Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Gerrymander: Would Labour be Best Using the UED?

The Uxbridge English Dictionary as any fans of Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue will attest is the lesser known, but far more interesting sibling to the better known, and some say more authoritarian*, version from up the Thames at Oxford.

However, while consulting the UEB I looked up Gerrymander, here is the entry.

Gerrymander (jr-mndr, gr-)

Preposition Colloquialism Ulster Six Counties Used to indicate the location of the Republican leader as in 'There is Mr Adams over there.'

Of course such use is far more closer to the use that the Labour party seem to be taking to changing the number of MPs. There are saying that the Coalition are going to be gerrymandering seats if they cut the number down by 50 and make the number of electors in each more equal.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Gerrymandering as:

To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections.

So say one party could win all the less populous inner city seats and not really make significant inroads into the rural seats with greater number of voters. In the end mathematically allowing them to win a greater number of seats theoretically with a lesser number of votes nationwide. This could well be seen as a case of gerrymandering. Isn't this the situation that Labour are trying to defend? Many of the inner city seats, in Labour heartlands, tend to have smaller electorates. So just who are the gerrymanders.

Of course having 50 fewer MPs will also save costs while the work of Government will carry on as normal. Considering as recently as 1983 we got by with 635 MPs. Indeed without the realignment in Scotland we would currently have 663 MPs which would be the highest number since the Irish Free State was set up.

Less than a 10% reduction especially in light of the expenses scandal and the need to save money seems a sensible measure. Of course the Liberal Democrats often cited by Labour, of all parties, as being a party of big Government actually wanted to get rid of more politicians centrally at Westminster whilst devolving power downwards.

Next week on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue will Jack Dee be introducing in the anecdote to sane political statement Harriet Harman appear along with Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer. Just as long as Harman doesn't insist on the lovely Samantha having an equal role and actually saying something for the first time in 38 years.

A little historical note

The word gerrymander comes from the time that Elbridge Gerry was Governor of
Massachusetts. In 1812 one of his party in 1812 redrew an election district that looked to be the shape of a salamander. The painter Gilbert Stuart saw it on the wall of a newspaper office and added head, wing and claws to make it look more like the beast. Saying on completion 'That will do for a Salamander!' The Editor retorted back 'Gerrymander!'

* What do some people really know? Tsk!

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