The pros and cons of tacking

In redistricting on September 20, 2011 by dadge

As I described in my last post, tacking is the process of adding part of another county or borough to a constituency to make the numbers up. What I wanted to do, and I’ll do it now, is go into a bit more detail about what’s wrong with tacking. But it’s not all bad news…

The pros

1. It allows for the equalisation of electorates. This is obviously an important consideration, and even if the Commission decides to split some wards to reduce the amount of tacking, some tacking will still be necessary to achieve equal numbers.

2. Some orphan wards fit very well with the area across the border that they’ve been lumped in with. Just to take one example, there’s clearly some affinity between the areas either side of the Queslett Road in North Birmingham/South Walsall/North East Sandwell. To put it another way, it would hardly be the end of the world if these areas were in the same constituency.

The cons

1. It puts areas together that don’t belong together. Whatever the orphan wards might have in common with their neighbours, it’s an inescapable fact they are not part of the same county or district and what is taking place is simply a marriage of convenience. (Sorry for mixing my metaphors!)

2. It’s unfair to the orphan wards. These wards will make up just a few thousand electors out of a total of 75,000 and will therefore be very much the junior partner in the alliance. To use the same example as before, when the MP for Walsall South stands up in parliament, will he or she be speaking for the people of Great Barr, and will the people of Great Barr feel that he or she is speaking for them?

3. It’s also unfair to the orphan wards because it’s unnecessary. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is no mathematical need for the City of Birmingham to give or take wards. The fact that there is a wide variation in the electorates of the city’s wards is Birmingham’s problem, no-one else’s, so why should neighbouring boroughs suffer? The new law should’ve taken this point into account but perhaps it was too complicated for Mr Cameron to understand.

If the arrangement of wards in a particular city makes it difficult to achieve one person one vote, it should be up to the city to deal with that, either by drawing new ward boundaries, or by splitting wards, or by the people of the city agreeing that some seats in the city will be a bit bigger than others.

4. It’s unfair to MPs and their constituents. As soon as you have a constituency which includes parts of two authorities, you double the amount of paperwork the MP has to deal with, making it less likely that the MP will understand all the local situations and giving them less quality time with their constituents. What if the two authorities come into conflict? Whose side should the MP take?

5. The most important problem in the long run is probably a technical one. Ad hoc tacking solves the equal-electorates problem for this Review only. By the next review, electorates will have changed and changes to the boundaries of seats will be necessary. So far, plus c’est la meme chose. But, as I noticed when I investigated possible county pairings at the last two Reviews, you will find that much of the tacking from this Review won’t work at the next Review and will have to be undone. This will cause a great deal of disruption, and this will happen every few years!

I can only think that whoever advised the government on the new law was an admirer of the US redistricting system, a system that is the laughing-stock of the world.


One Response to “The pros and cons of tacking”

  1. whilst you are right to say that the three wards straddle the queslett road you make the mistake of thinking that my ward – Pheasey is in fact united. If there was ever a case to split the ward then the 5000 that live on the Pheasey side could be split easy inrto a Birmingham area with no issues.

    the problem with Walsall south is that NO ONE in Oscott will ever think themselves as anything other than Brummies and to have an MP based in the centre of Walsall (now at the Northen edge) is pure nonsense. I am 100% convinced (unlike tory supporters) that the whole North East of Brum will be rearranged, it has to be.

    the only orphan that makes sense is soho into Smethwick as they share a lot.

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