foreign powers. The 1832 Reform Act was the  outcome of mass protests and demonstrations by the Chartists; and the enlargement of the franchise was  achieved with the sacrifices of the many, the imprisonment and forced feeding of suffragettes and the untangling of woment chained to railings.

 So what now is the driving force of our modern day reform demands? Well now, as it was then, it is  the self interest of ‘politicians’  and those of us on the inside. It worries me that in one amorphous ragbag initiative called the Constitutional Bill all the various matters said to concern electors are lumped together in an all or nothing endeavour to appease an angry electorate   and protect  political prime movers from the wrath of the electorate: the reform of the House of Lords; a change in the composition of the Commons, involving the pressurising of the Boundaries Commission;  electoral reform; fixed term Parliaments; and a brake on Parliament’s power to get rid of a Government and summon up a new General Election. And it is all to be done in less than two years. Any one of these measures would justify a separate Bill – there is no demand for quick fixes. What is needed is a Constitutional progamme over five years not two and  involving the public in mature discussion.

Even if it were not true, and it is, such an unseemly scramble gives the impression of two political parties, the Coalition partners, seeking to cement their hold on power against  what is feared to be a vengeful electorate. Hold on boys, it might be said, we the electorate, are sovereign. It is our rights you are tampering with, and you are not going to diminish them. We shall  get rid of you if we choose. Blood and grief mark the passage to our rights and we are not going to concede them  to you willingly. 

As a reformer and revisionist, I  recognise the need for reform. However, I am prepared to wait a little in order to obtain an all-party, non-partisan approach – assuming that such an approach is possible. There is a need now to oppose this partisan reform bill, to see off the Coalition, and then to start again. Let’s get it right!

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Boundary Commission, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Commons, Conservative Home, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Nick Clegg, Politics, Referendum, Treasury, Voting reform