I hope this isn’t what Labour means by sensible debate over Parliamentary boundaries

We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about how keen the Labour Party is to have sensible debate, careful consideration and proper analysis of the government’s proposals to change the way Parliamentary boundaries are drawn up.

So if you were to take a look at an article just written for a Labour pressure group by a current MP (i.e. one who has been in Parliament whilst the legislation has had all its House of Commons stages) and member of the Labour Party, and published by a Labour pressure group, you’d expect it perhaps to contribute to that serious debate. Or at the very least, not go round myth-making about what the legislation says.

I fear you can guess what I found when I have a look at an article from Denis MacShane however…

Yup, ‘fraid so. For he declaims how awful it is that the new rules don’t allow consultation over boundaries.

He says,

No other democracy allows electoral district boundaries to be changed without consultation.

And he demands,

The new boundaries need consultation and agreement not executive fiat.

And yet, whilst it’s certainly true the legislation changes the way consultations on new boundaries are carried it, it doesn’t abolish them. The Boundary Commissions are legally obliged to publish proposals, to give people time to send in their views and – if as a result the proposals change – consult once again.

You don’t even have to have read beyond the Bill’s table of contents to know there is consultation in the new system, for one of the headings is:

Boundary Commission proposals: publicity and consultation

Different, as I said, from the existing system which involves public hearings. Are public hearings better? There’s a good debate to be had over that. Having seen how public hearings favour participants who can afford to employ expensive lawyers, and the way they require someone wanting to put their case in person also to be able to withstand close cross-questioning from a lawyer, I think it would be foolish to idolise the old system.

Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree.

But saying it’s awful there is no consultation under the new rules, where there clearly is, doesn’t exactly make for the sort of sensible debate, careful consideration and proper analysis that Labour keep on saying we should have, does it?

Mind you, one thing that can be said in Denis MacShane’s favour, is that at least he didn’t mention Pol Pot.

Note: I’ve updated this post to make clearer that Denis MacShane is a member of the Labour Party and was elected as a Labour MP. However, the whip has currently been withdrawn from him whilst he is being investigated by the police.

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