"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Friday, 12 November 2010

Parliamentary Reboot

I am just reading Johann Hari's piece from today in the Indy. Talking about Clegg's numerous U-turns (notably about tuition fees and cutting the deficit this year, but actually about most of the LibDem manifesto) Hari makes this point:
Clegg may well be committing political suicide. He represents Sheffield Hallam, the only seat in South Yorkshire not held by Labour. It has a huge population of students and workers at Sheffield Forgemasters – which his government has effectively bankrupted. It is now probable he will lose his seat. Nationally, more than half of his party’s supporters say he has “sold out”. They are skidding down the slaughterhouse tube of the Australian Democrats, a long-standing centre-left party who installed a right-wing government in power and were promptly euthanized by the electorate.
All of this is true, but there is something else to consider. Clegg's constitution bill will cut the number of MPs by 50. This will not be an even cut since many of the Lib Dem seats in Scotland will be left at the current size (for good reason, they are sparsely populated areas and increasing the numbers of constituents will make it far more difficult for the MP to represent them all). This will mean that there will be huge changes to constituencies and in some cases the new seats will have no resemblance to any of the old seats.

I imagine that when this bill is passed there will be a scramble for seats, but since no one really knows the effect of this change, we can regard it as a kind of parliamentary reboot. Don't expect the new constituencies to have the candidates that stood in one of the old constituencies that it is made from. It is quite conceivable for a politician currently on the national stage to be selected in another, more safe seat. (Of course, the more senior you are, the higher priority you are for a safe seat.)

I think this is what Clegg will do. He is the leader of the party and will make sure that he gets into the next parliament. Clegg will pick a Lib Dem stronghold (West Country?) and then the natural candidate, the sitting MP of one of the old constituencies, will fall on his/her sword to be kicked upstairs to the House of Lords after 2015. The redrawn boundaries will be spun to us as a huge constitutional change (mainly by Clegg, who will try to bask in his self-generated glory) and so it will be treated as an honourable reason to move to a safer area of the country.

Clegg won't be the only senior politician to do it, politicians from all parties will.

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