I have been the MP for Hemsworth constituency for 21 years. It is a coherent and strong community mainly based around 23 former mining villages.
The boundary proposals for our area take Hemsworth out of the constituency and replace it with Wakefield rural, creating “Featherstone constituency”. This flies in the face of coherence and I will explain why.
Firstly, it is vital that an MP has a link with their constituency, but is it also vital that the community has a link with it too. Under the current boundary proposals that would be destroyed.
The proposals combine two distinctly separate communities that do not share transport links, access to amenities or leisure facilities, or any historical or coherent community ties. They will also result in a constituency that is simply too big. This raises huge problems.
The M1 will run right through the constituency and there are no bus or train links that connect one side of the constituency to another. It would take nearly three hours to get from one end of the constituency to another using existing public transport, in fact it would be quicker to cycle. Don’t forget, a quarter of people in our area don’t own a car.
There will be no connection between the various levels of elected representatives in Hemsworth. It will be a Wakefield council area not represented by a Wakefield MP, but a Barnsley MP.
Also, since 2015, nearly 2,000 people have registered to vote in Hemsworth. These people would not be counted under the government’s proposals. I can think of many Tory MPs whose majorities are much smaller than that, so it would be unusual for them to ignore such a significant proportion of a constituency electorate.
Today, the House of Commons discusses the government boundary changes that will affect our area. Labour have tabled a Bill to contest the Tory proposals which I support.
It may seem like an unimportant issue, but constituency boundaries impact everyone. For example, if the an area an MP represents is too big, it could mean your voice isn’t as easily heard, or that the needs of your community are lumped with those of another community in a totally different cultural, geographical or local government area.
We are all more or less in agreement that a boundary review is needed. Updating electoral boundaries is a vital part of the functioning of our democracy and it is our duty as politicians to do what is in the best interests of our country.
People have lost faith in politics – 60% are not satisfied with the way parliament is run. There is a deep malaise in Britain which has often expressed itself on the doorstep as “politicians are only in it for themselves”. But the public are savvy to political manoeuvring – for example, they all know why Northern Ireland got £1 billion.
It would seem that the same political manoeuvring is going on today. I am sure the intention is not to deliberately gerrymander, but that is certainly the perception the government is giving.
What is clear is that the government haven’t even bothered to understand the local dynamic when drawing up these proposals. They have been designed with one thing in mind: increasing the number of Tory MPs.
It is a shame that such politicking is being put before democracy and local people.