Monday, 24 May 2010

400 MPs

Since both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos contained proposals to reduce the number of MPs to 400 there is a real danger that this measure will go ahead. From the Liberal Democrat point of view this is a great mistake.

One of the few disadvantages of the Single Transferable Vote method of PR, our preferred option, is that the multi-member constitutes can be very large in sparsely populated areas such as the north of Scotland. This problem will be exacerbated if the number of MPs is reduced.

Clearly there was a lack of "joined up thinking" here by Liberal Democrat policy makers. What is more important: a "symbolic" cost-saving measure as a knee-jerk reaction to the expenses scandal or the basic requirement to facilitate the only electoral system which will genuinely transform our politics?

Against the odds, I hope this proposal will be quietly forgotten.


  1. The only sensible argument in favour of it is the cost of MPs which can be limited by giving less bonuses (why do you get £15,000 or so more for chairing a committee? What does the chair do to earn that bonus? Why do you need to pay ministers so damn much? Why do they need chauffeur driven cars?*) or by reforming expenses and the arguments against are legion:

    It dilutes the quality of representation
    It further limits the amount of talent in the house
    It benefits the two big parties to the cost of everyone else (for obvious reasons but also for less obvious reasons such as the effects of boundary changes)
    Geographically vast constituencies (e.g. the Highlands) will have to get even bigger
    It limits the amount of work/scrutiny (in committees etc) which can be done by elected representatives
    It further empowers the whips office at the cost of MP independence
    And yes, it will make MMC more difficult.

    *Funny contrast: Vince either wasn't aware or wasn't interested in the fact he had a ministerial car. The first thing Prescott did in getting into office was have his standard ministerial car replaced with a Jag.

  2. Thanks for you comments, Duncan. In summary, reducing the number of the people's representatives is hardly the best way of strengthening our democracy.