Burkean Toryism lives on after all against the sophists, the economists and the calculators. It lives on in the persons of David Davis, Philip Davies, the great John Baron, and the redoubtable old constitutionalist Sir Richard Shepherd. Andrew Percy and Glynn Davies abstained. Why Ken Clarke and William Hague did not turn up, who dares to speculate?
Even if there were nothing else to do, the solution to an alleged electoral bias against the Conservatives cannot be the abolition of scores of Shire Tory seats. In point of fact, the Conservative Party has been selecting candidates based on the existing boundaries for four months now, already resigned to the inevitable loss of this measure.
A loss wholly unconnected to that of the 2015 General Election, which was going to happen entirely regardless of mere boundaries. Today, never mind after another two and a half years of this, even the allocation of 60 seats to each of the old eight Home Counties, with the other 170 shared out among every other part of the country, would still deliver a comfortable Labour overall majority.
But the question now presents itself, of why we need constituency members, as we have lately known them, at all. We never used to have them. The House of Commons was there to represent communities, of greatly varying size both in area and in population, but nevertheless deemed to deserve equal representation according to a judgement which was qualitative rather than quantitative. The single-member constituency is also, in the great sweep of parliamentary history, a recent innovation, very far indeed from the historical norm.
Each of 99 areas has a Lord Lieutenant, and each of the 91 in England, Scotland and Wales is a natural community. The eight in Wales are the “Preserved Counties”, over which a veil of discretion ought best to be drawn. Far better are the 13 historic counties of Wales. Giving possibly 99, but better 104, areas to return three MPs each. Each of us would vote for one candidate, with the top three elected. Possibly 297 MPs, but better 312.
With the possible exception of Greater London, none of the nine English regions has the boundaries that purists would hope. But they do not, in point of fact, have anything to do with the EU, which merely asked the (Conservative) Government of the day which regions Britain had, and was sent the map already in place for many years by then, as that governing party had also been. Mercifully, we kept those who bray across the actual and virtual golf club bars away from the campaign against the North East Regional Assembly, or it might have been set up. Proponents of an English Parliament should consider that the people in it would be a combination of those who would have been on Regional Assemblies and those who bray across the actual and virtual golf club bars. It is imperative that the latter be kept away from any referendum campaign relating to the EU.
Taking those imperfect, but at least existent and fairly longstanding, regions (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the nine in England), each of them would elect 20 party MPs and five Independents. Each of us would vote for one party, the one in first place would win five MPs, the one in second place four, the one in third place three, the one in fourth place two, and the next six one each. Each of us would vote for one Independent; the five highest scorers would be elected. 300 in all. Giving a total, possibly of 597, but preferably of 612.