At Pavilion Labour’s March meeting (our ‘GC’) there was some discussion about the proposals for the future boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies in Brighton and Hove. These proposals were subject to consultation last year when Party organisation in the City was suspended. Now we are in the third week of a four week period in which all the comments made in that first phase of consultation have been published and can now themselves be commented upon.
The Boundary Commission is compelled to come up with proposals which achieve an overall reduction in the number of MPs to 600, and are required to keep all proposed parliamentary constituencies within a tightly defined number of voters (based not upon the most recent electoral register but upon a fixed point in the past). The initial proposals for Brighton and Hove create a constituency merging some of the current Brighton Kemp Town constituency with wards eastwards along the coast as far as Seaford. That proposal has invited a well-reasoned counter proposal from Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle arguing that the social and cultural links between Brighton and Lewes make that a more appropriate connection. (See also here, here, here and here for Lloyd’s full submission.)
The proposals for the remainder of the City are among the most controversial in our Region. Hove is to lose Hove Park ward, but gain Regency and St Peter’s & North Laine wards from Pavilion, to become a new constituency called “Central Brighton and Hove” stretching along the coast from Portslade to the Pavilion and including the City Centre as far up Ditchling Road as the Round Hill. The bulk of what is currently Brighton Pavilion constituency, together with Hove Park to the west and Woodingdean and Moulsecoomb & Bevendean wards to the east, becomes a new “North Brighton” constituency. These Boundary Commission’s proposals can be explored online.
There were different views about these proposals at our GC meeting, and there is no official Labour Party position on the proposals. However individual Party members are quite entitled to express opinions, as Lloyd Russell-Moyle has done in respect of the East Brighton proposals. Pavilion member Neil Harding has also made a reasoned counter-proposal which attempts to achieve the number of voters required by the Boundary Commission without moving so many wards around, and retaining a Pavilion constituency more understandable to us locals. (Including Regency and St Peters & North Laine and without Hove Park, but with Moulsecoomb & Bevendean (from Kemp Town) and Brunswick & Adelaide (from Hove) and minus Withdean.)
Speaking purely personally, and declaring an interest as a committed Brightonian and Regency member, I think that crossing the boundary between Brighton and Hove to construct one or more constituencies fails to respect the very different identities of the two towns – and the fact that the Boundary Commissioners have proposed doing so is in fact simply a consequence of their previous decision not to have any constituencies cross the arbitrary administrative boundary between East and West Sussex. If that unnecessary restriction is abandoned (as the Boundary Commissioners propose doing for another seat at the Sussex/Kent border), Hove can be extended westwards along the coast in order to meet the target numbers which the Government has set for the boundary review.
For parliamentary constituencies to respect the historic boundary between Brighton and Hove only needs Eastbrook ward to be moved out of East Worthing & Shoreham constituency and into Hove
If you take as a starting point Neil Harding’s submission to the Boundary Commissioners, but respect the Brighton/Hove boundary by putting Withdean back in Pavilion and returning Brunswick and Adelaide to Hove, the revised Pavilion seat remains within the permitted range of sizes for constituencies of between 71,031 – 78,507 voters.
Hove constituency then becomes too small but this can be remedied by moving neighbouring Eastbrook Ward from East Worthing and Shoreham constituency into Hove. This has the knock on consequence of needing to move Central Ward from Worthing West constituency into East Worthing and Shoreham (which might then perhaps need to be renamed) and Beach Ward from Bognor Regis and Littlehampton constituency into Worthing West (which I think means taking a fair bit of Littlehampton out of “Bognor Regis and Littlehampton”). Happily by the time you get as far as Littlehampton the dominos stop falling along the coast, as Bognor Regis is big enough to stand on its own feet!
Since I cannot imagine we anticipate Labour victories in either the Bognor or Worthing constituencies in the immediate future I cannot really see any Party interest opposed to anyone making these suggestions, albeit they can only be made as comments on submissions already made.
From a democratic point of view our GC was unable to adopt a view, formally, since there was no clear position put to the GC for it to vote for or against, other than that information would be circulated and Labour members urged to comment before the second consultation ends on 27 March. Thus I do not think that the Executive has sufficient authority to submit anything on behalf of Brighton Pavilion Labour Party. It is a consequence of the regrettable suspension of the Party organisation in the City last year that we do not now have time to formulate a policy agreed by Labour Party members at constituency level. Democracy takes time and, without a genuinely democratic process of decision-making, the new leadership of our local Party is not inclined to snatch for itself the authority to speak on behalf of thousands of local Party members.
So it is just my view that the historic boundary between our towns of Brighton and Hove should continue to be the boundary between our parliamentary constituencies. I shall express my view – and I hope that you will express yours, whether you agree with me or not.
Since the Boundary Commissioners have faced a lot of pressure to keep Hove separate from Brighton it is conceivable that they might be influenced to adopt the proposal set out above, as it is the only way to keep a boundary between two constituencies along the boundary between Brighton and Hove. Eastbrook ward is a Labour/Tory marginal held by Labour in 2016. It has one Labour and one Tory Councillor so its inclusion in Hove would not be detrimental to the interests of the Labour Party as far as I can see.
However, the Boundary Commissioners may still refuse proposals which cross the boundary between East and West Sussex. In that case a constituency based in Hove will have to include wards from Brighton in order to reach the required number of voters. Our challenge within the Labour Parties of Brighton and Hove is to ensure that robustly democratic campaigning branches exist throughout the City so that whatever configuration is eventually chosen we can continue to campaign for socialism – and win!
You can visit the website of the Boundary Review and comment on any and all of the proposals which have been made in the first phase of consultation. I shall be returning to Neil Harding’s proposal and clicking the add comment icon there to insert my suggestion outlined above. You must also do so by Monday 27 March to have your views included. Don’t hesitate!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries or a copy of your submission. I strongly urge you to act now. Let’s save Pavilion from oblivion!
Chair, Pavilion Labour
18 March 2017