Opinion: A tricky job, but someone Labour has got to do it

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From John Gaskell, Chair of Farnham and Bordon Constituency Labour Party

Whoever succeeds in becoming the new MP for this area – and obviously I am determined that it should be the Labour candidate – will have one of the most difficult jobs in parliament.

It’s not because you, the electors, are particularly difficult people of course! It is simply the way the latest boundaries have been drawn.

The entirely new Farnham and Bordon constituency is one of a handful in the country to straddle local authority areas. In our case, half is now in Surrey, the other in Hampshire. It includes parts administered by Waverley Borough and chunks by East Hampshire District Council. A small part of Haslemere is actually in Sussex and one ward is also split into two constituencies, with part in Godalming and Ash and another in Farnham and Bordon. As if this wasn’t complicated enough, if there was a by-election before the general election, then we would have to throw all this out of the window and revert to the old boundaries!

In practice, few of us worry about these relatively artificial boundaries but they will be very tricky for our new Member of Parliament. You and I will receive our services from the same local authorities as before, but our MP will have to deal with four different councils. There will be more than twice the bureaucracy to navigate.

The irony is that the Boundary Commission, who recommended these new lines on the map, aimed to achieve precisely the reverse. The idea was for the constituencies to have roughly the same population, to unite ‘natural communities’ and to simplify administration. Our area clearly confounds these worthy ideals and this ungainly compromise will provide further evidence to those that feel that Farnham and Bordon are the forgotten areas of our respective counties.

It also means that the local political parties are reorganising as well. I am delighted to say that the Labour Party held a very successful inaugural meeting last week. It was really great to meet so many like-minded and progressive people from across the county border.

The other upside is that the new boundaries mean that the old electoral arithmetic is redundant. We say goodbye to Jeremy Hunt and, with Labour’s lead in the polls, we can reasonably expect to say hello to a Labour MP. The evidence from Mid-Bedfordshire by-election backs this up since voters switched in droves from Tory to Labour without stopping in between.

The downside will be for our future MP to manage. The Boundary Commission has introduced a new layer of inefficiency and confusion into our local political landscape. It feels like a metaphor for this government.

Luckily, it remains as simple as ever for the voter. We just need to put a cross on the ballot paper, either at the polling station or when you return your postal vote (which is easy to apply for from your District or Borough Council). When you cast yours, remember not to vote for any further incompetence.

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