Friday, 23 December 2016

Reflections on the Information Age and 2016 Christmas message

Readers, as we come to the end of the year 2016 AD, we also come to an end of another chapter in the history of humanity: The Information Age.

Above all else, and amidst all the ideologies humanity has been through since 1980, especially 'neoliberal economics', progress in computer technology and electronics has changed our history forever. Back in 1980, mobile phones simply did not exist and personal computers were still largely being invented even though the first one, the Altair, had gone on sale as far back as 1975, and social media had not even been conceived. Now in 2016, we have many social media outlets, with Facebook and Twitter being the most dominant and seen as essential by most of my young generation, mobile phones in ubiquitous use and with easy internet access, default online communication and access for a majority of services, electronic application forms, and with electronic payments becoming the norm rather than the exception (cash is still useful for security reasons, though!)

Increasing awareness of environmental issues and other things green has been a feature of this age, with the first widely recognised Green breakthrough coming in 1983 in West Germany, and with environmentalism becoming more and more prominent particularly in light of disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spillage, extensive damage to the Great Barrier Reef due to an excess concentration of plastics in the oceans, not to mention the increasing problems caused by air pollution in the world's cities and countryside. Although there have been several attempts at global agreements to tackle artificial climate change, they are still not succeeding despite increasing pressure.

Both of these features have brought about permanent fundamental restructuring of our societies-full employment is no longer around in most countries and employment is becoming increasingly unstable even if more flexible than in the past. We are also becoming more socially distant from each other and often our sense of community identity is becoming eroded; this has been particularly notable in towns and cities where traditional industries are in decline or have disappeared altogether. However, we are also becoming better at creating 'communities within communities' in response to expansion of cities, not only offline but also online.

We have generally become much more respectful of equality and diversity over the last 30 years (despite a small minority of bigots still being around) with women's rights, ethnic minority rights and LGBTIQA+ rights having made the most substantial advances. Disability rights are also advancing, but in many societies there is a long way to go in terms of accessibility, inclusivity, and acceptance of disability, particularly neurodiverse developmental conditions such as autism spectrum conditions and ADHD. The neurodiverse rights movement, of which I am a part as an autistic person, will become the next important rights movement in humanity's history.

It has become clear in the last few years that the neoliberal economic system that has dominated the Information Age has failed, and that a return to the Keynesian consensus is not really possible either as humanity has little more room to grow. This has yielded a rise in demagogue-like protest movements across much of the world, and increasing support for more radical parties on both sides (but mainly on the 'right') of the political spectrum. The vote to leave the European Union in Britain, the election of Donald Trump to the White House, the increasing rise in soft and hard nationalism across Europe, and a statement that we had entered the 'Anthropocene Era' because of the mark we have left due to our alteration of our natural environment, have been key defining events of 2016, and have opened the keys to humanity's next chapter.

The next chapter of human history, which I shall term the Cyberspace Age given how so many things and decision will happen on the Internet rather than the physical world, gives us even more long-term challenges than the chapter we have just left. Automation, where many of our current jobs will be carried out by machines instead of human hands, will have a major socio-economic impact on humanity and simply because of increasing technological progress rather than political ideology. The Channel Four comedy show 'Bad Robots' was merely the start of what will rapidly become a trend, and something akin to a 'Black Mirror' episode will become widespread in our world to one degree or another. The revival of the basic income concept, which was first tested in the 1970s, will likely become a new global means of making sure everyone has enough to survive and keep their heads above water, especially if many jobs cannot be replaced. Experiments on basic income are already underway in Finland, which is rapidly becoming a leader in innovative social development.

Most of all, we must strengthen our respect for our planet and our natural world in all spheres of our life-because if we do not, the next chapter of human civilisation could be the last we ever see.

Merry Christmas to you all-let us wake up in a new chapter come 2017.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Copeland Test

Readers, Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland since 2005, has recently resigned in order to get a new job as Head of Development with the Sellafield nuclear power plant, which provides substantial employment in rural Cumbria. This means a by-election will take place in the Copeland constituency sometime in early 2017 (date TBC).

Copeland, called Whitehaven from 1832 to 1983 (Whitehaven is in fact still the clear focal point for this constituency, and little real change has happened to this constituency's boundaries since 1918) has been Labour-held since 1935 like many safe northern Labour seats, but the Conservatives do often make a strong challenge in their strongest years, reducing the Labour majority to as low as 4.3% in 1983 and 1987, and to just 6.5% in 2015 partly due to UKIP's intervention, which actually damaged both the Labour and Conservative votes. This is also strictly a Labour vs. Conservative contest, since the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors have never been able to manage better than 15.9% in their best years, and they struggle to better 10% most of the time. They have also elected a grand total of just two councillors throughout the whole history of the Copeland district from its first election of 1973. Like many rural areas, Copeland retains an Independent tradition despite the main towns (Egremont, Cleator Moor, and of course Whitehaven) being overwhelmingly Labour most of the time.

Copeland contains a lot of voters that politicians need to start listening to and connecting to, exemplified by the fact that this constituency voted to leave the EU by a margin of 62% to 38%, not that Brexit itself will be the most significant factor by any standards. Many of them were once industrial workers, but the coal and iron works in this area are long gone and it is mainly the Sellafield nuclear plant that is providing much of the employment in this area in addition to whatever harbour work remains around Whitehaven.  This also happened to be where the digital switchover trial for television began, meaning Cumbria was the first county to switch off its analogue signals, something I noticed when I holidayed in the Lake District (not too far from Copeland geographically but a very different area by any standards!) six years ago. Labour is losing their hold over a lot of their traditional, more rural and non-metropolitan voters, and these are the people losing out most in our modern, high-tech society at present.

Growth of green jobs and green technology is something Britain will really need to get going in the next few years if it is to prosper (particularly after we leave the EU), and Copeland is where they can be particularly useful and utilise the skills once used in coal-working, iron-working, and in chemical plants. Industrial and technological knowledge will be key to research and development of renewable energy technology and in sustainable farming, which Copeland's environment can provide in spades.

This by-election will prove a critical test for every major political party in Britain-not just Labour and the Conservatives. It is rather reminiscent of the Darlington by-election of March 1983, which Labour held on narrowly but then lost badly to the Conservatives in the June 1983 general election just 11 weeks later because their vision failed to appeal to the same type of voters in Darlington that are also abundant in Copeland.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

O Christmas-goers of Britain

(To be mainly sung to the hymn 'Forest Green' aka 'O Little Town of Bethlehem')

O Christmasgoers of Great Britain,
Try and see past that gleam,
Those glittering gifts and tacked-up baubles
Of which many can only dream,
For near you, also exists a grey Christmas,
Filled with despair and hopelessness.
Just five minutes of your kindness will brighten the day of
A child poor, sick and homeless.

