Which headline sounds snappier to you? “Top peer’s drug binges with £200 prostitutes” or “Conservatives to change constituency boundaries”? That first one hits the spot, blinding in its saturated vividness, electrifying in its naughtiness, squelching in its juiciness. Politicians and drugs and prostitutes, oh my! That does sounds like one hell of a Friday night. Changing constituency boundaries sounds like more of a hellish Wednesday morning. “Roger, could you block out some time before lunch to change these constituency boundaries after you’ve written up the minutes from the team meeting?”
I’m no advocate of drugs and prostitutes, and I’m happy to acknowledge that Lord Sewel’s case particularly smacked of hypocrisy, what with his prior suggestions of stronger sanctions for politicians who breach the Code of Conduct. Plus, politicians, as legislators, should try that extra bit harder not to do the things that they’ve made really illegal. Other people have picked up a Go Straight To Jail card for tucking into the exact same drugs + hookers combo meal, so it’s no laughing matter (although an old man in a bra is objectively funny).
We can shake on the fact that taking drugs and having prostitutes is bad. Agreed. Zooming out of this issue to look at the wider context, though, what Lord Sewel did on his night off largely didn’t affect me. He didn’t deny my democratic right, he didn’t kill anyone, and he didn’t insult my mother. As long as those boxes are ticked, I’ll reduce my judgement of him to a mere sour-faced nose-scrunch instead of a scathing personal attack. But when the Conservatives plan to change constituency boundaries? That’s crossing the line, buster.
The government are making boundary changes to constituencies to boost their numbers in the Commons by an extra 30-40 seats.
The Tories are making their constituencies bigger to swallow up Labour and (what’s left of) Lib Dem seats. When I first read this news, my eyes zoomed into a close up of that sentence, I heard sharp violin strings and time paused. I was so shocked that you could no longer see that I owned any eyelids. That’s cold hard evidence of foul play, undermining the act of voting itself. Sure, it’s not a coked-up old man in a bra, but this story should be slapped all over the front pages for at least a week straight, or until headline writers run out of workable combinations of keywords without repeating themselves.
Votes from members of opposing parties are getting weaker and weaker, and this just ain’t right. Even as a Tory supporter, you can recognise that bending the rules would be bad behaviour. If the Tories suddenly remoulded all their policies to something categorically awful, like spending 50% of the budget on cigars and commissioning oil paintings of themselves to be hung above their beds (which doesn’t sound too improbable), then you need to be able to hold them to account by not voting for them. Your vote needs to be heard, obvs. If the Tories are doing everything in their power to stifle democracy, it’s harder to tell them off when they’re naughty. I’m having none of it, mate.
All hope’s not lost: the enticingly named Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) are suggesting that when the boundaries are redrawn, safe seats are abolished and new marginal seats created. Quite a feather-ruffling idea, no? The very concept of a safe seat is undemocratic and a potent voter repellent, so getting shot of them would be idyllic. Elections would instantly become electrified with competition, and voters in former safe seats would have a louder voice. This could be a remarkably simple step towards restoring democracy without having to go through the whole nightmarish apocalyptic revolution thang.
It’s a shame a solution as elegant as this was slung next to a cryptic crossword in the newspaper. The media have to use their wicked skillz at making innocuous things titillating to engage everyone in this issue, to make sure it’s dealt with before the redrawing of constituency boundaries next year. Organisations like the IPPR need sexing up so they don’t seep saturation and fade to fifty shades of grey. The IPPR should organise the odd flash mob in Liverpool Street station, start a hashtag on Twittsagram and write their reports entirely in emojis. Either that or we give one of the IPPR staff a bra and a big bag of coke and push him into The Sun headquarters.