This is a guest post by Liam Pennington, on behalf of the North West Liberal Democrats.
At the beginning of September, the Boundary Commission for England published its proposals to reduce the number of parliamentary seats in Lancashire from 16 to fourteen.
As we have seen, the proposal for Preston has caused all sorts of reactions, mostly negative, and across the party divide there is a call for changes to be made. The view of the North West Liberal Democrats is that the initial suggestions are not acceptable, and we certainly agree with current Preston MP, Labour’s Mark Hendrick, that Fishwick being treated as an ‘’orphan ward’’ attached to Clitheroe is an idea without any merit whatsoever.
Parliamentary boundary reviews are part of the administrative backbone of the political process in this country, having begun after the Second World War in an attempt to divide the country into largely equally sized seats. The process is not without problems, as the saying goes it is often best not to see how either sausages or law is made, only the end result.
Under the terms of the newest legislation, which puts onto the Commission statutory maximum limits for constituency sizes, the task has become even more difficult; change a couple of wards in Blackpool and you may cause problems in Rochdale.
The Boundary Commission suggest dividing Preston into four bits – Preston, Fylde, Ribble Valley, and Lancaster. This latter seat is one of the worst of all their ideas, stretching from Lancaster to Grimsargh via Chipping and Garstang.
The NW Lib Dems suggest the city of Preston could be rightly divided into just two halves – which would be good for Prestonians, much better for prospective candidates and far more democratically valid.
Mr Hendrick was elected at the Preston by-election in November 2000, when the constituency stretched as far south as Lostock Hall.
That seat is largely recreated under our proposals – we’re calling it “Preston South”, and this will incorporate almost everything south of Lytham Road with Walton-le-Dale, Bamber Bridge, Salmesbury, Lostock Hall, Coupe Green, Brindle and Houghton.
It would also include Fishwick – because Fishwick is a Prestonian ward with Prestonian concerns that may be compromised within a largely rural Clitheroe seat. We also suggest bringing Lea and Cottam into “Preston South”, for it’s about time the Boundary Commission realise that Lea does not want to be beside the seaside anymore.
“Wyre and Preston North” was formed for the most recent election, and we largely agree that it should stay, with a few modifications. We would bring Ingol, Tanterton, Ribbleton and Brookfield into what is largely a recreation of the Preston North which existed until 1983.
Boundaries do not decide elections, voters do, so I don’t agree with people who throw “gerrymander” around like it means anything. We all agree that the Commission has made fundamental mistakes, so if some cross-party cooperation can break out we may find solutions at the end of these fundamentally important processes.