Having only just been elected as Chair of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party, I have to face the possibility that I may be the last person to hold that exalted office – since the first proposals from the Boundary Commission redraw the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies across the border between Brighton and Hove in such a way as to eliminate the constituency.
The Commission has today published the responses received last year to the first round of consultation (which took place at a time when our local Labour Parties were unjustly suspended and prevented from functioning effectively). These include a well-argued submission from Labour Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle, seeking to replace the proposed constituency which links East Brighton to Seaford with a more rational option linking East Brighton with Lewes. Lloyd’s concern having been with what is currently the Kemp Town constituency he can hardly be criticised for expressing no criticism of the proposals for the other two constituencies in Brighton and Hove.
Local Labour Party activists now need to consider whether, and if so how, we should consider a formal response at this stage – the local Conservatives having done so earlier. We cannot help that we were unable to respond formally to the first stage consultation but we do now have a brief opportunity to comment, not least on the widespread evidence of local opposition to ignoring the distinction between Brighton and Hove. The current proposals put Brighton station, and the Pavilion in what is essentially the Hove constituency whilst moving Hove Park into a Brighton constituency. We have until 27 March to comment.
The Tories’ alternative counter-proposal gives two seafront Hove wards to Brighton Pavilion in return for Patcham and Withdean (in what seems transparently to be an attempt to make Hove a Tory seat). Whilst it is tempting to look for Party advantage only in boundary changes, it is far from easy to predict such advantage more than a few years ahead – and part of the justification for a constituency based electoral system is that there should be a relationship between representatives and the area they represent (which does mean that there should be some logic to that “area”).
There does seem to be considerable local concern about what is being proposed. The proposals for the 84 current constituencies across the South East Region have attracted a total of 2,259 comments (an average of 27 per constituency). The proposals for the three current Brighton and Hove constituencies are considerably more controversial, with 69 comments from Kemp Town, 160 from Pavilion and 209 from Hove.
Labour Party members now need to consider our position.