Is this the sort of Yuletide
That truly keeps to Yule,
With neon lights, pushy sparkling adverts,
And shoppers so easily fooled?
When all the while, so many just want
Food, shelter and company.
All three of which will be enough to represent
Gold, frankincense and myrrh truly.

If Christ himself could have foreseen this,
Surely he would have sadly sighed,
We forgot how to show our true festivities
Amidst those bright night lights.
The true spirit of Christmas is worth infinitely more
Than pieces of overpriced tat
Even though it seems so high-tech and so up-to-date,
It will be ditched in about ten minutes flat.

Friday, 16 December 2016

My analysis of local by-elections from the first 3 weeks of December 2016 and on local governmental reform

Readers, the results of local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates within the first three weeks of December 2016 were as follows:


South Northamptonshire DC, Grange Park:  Conservative 244 (58.4%, -9.7%), Labour 105 (25.1%, -6.8%), UKIP 49 (11.7%), Green 20 (4.8%)

Tower Hamlets LBC, Whitechapel: Independent (ex-Tower Hamlets First) 1147 (44.7%, +4.4%), Lab 823 (32.1%, +6.5%), Con 217 (8.5%, +0.7%), Lib Dem 173 (6.8%, -0.1%), Green 170 (6.6%, -6.4%), UKIP 34 (1.3%).


Lancaster BC, University & Scotforth Rural: Lab 98 (34.9%, -1.0%), Green 79 (28.1%, -3.8%), Con 68 (24.2%, -1.5%), Lib Dem 36 (12.8%, +6.3%)

Maldon DC, Maldon West: Ind 279 (38.1%), Con 172 (23.5%, -5.3%), UKIP 114 (15.5%), Green 69 (9.4%, -10.3%), BNP 51 (7.0%), Lab 47 (6.4%).


Fife UA, Leven, Kenneway & Largo (1st preference votes): SNP 1501 (37.0%, -4.1%), Labour 1155 (28.4%, -6.9%), Conservative 752 (18.5%, +11.7%), Liberal Democrats 580 (14.3%, +4.3%), Green 74 (1.8%)

As I was writing rather extensive analyses on the Richmond Park by-election and the Sleaford & North Hykeham by-election during the weeks of 1st December and 8th December, I did not have time to comment on those local by-elections then, especially since there are not many local by-elections in December and those that do have very low turnouts indeed. This was exemplified in the by-election of student-dominated University & Scotsforth Rural ward, which I sincerely hoped we would gain even with many students not voting (and more not even registered) in light of Labour becoming increasingly useless in the eyes of many under Corbyn's tenure.

Elsewhere in local by-elections where no Green Party candidate was present, the Liberal Democrats were regaining ground in rural areas of the West Country, particularly Devon and Somerset. The Taunton Deane result is notable here not only because of the very large 40.15% swing, but also because Taunton Deane council is planning a merger with the much smaller and nearby West Somerset council, and once this happens the whole ward map will need to be redrawn.

This is likely just predicting another trend of local government reforms-the rural Dorset councils could end up merging as well with Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch (aka South East Dorset) having absorbed half of Dorset's current population into its conurbation. Buckinghamshire's four district councils are requesting 'unitarisation' of Buckinghamshire, especially with Buckinghamshire County Council's grant set to disappear in a matter of years. Many small districts have now become ipso facto suburbs of large cities-Broxtowe & Gedling are effectively now one with the city of Nottingham and the majority of South Gloucestershire (but not the area currently covered by the Thornbury & Yate constituency, just so you know!) is almost entirely intertwined with the city of Bristol. The same is applicable with quite a few villages in the South Cambridgeshire district with regards to the city of Cambridge, particularly with more suburban development set to take place there.

Increasing urbanisation and suburbanisation is in my opinion more responsible for this than budget cuts to council grants (to all types of councils except in the wealthier areas, like Surrey). With many conurbations having already absorbed towns and villages containing tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands in some cases) of people into their new effective boundaries, I would not be surprised to see another round of major structural local government reforms in the next decade and/or the abolition of possibly all remaining county councils in Britain .Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland no longer have any county councils at all, the metropolitan county councils have not existed for 30 years (meaning all metropolitan boroughs are really just unitary authorities), and of the 39 non-metropolitan counties which still overall form the two-tier basis for the local government system we have in England, seven have already been split and another five have been 'unitarised' (stripped of all underlying districts).

Monday, 12 December 2016

My analysis of the 2016 Romanian and Macedonian parliamentary elections

Yesterday, two European countries, Macedonia and Romania, held parliamentary elections whose results bucked international trends that have been happening in Europe and elsewhere.

Social democracy as a force is in long-term decline but both social-democratic parties performed well in both Macedonia and Romania. In Macedonia, the ruling nationalist and conservative party, VMRO-DPMNE (which in Macedonian stands for International Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), which had experienced two major national protests under the tenure of ex-PM Nikola Gruevski, was soundly defeated despite just about retaining its status as the largest party in Macedonia, losing 10 seats and its overall majority in the Assembly. Its one-time allies, the Democratic Union for Integration, lost nearly half of their seats (they were reduced to 10 from 19), whereas the Social Democratic Union boosted their total to 49 seats, giving them potentially strong enough leverage to form the new government. A splinter group of VMRO gained no real traction, polling just 2.12%, not enough to qualify for any seats even though Macedonia does not have a set minimum threshold for representation. The same occurred with The Left, the best 'alternative' party available to vote for in Macedonia in the absence of any Green/Ecologist list standing. At this point, it can only be ascertained that Nikola Gruevski will not continue as Macedonian PM, given that he agreed to stand down in order to negotiate a halt to those protests.

Romania's story in the run-up to their 2016 elections is rather more interesting. Last year it ditched the use of first past the post and returned to party-list proportional representation. Many political parties have endured corruption scandals, especially those on the 'left'. The People's Party-Dan Diaconescu was starting to gain traction from lapsed PSD (Social Democrat) voters, but its leader Dan Diaconescu was later convicted of extortion, leading his party to be absorbed by UNPR. UNPR then ended up joining with former President Traiain Basescu's PMP movement, despite major protests from some UNPR members resulting from corruption scandals Traian was involved in and key differences in UNPR and PMP policy which would normally have ruled out a merger of this nature. Meanwhile, the hardline nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) was rapidly losing support, especially after the death of its longtime leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, in 2015.

Both the PSD and PNL (National Liberal Party, Romania's main conservative party) suffered some losses, the PNL more so, prompting its leader, Alina Ghorghiu, to resign shortly after the election concluded. The PNL bled some support to a new liberal party, which incidentally has the initials ALDE, the same used for the Europe-wide alliance of liberals. The anti-corruption Save Romania Union proved to be the new rising star (just like ANO in the Czech Republic three years ago), although despite its freshness it could only obtain 8.8% of the vote and third place, not nearly as well as ANO managed in 2013. Neither nationalist right party managed to obtain representation, with the United Romania Party (amazingly founded by an ex-PSD Assembly member!) polling 2.8% and the PRM polling just over 1%. Sadly, this proved to be more than Romania's main green party, the Ecologist Party of Romania, could manage, at 0.91%, which was nevertheless a small improvement on 2012. The other Green Party in Romania could not even manage 1000 votes for either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate-perhaps it is time that the two parties merged, since green politics needs to remain united over key green issues more than ever, and I do not just mean saving our planet. Green politics is still struggling in Eastern Europe, but it is making progress slowly but surely.

