The BBC reports this afternoon’s vote:
Plans to redraw constituency boundaries before 2015, backed by the Tories, have been defeated in the House of Commons. MPs voted by 334 to 292 to accept changes made by peers, meaning the planned constituency shake-up will be postponed until 2018 at the earliest. It was the first time Lib Dem ministers have voted against their Conservative coalition colleagues in the Commons. The two parties have been in dispute since proposed elections to the House of Lords were dropped last year.
I think I’ve probably said all I want to say on this issue before…
… Here: Constituency boundary changes are dead.* Unlike the House of Lords.* (14 January 2013)
Wholesale boundary review threatened one of the major factors which may see Lib Dem MPs successfully defend their seats at the next election: incumbency based on existing constituency boundaries. While Lords reform was a reality that was a trade-off the party was — with real reluctance — prepared to concede. No longer.
As a result, constituency sizes (and therefore individual votes) will become increasingly unequal. That’s bad for democracy. But so too is the perpetuation of an unreformed House of Lords against the promise of all three parties at the last election, and the two governing parties in our Coalition Agreement. I don’t think either the Lib Dems or Tories comes out of this particularly well, and even if “they did start it” — that’s rarely a pretty or successful argument with the public.
And here: The Coalition Agreement does not commit Lib Dems to supporting boundary changes (5 Aug 2012)
My best guess of what will happen next is this: Lords reform will fall and the boundary changes will fall in due course. Neither event is good for democracy. The public should be able to elect those who make the laws we all have to live by; and the public should expect their vote to be worth the same no matter where they live. Political machinations have brought us to where we are, and it’s not pretty to watch… let alone be part of.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.