Andrew Turner, the Island’s MP, was praised this week from the platform of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Sir George Young, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons was speaking about Conservative proposals to cut the cost of politics, which include a commitment to reduce the number of MPs by 10%. Sir George pointed out that the Isle of Wight is the largest constituency in the UK with 107,000 registered voters, yet Andrew Turner does a ‘first class job’ in representing them. The UK constituency with the smallest number of voters is Na h-Eileanan an Iar (formally the Western Isles) with an electorate of just over 22,000; however in geographical terms it is one of the largest being over 130 miles long. The average constituency size is around 77,000 voters. Sir George also drew attention to the fact that the UK has more MPs per head of population than any other comparable democracy.
The Conservative Party intends to reduce the number of MPs by asking the independent Boundary Commission to set out detailed proposals to ensure that constituency boundaries are redrawn so that constituencies are ‘broadly’ equal in size. This would both cut the cost of politics and address fundamental inequalities in the voting system.
Mr Turner said :
“It is always nice to have your efforts recognised publicly, but as I have only ever represented the Isle of Wight I don’t really know how different it is to represent a smaller number of people.
“I very much welcome these proposals which seek to address some fundamental imbalances that should be addressed – for example, the average number of voters in Welsh and Scottish constituencies is much smaller than in English ones. However, it would be unrealistic to expect the Boundary Commission to be able produce plans for every constituency to be exactly the same size. A balance will need to be struck between practicalities, area identities and the principles involved. It is no coincidence that currently both the largest and smallest constituencies are Islands.
“I very much believe that MPs should retain a strong constituency link. My own instinct is that the Isle of Wight should remain as a single constituency and the last time this was examined all the local political parties supported that position. The alternative is that part of the Island would be included in a constituency with an area on the mainland. However, the final decisions on this will not be down to political parties – everyone would have the opportunity to make their views known to the Boundary Commission.”