As we near the end of 2016, and the end of the current era in modern human history, I will say that next year's round of legislative elections will be more important than ever, especially those in France and Germany (coupled with the outside chance of a snap general election occurring in the UK).

Friday, 9 December 2016

A cloud flies over Sleaford & North Hykeham and other thoughts

Readers, the result of the Sleaford & North Hykeham by-election was as follows:

Victoria Ayling, UKIP, 4,426 (13.5%, -2.2%)

David Bishop, Bus-Pass Elvis Party, 55 (0.2%)

Jim Clarke, Labour, 3,363 (10.2%, -7.1%)

Paul Coyne (No Description, ex-Lincolnshire Independent), 186 (0.6%)

Caroline Johnson, Conservative, 17,570 (53.5%, -2.7%)

Marianne Overton, Lincolnshire Independents, 2,892 (8.8%, +3.6%)

Ross Pepper, Liberal Democrats, 3,606 (11.0%, +5.3%)

The Iconic Arty-Pole (real name Peter Hill), OMRLP, 200 (0.6%)

Sarah Stock, Independent, 462 (1.4%)

Mark Suffield, Independent, 74 (0.2%)

Sleaford & North Hykeham is one of the safest Conservative seats in England, and is also rural meaning potential for change is more limited than in urban or suburban constituencies. There are fewer transient voters, fewer people in more casual jobs and higher levels of owner-occupation in the majority of predominantly rural seats (for richer or for poorer) meaning that swings in them tend to be considerably lower in by-elections than urban or suburban seats. This held true in 2015, where the only significant slump was that of the Liberal Democrats where they lost more than two-thirds of their 2010 vote, and here where no increases or decreases in vote share of 10% or greater were recorded for any candidate.  The easy Conservative hold was therefore not unexpected by any means, especially with low levels of coverage being given until the count.

The 'Progressive Alliance' tactic here failed badly, since Sarah Stock, a Save Grantham Hospital campaigner who was backed by the local Green Party, failed to even save her deposit or make any difference to the result. Had she not been backed by the Green Party she would almost certainly have struggled to obtain even 1% of the vote, given that Grantham Hospital is not geographically in the constituency (some residents use it, though) and that since North Hykeham is effectively a suburb of the city of Lincoln (in fact, it will almost certainly be joined with the current constituency of Lincoln in the next round of boundary changes), North Hykeham residents can use Lincoln County Hospital instead. In fact, we would have almost certainly achieved a better result if we had stood as per usual, even with no Green Party candidates having ever stood in Sleaford & North Hykeham, since unlike in Richmond Park or Witney there is no real Liberal Democrat momentum (outside the more affluent parts of North Hykeham) here and there never has been.

Rural constituencies are the ones that will be worst affected by artificial climate change or other environmental damage, and which can benefit more from Green Party philosophy, so we Greens need to be more active in these constituencies locally and nationally, not less, especially when many Conservatives in local elections in 2015 in rural areas were opposed only by Green Party candidates, which was the case in two wards of East Hertfordshire (Great Amwell and Little Hadham) where I live.

Further evidence has come to light, from letter-writers and elsewhere, that had Zac Goldsmith been able to stand as an official Conservative candidate like David Davis in Haltemprice & Howden's by-election of 2008, he might have been able to hold it, if only narrowly, since tribal voters exist for all parties in every constituency, no matter how hard the squeezing by one or more other political parties goes on in elections. Even in the worst years for the Conservative Party, the Conservative vote in Richmond Park has never dipped below 39%. The lowest Conservative vote share in Sleaford & North Hykeham by comparison was 43.9% in 1997, and the Liberal Democrats still cobbled together 5.7% in that constituency in 2015.

Even though I do not believe in Progressive Alliances and seen evidence of them not actually working out (this one certainly did not), cross-party co-operation on some issues once people are actually elected remains important. This was demonstrated in an early morning debate about the need to properly tackle violence against women in Britain, when Michelle Thomson (Independent [ex-SNP], Edinburgh West), Mims Davies (Conservative, Eastleigh), Tracy Brabin (Labour, Batley & Spen), Seema Malhotra (Labour, Feltham & Heston) and others who I did not hear all spoke about their own direct and indirect experiences of such violence and concerns that not enough is being done to tackle it, and the fact many victims still do not see proper justice of any kind (Tracy Brabin described herself as lucky in that respect because her attacker was caught and imprisoned) due to failures in our justice system, cultural attitudes towards domestic and sexual violence, and a lack of willingness to speak out. So many rape crisis centres have been closed and a lot do not have sufficient funding, and many of these closures have come since the current Conservative-led government took office in 2010. This is an issue we must all work together to deal with, especially when family and friends also suffer as well as the victims.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Positive change can happen when we band together

Yesterday, after a long-awaited runoff, Alexander van der Bellen, running as an Independent candidate in the 2016 Austrian presidential election despite actually being a member of Die Grunen, succeeded in becoming the next President of Austria, defeating the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer, to the delight of real progressives like myself. As I said earlier, the two long-running Establishment partners-in-crime in Austria, the OVP and SPO, did not even make it to the runoff.

The Italian constitutional referendum on changing the fundamental structure of its Parliament, introducing a winner take all premium (similar in principle to the 50 bonus seats rule in the Hellenic Parliament in Greece), and reducing the powers of the Senate was a clear example of where the real divides lie (centrist and moderate parties supported a Yes vote, but more radical and regionalist parties on both sides were firmly in favour of a No vote). Also, only the three most prosperous and culturally richest areas of Italy (Emilio-Romagna, Trentino-South Tyrol, and Tuscany) delivered a Yes vote when the overall vote delivered a decisive victory for No, by a margin of 18.2% to boot. Prosperity is not the only factor boosting turnout-strength of localism and a sense of identity are positive indicators for high turnout areas irrespective of wealth, as Veneto's decisive No vote (61.9%) coupled with it having the highest turnout in the referendum (76.7%) clearly indicates. Veneto is the strongest region for the regionalist, strongly Eurosceptic, and anti-immigration Lega Nord (LN) Party. The decisive No vote has resulted in the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose main calls for reform would have really been mainly for the benefit of the longer-established parties and political cliques in Italy rather than for the Italian people themselves.

What do these important European results both indicate?

