|Plans in tatters?|
As previously reported (here), the suggested Hedge End and Hamble consituency would throw the town into an artificial mish-mash of wards with no community links, split neighbouring West End down the middle and pluck Bitterne and Thornhill out of Southampton for no good reason other than Nick Clegg's obsession that all constituencies be the same size.
Even leading Lib Dem councillors admitted at November's Town Council meeting that the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act - introduced by their own party leader - is flawed in so far as it gives insufficient importance to community, historical or geographical criteria in determining constituency boundaries. The Boundary Commission have merely followed the guidance in the Act.
Cllr Keith House recalled knocking on doors in Woolston when it was tacked on to the Eastleigh Constituency in a previous boundary change and getting the unamibiguous message that Southampton voters only want to vote for a Southampton MP. He felt that voters in Bitterne and Thornhill would feel the same way and that turnout would suffer as a result.
In calling for no change to be made to the existing Eastleigh constituency (which is already the "right size" according to the Con Dem Coalition's calculations) Hedge End Town Council is joining a nationwide movement of opposition to the constituency changes.
In Cornwall a Tory MP has described them as a "dog's dinner".
In Scotland the Electoral Reform Society has criticised a "cold mathematical vision of equality" which " flies in the face of real communities, simple geography and common sense."
In Southampton, Labour MP John Denham has pointed out:
"Voters in Bitterne will be part of a constituency which stretches to the outskirts of Portsmouth. So their MP will have Saints fans at one end and Pompey fans at the other. They will have to say they are not interested in football.”
“This was just one example of the nonsense of linking Bitterne and Thornhill with Hamble, Warsash, Titchfield and Parkgate. People want their MP to represent the real community they live in. Southampton voters want to vote for a Southampton MP.”
Following the overwhelming rejection of his new voting system in the May referendum, Clegg's plans for electoral reform look like being in tatters if the new constituencies are thrown out too. It is doubtful whether improved proposals could be drawn up in time for them to take effect at the next general election in 2015.
Town Council minutes are published here.
The full text of the Town Council's objection as discussed at the meeting is available here.
Eastleigh Borough Council's response to the proposals will be decided by the Administration Committee on 21st November.
Photo credit: David Spender