Thursday, August 09, 2012

Vince Cable confirms Liberal Democrat opposition to boundary changes

Last week I wrote:
the argument that all local quirks and traditional loyalties must be sacrificed to abstract notions of fairness is an odd one in the mouth of a Conservative.
Today it took Vince Cable to voice the common-sense case against the Conservatives' year-zero approach to constituency boundaries.

Speaking to the Richmond & Twickenham Times he said:
“The impression I have is that those people in my constituency prefer to keep the boundaries as they are, they don’t want to be hacked up and be combined with bits of Hounslow and lose bits of their identity. 
“The Liberal Democrats have made it very clear we will be opposing changes and I think Labour will be opposing the changes, so I think it’s very difficult to say they will proceed. 
“I think essentially the likely outcome now is the status quo. I think most people would prefer that and it makes life easier in terms of campaigning for both of the borough’s sitting MPs because we are campaigning in areas we know and where people voted for and against in the past. 
“I think combining Teddington, Hampton and Hampton Wick with bits of Hounslow doesn’t make any kind of sense.”
You have to turn to the Guardian to find the current Conservative answers to such sensible arguments.

The first is merely comic:
Cameron has said he will still try to force the boundary reviews through the Commons and Lords next year, saying the idea of equally sized constituencies was a long-standing demand of the Chartists, the radical movement for working class emancipation in the mid-19th century.
The second argument is more substantial. Cameron intends to:
embarrass the Liberal Democrats by pointing out that his reforms, likely to benefit the Conservatives at the 2015 election, are also designed to cut the size of parliament to 600 MPs, which would also cut the cost of politics.
I was never an enthusiast for the longstanding Lib Dem policy of cutting the number of MPs, but as part of a package involving substantial devolution to the English regions it made sense.

Now we have lost our enthusiasm for that idea - and reform of the House of Lords is off the agenda too - there is little to be said for it beyond a wish to pander to a populist anti-politics agenda.

If that is what David Cameron has come to, it is a measure of how far short he has fallen of his goal of being a new kind of Conservative

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