That a desire for fundamental and systematic change is coming from both sides away from the 'centre' of the political spectrum, that the ordinary people are fighting back, but also that we can bring hope, justice, unity, peace, and action to protect our environment and appeal to more ordinary voters at the same time, those who feel so disaffected with an elitist, out of touch, unreforming establishment that exists in one form or another all across the democratic world. When we ride the winds of change, we can defeat the forces of fear, those represented by Norbert Hofer, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and other dangerous demagogues more concerned with their own interests. There has been speculation that the Italian referendum result could have rippling Eurozone effects, but in the long-term, eroding and ending the Eurozone will be important for Europe to regain sovereignty and freedom from the tentacles of an increasingly authoritarian European Union bureaucracy and European Central Bank. With 38% of young people in Italy unemployed, a breath of fresh air somewhere would be very welcome even if it came with short-term pain coming from ditching the Euro.

The current centre is as much an enemy of the people as the 'alt-right'-its increasing desire internationally for excessive censorship, to spy on us in an Orwellian manner, and its continued determination to let private companies reap the rewards from mismanagement, incompetence, and downright immorality whilst leaving honest taxpayers like you and I to pay to clear up their mess (not ours!) is why it should not be trusted, no matter how calming and professional it tries to look.

Let us instead be inspired by victories like Alexander van der Bellen's-we can keep on coming as long as we distance ourselves from the status quo whilst promoting a positive message that can help us all.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

My alternative constituencies: Northern Ireland (briefing on Scotland)

I would at this point have started off with alternative constituency proposals for Scotland to end my series on alternative constituencies for the 2018 review.

However, the Boundary Commission for Scotland's site ( does not give me the option to select polling districts which is necessary for modifying constituencies I believe to be unacceptable, and this is essential in Scotland since due to its use of STV for local government elections, every ward must have 3 or 4 members and every ward therefore must have large numbers of electors to maintain both proportionality and fairness. Therefore, I will have to move to Northern Ireland in terms of alternative constituencies, and briefly say that the rule allowing constituencies of between 12,000 and 13,000 sq km in area to have an electorate under the minimum quota should be applied, in order to have undersized but geographically large constituencies in the Highland area (the only council area in the whole of the United Kingdom where this rule has any effect, being the only one larger than 12,000 sq km). These should be Caithness, Sutherland & Ross and Skye, Lochaber & Oban, with the other Highland constituency being Inverness. As I only included 49 constituencies in my alternative proposals across the 'Yorkshire & The Humber' region (partly caused by separating Selby from North Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire from East Yorkshire), I needed to include 54 constituencies in Scotland (52 if you discount the protected Na h-Eilanan an lar and Orkney & Shetland island constituencies) to make sure that there would be 600 constituencies in total.

Therefore, I will focus on Northern Ireland, also known as the six counties of Ulster that remain part of the UK (Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan are part of the Republic of Ireland). It has undergone major local governmental reform in the last few years, culminating with the creation of many super councils that have no respect for traditional county borders which are much more important here. However, this reform has at the same time recognised how far the Northern Irish capital of Belfast now extends in reality. Northern Ireland is also subject to a less restrictive minimum electorate limit: 69,401 instead of 71,507. It would be more helpful if the rest of the UK could benefit from that lower limit.

It has been suggested that Mid-Ulster be abolished (given that it contains parts of both Londonderry and Tyrone) but unfortunately I have not been able to find a constructive way of achieving this, given that Armagh should be separate from Londonderry and Tyrone for constituency purposes, and should simply be divided into Newry & Armagh and Craigavon (Upper Bann minus the County Down parts) so that they are both within County Armagh as much as possible. I have therefore decided to merely extend Mid Ulster and rename it Glenshane, and at the same time perform minimum change with Fermanagh & South Tyrone and West Tyrone (and no real change at all in Foyle's case). The growth of coastal towns in Antrim not too far from Belfast (e.g. Carrickfergus) necessitates significant change there, as does separating the city of Lisburn (currently the dominant part of the Lagan Valley constituency) from the hinterlands of County Down as the Boundary Commission has wisely recommended.

My alternative constituencies for Northern Ireland therefore look like this:

Belfast South is abolished.
Lagan Valley is abolished, its Antrim and Down parts returning to whence they came.
Belfast North West succeeds Belfast North.
Belfast South West succeeds Belfast West.
Craigavon succeeds Upper Bann; this time it is (almost) entirely in County Armagh.
Mid Antrim succeeds North Antrim in practice.
East Londonderry & Ballymoney succeeds East Londonderry, stretching along the Causeway Coast.
Glenshane succeeds Mid-Ulster, taking in more of County Londonderry. It is named for the Glenshane Pass that lies within the constituency.
West Down is a new seat.

I will note that when I say a constituency succeeds another 'in practice', it means that the old constituency has been substantially changed even though enough of it remains to be a predecessor of a successor constituency This generally means that the old constituency makes up only 50-65% of the electorate of a successor constituency, and often adds electors from two or more other constituencies.

There is still time to submit constituency proposals online to the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, depending on where you live within the United Kingdom. The deadline is 5th December, so not delay if your proposals are ready.


Friday, 2 December 2016

The Zac has crash-landed

In case you have not seen them yet, here are the results of the momentous Richmond Park by-election:

Zac Goldsmith, Independent, 18,638 (45.1%, -13.1%**)

Howling Laud Hope, Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 184 (0.4%)

Ankit Love (aka Maharaja Jammu and Kashmir), One Love Party, 67 (0.2%)

Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrats, 20,510 (49.7%, +30.4%)

David Powell (no description), 32 (0.1%)

Dominic Stockford, Christian Peoples Alliance, 164 (0.4%)

Fiona Syms, Independent, 173 (0.4%)

Christian Wolmar, Labour Party, 1,515 (3.7%, -8.6%)

Even many minutes before the official declaration, it was clear that Zac Goldsmith, the former Conservative MP who ran on a ticket to oppose the third runway at Heathrow, was going to lose to Sarah Olney, who becomes the first Liberal Democrat MP to have not been a member of that party during its infamous coalition years.

Many are claiming that a 'Progressive Alliance' (which I do not support and nor do many of my friends because of the past acts of Labour and the Lib Dems and the fact they did not represent real change at all, and still do not) was responsible for that Lib Dem victory with a margin of 1,872. However, further analysis of this by-election and what occurred show that this is not the case. The Green Party should have stood to offer voters in Richmond Park a real choice about environmental and social justice (it is the principle and taking part that counts even if you do not win the election in the end!) and could potentially have won the by-election themselves if they had stood were it not for the Lib Dems' ability to rouse more supporters and money. Turnout dropped sharply from 76.5% to 53.5%, significant in a constituency where turnout is consistently among the highest in Britain whatever the weather or circumstances, where there was an intense battle royale between Zac and Sarah, and where there was an issue deep to locals' hearts and minds. Even in 2001, where the general election turnout dropped to a dismal 59% overall, more than two-thirds of Richmond Park's electorate still voted. I believe that many Green voters instead stayed at home rather than vote tactically, because like every other major party we have core voters everywhere. Greens should stand everywhere and for everyone in Britain in future, and make it clear that we are the most modern and most honest voice of change, and that it is important to care about our planet in order to look after ourselves and each other.

