Constituency boundary review: University at risk of being separated from Lancaster

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credits to https://www.bce2018.org.uk

The Boundary Commission for England has published its final recommendations for new parliamentary boundaries which, if approved, will oversee the creation of the ‘Lancaster and Morecambe’ seat that will exclude the University from the constituency.

As a part of the largest overhaul of British political boundaries in over a century, Lancaster University would be represented under a ‘North Lancashire’ seat which would also represent places as far as Downham and Cheetham.  The ‘Lancaster and Morecambe’ constituency would include other surrounding areas such as Bolton-le-Sands, Heysham and Slyne.

This news comes after Prime Minister Theresa May suggested earlier in the year that she was committed to providing more ‘equal and updated’ constituencies to allow for a fairer representation of the people’s vote. The new boundaries (the plans for which were ordered in 2011 by May’s predecessor David Cameron) would give her Conservative party an advantage of 20 seats. The Labour Party have labelled this an ‘undemocratic power grab’ that would ‘ignore the voice of more than 2 million voters’ to improve their chances of success in the next general election, scheduled to take place in 2022.

May has postponed the Commons vote on the proposals that was originally planned to take place in October after a revolt from members of her own party.

If the proposed parliamentary seats are approved, the number of MP’s in Commons will be reduced from 650 to 600. The Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn’s seat Islington North would be axed under the plans, and Tory MP’s Boris Johnson and David Davis’ seats, Uxbridge & South Ruislip and Haltemprice & Howden will see their majorities slashed.

The secretary to the Boundary Commission, Sam Hartley said in a statement that 35,000 public comments were taken into consideration when drawing up the new boundaries and that they are the ‘best fit’ for Parliament.

Many people from the local area have expressed their distaste at separating the University from Lancaster. On the Boundary Commission website, constituents have voiced their concerns, with Jonathan Westaway saying, ‘I find the proposal to remove the Lancaster University wards from the Lancaster & Morecambe constituency deeply disturbing and akin to gerrymandering. The university is an integral part of the local community. They will in effect be represented by another MP. This severs the link between students and community and makes it harder for students to participate in democratic processes, particularly if their MP has surgeries in Fleetwood or rural Fylde. This breaks the link between civic identity and representation and is deeply anti-democratic.’  Another suggested that they supported Lancaster and Morecambe being represented by the same MP, but argued that it was wrong that the University should be excluded.

Lancaster University Students’ Union issued a response stating that they do not support the proposed constituency of North Lancashire suggesting that the split could cause ‘arbitrary divisions’ between the University and Lancaster city, on top of voicing concerns that students living on campus would not be fairly represented in an area as vast as the proposed North Lancashire.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith spoke to SCAN in regard to the issue, calling the plans ‘flawed’ and ‘ludicrous.’

She stated, ‘Labour has repeatedly said that a boundary review is needed ahead of the next General Election. However, we cannot support the Government’s undemocratic proposals, which seek to strengthen the power of the executive at the expense of backbenchers and ignore the voices of over 2 million voters. We stand ready to work with all political parties to agree an accelerated timetable for a new review that benefits our democracy, not just the Conservative Party. Regarding the local proposals placing Lancaster University in a different parliamentary constituency to the city of Lancaster that is an unfortunate consequence of the strict rules drawn up for this review by the Conservative government and I hope that in future reviews this can be corrected.’