Brighton Pavilion is (surely) the best name for any Parliamentary constituency in the country. Who else lives in a constituency named for an enormous Regency folly?
Sadly, there is every possibility that Pavilion (as a constituency) now faces oblivion. The Conservative Government came to power committed to boundary changes which would both reduce the total number of MPs, from 650 to 600, and achieve approximate equality in numbers of registered voters in every constituency. There is no particularly good reason to reduce the number of MPs, especially not when the unelected House of Lords is so much larger than the democratically elected House of Commons, and we shall be losing our MEPs with Brexit.
Although the idea of equalising the number of voters in constituencies is appealing, it tends to work against areas in which fewer potential voters have registered to vote. This impacts constituencies like Brighton Pavilion which has a high number of students, homemovers and people with no fixed address, who may wrongly think they can’t vote or don’t need to register to vote at their new address. (Check here if you aren’t sure whether you are eligible to vote.)
However unfair, the boundary changes to implement Government policy are likely to go ahead, and – given that the consequences include a considerable advantage for the Conservative Party over our Labour Party – this helps to explain why Theresa May hasn’t tried to capitalise on a lead in the opinion polls by calling a swift election.
Locally, the Boundary Commission’s proposals on which a first round of consultation took place last year, take the Regency and St Peters & North Laine wards (and therefore the Pavilion itself) out of the rest of what is currently Brighton Pavilion constituency. Instead, added back in is Hove Park ward (currently part of Hove) plus Moulsecoomb & Bevendean and Woodingdean wards (both currently part of Brighton Kemptown constituency). A new constituency called Brighton North (which you can explore online), overlaps most with our current home of Brighton Pavilion. The two other new constituencies are Brighton Central & Hove (generally replacing Hove) and Brighton East & Newhaven (generally replacing Brighton Kemptown).
The reason for mixing and matching across the boundary between Brighton and Hove is that the existing Hove constituency is too small, and those drafting these changes decided that no constituency should crossover the (purely administrative) boundary between East and West Sussex, although they do propose a constituency which crosses the Sussex and Kent county border.
Any citizen can submit their own response to the second stage of consultation which runs until Monday 27 March 2017. The Boundary Commission has now published the first round of responses it received to its proposals for our new Parliamentary boundaries. All be read online. Of the total 2,259 responses received for South East constituencies, 160 are from Pavilion, 209 from Hove and 69 from Kemptown – far above the average of 27 per constituency in our region, reflecting high local concerns.
Although we have very limited time in which to do so, Pavilion Labour will be considering its response, which Labour members were prevented from making during the first consultation as the Party was then unjustly suspended in Brighton & Hove.
It is clear that there is strong feeling among local people that these proposals are nonsense – chopping-up Hove, creating a Brighton North constituency which has no seafront, putting the Pavilion into Hove and Hove Park into Brighton, and so on. The proposals bear no resemblance to the bonds and relationships which exist between certain neighbourhoods of Brighton & Hove, while seeking to create non-existent links between other areas. Our city maybe called Brighton & Hove, but the Boundary Commission should not ignore widespread evidence of local opposition to ignoring the distinction between the two towns and mixing-up constituencies across the town border.
Some may find it tempting to look for Party advantage in boundary changes – and that might be the basis for the Tories’ current suggestion that Patcham and Withdean wards move into Hove. However, it is far from easy to predict such advantage more than a few years ahead. Reflecting on the recent history of Brighton and Hove, I have seen all three seats held by the Conservatives, all three seats held by Labour, with Labour seen as stronger in one, then another, and then another of our three local constituencies. Now we have a local parliamentary rainbow representing our city. One argument in favour of our current electoral system is that it creates a strong relationship between MPs and voters – that important constituency link. That relies upon constituencies which make sense to local people.
Separately though, our new Pavilion Executive has agreed that, as we may be nearing the end of the existence of our constituency after nearly seventy years, we would like to hear the memories of Party members. So please do get in touch with Claire Wadey (by email to firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any memories you would like to share.
Chair, Pavilion Labour
26 February 2017