The fact is Zac brought this loss on himself, tactical voting or no tactical voting, with his disastrous mayoral campaign earlier, his support for exiting the EU in a constituency which voted heavily to remain in the EU, and the taxpayers' expense he went to in order to make this protest. Before nominations had even closed, several people said publicly they would not vote for him on the grounds of him 'being a pompous prat'. It seems rather a fitting end to his once-glittering (by Conservative standards) political career.

Labour losing their deposit was hardly surprising given how determined Zac and Sarah were to defend and gain this seat respectively, and Labour had very nearly lost their deposit in Richmond Park back in 2010, this being their worst constituency in the whole of Greater London. Amidst the rest, it was surprisingly OMRLP leader Howling Laud Hope who finished fourth, albeit with just 184 votes and less than half a percent of the vote, making this the worst fourth-place finish for any candidate since Christopher Teasdale (using the description 'Soon To Be Unemployed') in the 1984 Stafford & Stone by-election. Meanwhile, the Independent Conservative and pro-Heathrow campaign of Fiona Syms (ex-wife of Robert Syms, Conservative MP for Poole since 1997) was a complete flop, as she finished behind even the Monster Raving Loonies. The wooden spoon award for this by-election was picked up by David Powell, who polled only 32 votes, less than half of that of even completely inept perennial candidate Ankit Love-and I have not been able to figure out what he was actually doing here.

The by-election also demonstrates a greater need for electoral reform. People should be able to vote for who they believe in and for what they believe is right, not tactically or to remove a candidate they do not want. It is also clear that the £500 deposit barrier is not effective at deterring frivolous or completely useless candidates-it just shuts out new and less well-resourced parties and candidates, and discriminates particularly against candidates who are women, have disabilities and/or caring responsibilities of some kind. Introducing some form of proportional representation and increasing the signature requirement while scrapping the requirement for a deposit needs to happen sooner rather than later-this works well in many other countries.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: North Yorkshire

I am nearly at the end of my series of alternative constituencies for the 2018 Boundary Review, and the last England-focused section will be on North Yorkshire.

Although I agree with the general structure of the changed constituencies, and with keeping York Outer and York Central essentially intact, I feel it is best if 'Ainsty' (a wapentake which has in fact not existed for centuries) is separated from Selby within Selby & Ainsty, and returned to Harrogate & Knaresborough. Selby does not look northwards within a Yorkshire context (but rather eastwards to Hull or westwards to Leeds) and should never have been moved into the area covered by North Yorkshire County Council. Since few real changes of any kind are needed in North Yorkshire, and since separating Thirsk & Malton (which are not really connected to each other) is not possible within this review, there is little else to say here.

My alternative constituencies for North Yorkshire look like this:

Richmond & Northallerton succeeds Richmond (Yorks). Although similar to the current Richmond (Yorks) constituency, a name change is needed due to Northallerton being larger than Richmond and being in a different district.
York Outer and York Central are unchanged apart from a few internal ward boundary adjustments. I would not normally support an 'outer/central' approach for a two seat constituency but the particular way the City of York has grown merits an exception, and thus the keeping of the approach used when each of these constituencies was first created for the 2010 general election.

The Richmond Park by-election poll takes place tomorrow, so I will cover alternative constituencies for Scotland and Northern Ireland after that is finished.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire has overall the second-largest ward sizes in the UK, with most wards having 11,000 to 13,000 electors each, and in Leeds' case sometimes as many as 17,000.  This makes ward splitting a necessity in several parts of this highly urbanised part of Britain for the purposes of creating sensible constituencies. Connectivity is vital.

I believe it is best if the city of Leeds and 'Leeds Outer' are separated as much as possible for creating new constituencies. However, the area once covered by the county borough of Leeds before 1974 (i.e. the city of Leeds and not towns like Morley, Otley, or Pudsey) is not quite the correct size for creating a whole number of sensible constituencies entirely within Leeds, so a few outer parts of the city of Leeds will have to share territory with Leeds' suburbs (which are still civil parishes). Otley and Morley can have their own suburban/semi-rural constituencies to themselves, just like those places making up the current Elmet & Rothwell. The same should happen with Bradford (which has a similar problem to Leeds in this regard), with the small town of Queensbury being paired with Halifax and reunited with Shelf, with which it formed an urban district from 1935-1974.

Many of the changes seem rather drastic and unnecessary, or at least need some tweaking. Elmet & Rothwell being unchanged, Huddersfield adding Lindley ward, and Leeds East adding Burmantofts & Richmond Hill ward are the only BCE initial proposals I approve of in this area. It is easier on the Wakefield district if Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford was kept intact, if Wakefield was reunited (Ossett is not needed as it is actually a separate community), and if Hemsworth was changed to be in quota and take in no part of the actual city of Wakefield. This can be done by substituting Wakefield South for Wakefield Rural in Hemsworth's case. Ossett, meanwhile, can be paired with Dewsbury leaving Batley & Spen unchanged. I do appreciate the merits of both but to ease the situation in Leeds and Bradford, it is better if Batley & Spen was left intact.

My alternative constituencies for West Yorkshire are therefore:

Leeds West is abolished.
Leeds North West is abolished.
Brighouse & Sowerby succeeds Calder Valley. Within Town ward of Calderdale it contains polling district RD, comprising the village of Southowram, making its actual electorate 76,952.
Halifax & Queensbury succeeds Halifax. Within Town ward of Calderdale it loses polling district RD, making its actual electorate 77,593.
Shipley & Bradford North succeeds Shipley, taking in more of the actual city of Bradford. Within Bingley Rural ward it loses polling districts 3A, 3G, and 3H (comprising the area by Halifax Road), making its actual electorate 77,767 and the changed Keighley's new electorate 71,981 (apart from gaining these 3 polling districts, Keighley retains its current boundaries).
Bradford West actually succeeds Bradford South in practice; the old Bradford West seat is effectively abolished in this plan.
Morley succeeds Morley & Outwood. The Outwood part moves to Wakefield.
Leeds North succeeds Leeds North East. Within Kirkstall ward it contains polling districts KIB and KID which are both east of the railway line going via Horsforth, making its actual electorate 74,228 and the changed Pudsey's new electorate 77,945.
Leeds South succeeds Leeds Central.
Elmet & Rothwell, Batley & Spen, and Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford are all unchanged.
Otley is a new seat comprising Leeds' northern suburbs and the village of Wharfedale. Most of this seat was part of the old Ripon constituency from 1950 to 1983.

Monday, 28 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: South East Yorkshire

The first part of the Yorkshire section of my series of alternative constituencies for the 2018 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies will focus on how I have successfully managed to separate 'the Humber' from South and East Yorkshire and also restore proper links.

The Selby district is much better connected to South and East Yorkshire than it is to North Yorkshire, having been in the West Riding of Yorkshire before 1974. The same applies to the town of Goole, which has no true links with either North Lincolnshire or East Yorkshire. Much of the old Goole constituency outside of Goole ended up forming an integral part of the current Doncaster North!

Now that Sheffield's electorate has shrunk, it is more practicable to have five whole constituencies entirely in Sheffield, and thus to separate Penistone and Stocksbridge. It is worth saying that Stocksbridge should not be combined with Hallam, when it is far better kept with Ecclesfield (which like Stocksbridge has its own parish council), and that Stannington ward should be removed from Sheffield Hallam, which it was not a part of until 2010. Meanwhile, Sheffield Brightside and Sheffield Hillsborough should be separated and largely restored to their previous forms.

Kingston-Upon-Hull, like many medium-sized cities in the UK, has seen substantial expansion into many small towns and villages surrounding it, and in Hull's case that means the Haltemprice area (Cottingham, Hessle, Willerby and Kirk Ella). It is notable that all of these villages have much better road links with Hull than they do with each other, so I do not believe the Boundary Commission's initial version of Kingston-Upon-Hull West & Haltemprice is appropriate even though it is on the right track. Instead, Cottingham should be added to the current Hull North, Hull East should only add Myton ward, and Hull West & Hessle can expand further into Hull's suburbs. This also minimises change in the Hull constituencies. Uniting large towns is also an important factor, hence my creation of revived Barnsley and Doncaster constituencies.

My alternative constituencies for South East Yorkshire are:

Haltemprice & Howden is abolished. Like Mid Dorset & North Poole, it is another victim of increasing urban expansion.
Barnsley East is abolished.
Wentworth & Dearne is abolished.
Sheffield Heeley is abolished.
Selby & Howden succeeds Selby & Ainsty.
Barnsley succeeds Barnsley Central.
Sheffield Gleadless succeeds Sheffield South East.
Sheffield Brightside succeeds Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough. It also has polling districts WC, WF and WG from Southey ward, making its actual electorate 74,866.
Sheffield Hillsborough succeeds Penistone & Stocksbridge in practice, restoring the pre-2010 Sheffield Hillsborough constituency. It loses polling districts WC, WF, and WG from Southey ward, making its actual electorate 77,690.
The changed Sheffield Hallam gains polling districts PB, PD, PE, and PF from Graves Park ward, meaning the changed Sheffield Hallam's actual electorate is 75,894 and the changed Sheffield Central's actual electorate is 76,286.
The changed Rotherham constituency contains polling districts JE and JH from Rawmarsh ward, comprising the Rotherham suburb of Parkgate, making its new electorate 73,041 and the changed Don Valley's new electorate 78,037.
Dearne Valley succeeds Doncaster North in practice.
Doncaster succeeds Doncaster Central.
Bridlington has the same boundaries as the current East Yorkshire constituency; the constituency was called Bridlington prior to 1997 and the East Yorkshire epithet was never appropriate, given that East Yorkshire is a whole part of Yorkshire, not merely a district of it.
Beverley & Holderness and Rother Valley are unchanged.
Penistone is a new seat although it is similar to the Barnsley West & Penistone constituency of 1983-2010.
Goole is a new seat that largely restores the old Goole constituency of 1950-83.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: Wales

Moving away from England, we move to the nation where a considerable proprtion of my distant ancestors come from: Wales (or Cymru if you know Cymraeg/Welsh, which I do to some extent)

Wales is sadly the most hard done-by in this review, given that it now has to adapt to the English electoral quota when it did not need to do so before (partly because the mountainous and rural nature of much of Wales, combined with relatively poor road connections outside Glamorgan and Gwent, makes large rural constituencies unviable in many cases). It stands to lose 11 constituencies out of 40, varying substantially in size from Arfon (37,733 electors) to Cardiff South & Penarth (72,392, the only in-quota constituency of the 40), and no constituency will survive entirely unchanged. Many smaller constituencies in north Wales (Gwynedd and Clwyd) are not so much abolished as mostly absorbed into (most of) another constituency, Arfon being the clearest case in point.

Each new constituency must be drawn carefully so that proper links can be maintained; luckily the only large wards are in the Welsh capital, Cardiff/Caerdydd and in Swansea/Abertawe. This is particularly problematic in Gogledd Cymru (North Wales), where transport links are poorer (although rural railway lines in Wales overall are much more extensive than those in England; many rural railway lines in England are long since gone by comparison due to the foolish and short-sighted Beeching Axe).

Surprisingly, many of the initial proposals from the BCE in the South of Wales (corresponding to the ancient kingdoms of Glamorgan and Gwent) are rather good, considering the circumstances they have to work in, with some tweaks needed here and there. Cardiff South and East should merely be Cardiff South East and should be closer to the 1950-83 constituency of the same name, and Cardiff North should stay entirely in Cardiff. Reuniting the city of Newport and moving Blackwood into Blaenau Gwent is another idea I approve of.

However, in the north and west, much work needs to be done. Swansea East should not have to extend into Aberavon at all; Aberavon and Abertawe are clearly separate and should remain so. This means Swansea East should absorb the parts of Swansea West that are actually in Swansea, and thus create a united Swansea constituency. No part of Powys should be included in any Dyfed constituency, either, as these two areas lack any real shared interest. Many general ideas (recreating Ceredigion & Pembroke North, reuniting most of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire) should nonetheless stand. Ironically, despite the major changes caused by adaptation to the new quotas, recreating some old constituencies is possible, namely the old Flintshire constituencies (Rhyl and Prestatyn are really in Flintshire, not Denbighshire), and Denbigh. It is worth saying that Ynys Mon, as an island constituency, should have been protected under the 2011 Act as the Isle of Wight, Na h-Eilanan an lar and Orkney & Shetland were, because even though it has a well-used connection via the Menai Bridge it is still separate enough culturally and socially to merit the same protection as other large islands not on the British mainland. Sadly this is not the case, so it will have to expand across said Menai Bridge to the city of Bangor, shifting the rest of Caernarfon into an expanded version of Dwyfor Meirionydd, which Gogledd Sir Faldwyn (northern Montgomeryshire) is better connected to than any part of old Denbighshire. It is another case of 'follow the railway line' which from Welshpool will go all the way to Pwlhelli in the south of Meirionydd. The same should be applied with regards to redrawing the Conwy area and old Denbigh.

Therefore, my alternative constituencies for Wales look like this:

Aberavon is abolished, with the entirety of Port Talbot itself being absorbed by Ogmore.
Arfon is abolished, although it is small enough to be mostly absorbed into Ynys Mon rather than completely split up.
Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire is abolished with both parts returning to their constituent counties where they actually belong.
Cardiff Central is abolished.
Clwyd West is abolished.
Clwyd South is abolished.
Delyn is abolished.
Islwyn is abolished.
Montgomeryshire is abolished.
Newport East is abolished.
Pontypridd is abolished.
Swansea West is abolished. The proportion actually in the city of Swansea is absorbed by Swansea East, with the rural area being absorbed by Gower.
Monmouthshire succeeds Monmouth.
Newport succeeds Newport West, reuniting the city of Newport proper into one constituency for the first time since 1979.
Blaenau Gwent & Blackwood succeeds Blaenau Gwent.
Pontypool succeeds Torfaen; it extends outside the authority of Torfaen and thus should revert back to Pontypool, the name it bore until 1983.
Cardiff South East succeeds Cardiff South, recreating the old Cardiff South East constituency of 1950-83.
Barry & Penarth succeeds the Vale of Glamorgan. Although very similar to the old Barry constituency, Penarth is large enough to be included in the constituency name.
Bridgend & Llantwit succeeds Bridgend.
Ogmore & Aberavon succeeds Ogmore.
Aberdare & Pontypridd succeeds Cynon Valley.
Rhondda & Llantrisant succeeds Rhondda.
Abertawe succeeds Swansea East; note I have used the Cymraeg name for Swansea.
Caerfyrddin succeeds Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, reuniting most of northern Caerfyrddin (Llanelli covers the southern half) again. Dinefwr no longer exists for any official purpose so the name is no longer needed in a constituency.
Pembroke succeeds Preseli Pembrokeshire in practice, reuniting the majority of Sir Benfro. A small western part of Caerfyrddin (Laugharne, specifically) had to be added to it due to electoral quota requirements.
Ceredigion & Fishguard succeeds Ceredigion, effectively recreating Ceredigion & Pembroke North/Ceredigion & Gogledd Sir Benfro.
Brecon, Radnor & Montgomery succeeds Brecon & Radnorshire.
Meirionydd a Trallwng succeeds Dwyfor Meirionydd; (Y) Trallwng is the Welsh name for Welshpool, the largest town in northern Montgomeryshire.
Ynys Mon a Caernarfon succeeds Ynys Mon, taking most of (northern) Caernarfon(shire) in addition to the island of Ynys Mon.
Conwy succeeds Aberconwy, covering most of the Conwy County Borough. Aberconwy no longer exists for any administrative purpose and therefore should be retired as a constituency name.
East Flintshire succeeds Alyn & Deeside and is an exact replica of the 1950-83 constituency of East Flintshire.
West Flintshire succeeds Vale of Clwyd in practice by recreating the 1950-83 constituency of West Flintshire.
Denbigh is a new seat, although it largely replicates the Denbigh constituency of 1918-83.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

My tribute to Fidel Castro

Yesterday, Fidel Castro, who was President of Cuba from 1959 to 2008 and a revolutionary icon to so many, died.

Fidel first came to fame when he ousted notorious, US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista at the end of 1958, taking office in January 1959. He then instituted a Marxist-Leninist system on Cuba, which instantly attracted hostility from the USA and other nations on the western side of the Berlin Wall, resulting in the USA imposing a trade embargo from 1962 onwards and the CIA making no less than 638 failed and rather bizarre attempts to assassinate him, which notably included poisoning Fidel's cigars and exploding seashells in his face.

Cut off from the USA, and after the USSR's collapse in 1991 aid from Russia, Cuba under Fidel displayed so much ingenuity to keep itself afloat, such as keeping the old 'Yank tanks' alive in Havana with old Lada engines and mechanical parts from old Moskviches, and assorted replacement parts made purely from scrap metal and anything remotely usable. Cuba, even after Fidel ceded power to his brother, Raoul, has been able to maintain an excellent health service and well-trained doctors in spite of crippling poverty in many other ways, especially outside Havana. It also made education at all levels free for its entire population, albeit with political indoctrination attached.

However, Cuba under the Castros has been by no means without glaring faults. Anti-Communist opposition by any means in Cuba is still not permitted and many numerous human rights violations take place in Cuba, especially the torture of political prisoners and harassment and persecution of human rights activists. Art of all kinds that is 'contrary to the revolution' in any fashion is outlawed. Basic freedoms like the right to demonstrate and express freely are almost outlawed in Cuba. Some things, especially travel restrictions on entering and leaving Cuba and LGBT rights, have eased slightly since Raoul took office, but Cuba has a long way to go in terms of being considered respectful of basic human rights overall, and it has made no amends for its previous crimes in that sense.

Nevertheless, Fidel Castro, who made friends with more democratic but no less revolutionary and forward thinking figures around the world like Nelson Mandela, has proven, like his friend Che Guevara, a revolutionary inspiration to so many people around the world, for his to desire to rebel against the way things were and are, his inspiration of young people in particular, his different ways of thinking, and his willingness to challenge the uncaring ideology that is capitalism. He will be missed by many just as his legacy will be scorned by many, and I have written this poem to mark his passing:

Adios Fidel,
Revolucionario de antano,
Inspirador de jovenes rebeldes,
Y de los que haldan cambio.

En sus noventa antos,
Usted via tanto de
La mano oscura
De  las fuerzas de codicia.

Usted lucho, lo intent
Para matarte,
Pero usted se aseguro,
Para evader culaquier
Cosa que pudiera

El golpe de todo asesino extrano...

Asi que, adios camarada,
Por tu tiempo, como todo
Debe terminar.

In memory of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, revolutionary leader of Cuba, born 13 August 1926, who departed this life on 25 November 2016, aged 90 years.

Friday, 25 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: Warwickshire

As I move into the final part of the West Midlands section of my series of alternative constituencies, I can tell you that the deadline to electronically submit alternative proposals to the Boundary Commission for England regarding the 2018 review is 5 December, just 10 days from now.

Making a total mess of Meriden and Solihull, however awkward the Meriden constituency looks, is not appropriate or necessary; the Solihull constituency forms a distinct community and should be left alone. The ward split in Meriden should happen at the edge and the spare polling district should go to the (expanded) North Warwickshire constituency, which formed a substantial part of the pre-1983 constituency of Meriden (it had 98,914 electors in 1979!). It is more appropriate to pair Kenilworth with a  Coventry constituency (since Coventry does not have quite enough electors for three constituencies on its own) since Bedworth is too large to fit into a Coventry constituency and Kenilworth has good links with Coventry (and certainly better links than with Rugby or Southam).

It is also clear that Warwick and Leamington are inextricably entwined, and therefore should never be separated when drawing new constituencies, Nor should any part of rural Warwickshire be combined with a Worcestershire constituency as I have said earlier; expanding the existing Warwickshire constituencies so that they are close to the maximum electorate limit, but not over it, is possible when done carefully.

My alternative constituencies for Warwickshire (& Solihull & Coventry) look like this:

Kenilworth & Southam is abolished.
Coventry East succeeds Coventry North East.
Coventry South West & Kenilworth succeeds Coventry South.
West Warwickshire succeeds Meriden and is in fact identical to Meriden but with polling district ME01 of Meriden ward removed from it, making its actual electorate 76,360 and the changed North Warwickshire's new electorate 76,516. This constituency actually covers a wide variety of communities, and therefore the Meriden name is not appropriate.
Solihull is unchanged.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: Birmingham and the Black Country

The 'Greater Birmingham' area, aka the West Midlands conurbation aka the Black Country area, is the most difficult area in terms of drawing sensible constituencies in the whole of England.

Part of the problem lies with what happened in redrawing Birmingham's constituencies for the 2010 election. The reduction from 11 seats to 10 (9 if you exclude Sutton Coldfield, really a separate community in its own right) was largely caused by a shrinking population in central and southern Birmingham. This caused many of the southern Birmingham constituencies to end up being formed of areas with few proper attachments to each other; the current Birmingham Hall Green is really Birmingham Sparkbrook with the Hall Green ward attached; the current Birmingham Selly Oak has two-thirds of the pre-2010 Hall Green and lacks Moseley & King's Heath, which had been paired with Selly Oak itself for decades in constituency terms. The northern Birmingham constituencies (Edgbaston, Perry Barr, and Erdington) fared much better in the last review by comparison.

The Black Country area, which most strongly identifies with the city of Birmingham, includes the four large boroughs of Wolverhampton (also a city, technically), Walsall, Dudley, and Sandwell. It alone stands to lose 2 seats out its current 13, with Birmingham losing 1 seat out of 9 outside Sutton Coldfield, which the Boundary Commission has wisely chosen to leave unchanged, and so it should be.

The size of the council wards in this area of Britain presents serious challenges for creating new constituencies; Birmingham has the largest wards in Britain, larger than even those of Leeds, making ward splitting practically inevitable. However, sensible and minimal ward splits can be carried out when done properly, not only in Birmingham but also Dudley. It is particularly important that natural communities are kept together (there are many small towns in the Black Country) even if this means that ward splits occur somewhere. Had the allowed deviance from the average electoral quota been 10% as opposed to 5%, we would not have this problem.

I have sadly not been able to find a solution which avoids one Birmingham ward being transferred to a constituency based in Sandwell, but using sensible ward splitting I have been able to find a solution which avoids ridiculous combinations like 'Birmingham Selly Oak & Halesowen' and a redrawn version of Birmingham Edgbaston with Sparkbrook ward in it. There are pairs of wards among Birmingham's 40 which should never be separated from each other within the drawing of any new Birmingham constituency, and these are they:

1. Billesley and Brandwood.
2. Springfield and Sparkbrook.
3. Stetchford & Yardley North and South Yardley.
4. Longbridge and Northfield.
5. Harborne and Edgbaston.
6. Selly Oak and Bournville.

Also, it should be clear that any Birmingham constituency involving crossing the M6 motorway should not do so in the east of Birmingham, only in the west.

With these in mind, restoring some old Birmingham constituencies (in expanded form) is possible when done carefully; Hall Green should be reunited with Billesley and Brandwood, and Moseley & Kings Heath should be returned to a Selly Oak constituency, or at least one containing the main parts of Selly Oak. Since Birmingham Erdington is under quota and can realistically only add (part of) Oscott ward, this essentially necessitates Aston ward being separated from Nechells and combined with the current Perry Barr, thus reviving a new version of the pre-1983 constituency of Birmingham Handsworth.  The shrinking population in the centre of Birmingham, coupled with the fact that of the outer Birmingham wards, only Quinton is suitable for transfer to a Sandwell-based constituency (it does not contain major Birmingham landmarks, which Soho ward does, for example). This in turn effectively forces the merger of the main Edgbaston area with the main area of Selly Oak, with which Edgbaston has more common interests than Ladywood.

In the four Black Country boroughs, a complete redrawing of the map is really needed outside Wolverhampton, where both Wolverhampton South West and Wolverhampton North East can simply expand to the point where the town of Bilston can be removed from the area for constituency purposes, and given back its own constituency. The same can happen with Wednesbury; the town of West Bromwich itself is entirely in the current West Bromwich East; the current 'West Bromwich West' contains no part of the actual town mentioned in the constituency name but is rather 'Wednesbury & Tipton', in the same way that Warley should be called Smethwick. This is the only constituency any outer Birmingham ward should be added to.

My alternative constituencies for the Greater Birmingham area therefore look like this:

Birmingham Edgbaston is abolished.

Wolverhampton South East is abolished.
Walsall North is abolished.
Dudley North is abolished.
West Bromwich West is abolished.
Birmingham Ladywood & Sparkbrook succeeds Birmingham Ladywood. Within Springfield ward it loses polling district DEE to Birmingham Yardley and polling districts DEG, DEH, and DEI to a new version of Birmingham Hall Green, making its actual electorate 77,840 and the changed Birmingham Yardley's new electorate 74,068.
Birmingham Hall Green succeeds Birmingham Selly Oak in practice in this incarnation. The current version of Birmingham Hall Green, really 'Birmingham Hall Green & Sparkbrook', is abolished in this plan, and in my opinion deserves to be. This plan for Birmingham Hall Green essentially restores the pre-2010 version of Birmingham Hall Green (albeit with King's Norton ward also included) and contains polling districts DEG, DEH, and DEI from Springfield ward, making its real electorate 74,700.
Birmingham Handsworth succeeds Birmingham Perry Barr, recreating the 1974-83 constituency of the same name (albeit with Perry Barr and parts of Oscott attached). It contains polling districts CVE, CVG and CVJ of Oscott ward, meaning its actual electorate is 72,624. The changed Birmingham Erdington's electorate is therefore 75,068.
Smethwick succeeds Warley.
Wolverhampton West succeeds Wolverhampton South West.
Wolverhampton East succeeds Wolverhampton North East.
Aldridge, Brownhills, and Bloxwich succeeds Aldridge-Brownhills.
Walsall succeeds Walsall South, taking in all of the main town of Walsall.
West Bromwich succeeds West Bromwich East.
Dudley succeeds Dudley South. It contains polling district X01 of Quarry Bank & Dudley Wood ward, making its actual electorate 72,016 and the changed Stourbridge's new electorate 78,458.
Birmingham Hodge Hill and Sutton Coldfield are both unchanged.
Bilston, Wednesbury, and Birmingham Edgbaston & Selly Oak are all new seats. Bilston is a recreation of a constituency of the same name from 1950-74, albeit with Tipton also included. Wednesbury is a near-exact replica of the 1950-74 version of the old Wednesbury constituency. Birmingham Edgbaston & Selly Oak combines most of the 1983-97 version of Birmingham Edgbaston with the 1983-97 version of Birmingham Selly Oak. Note that the changed Birmingham Northfield takes in polling district CFD from Bournville ward which is south of Middleton Hall Road, making Birmingham Edgbaston & Selly Oak's real electorate 78,416 and the changed Birmingham Northfield's new electorate 71,333.