This isn't entirely unprecedented. We have been here before. In 2011 and 2012, under Dave's instruction, the Boundary Commission redrew the political map of Britain. Their brief was to equalise the number of electors per constituency and chop down the number of MPs by 50 to, as the government then put it, cut the cost of politics. In reality, it was a feeble attempt to link the "national emergency" posed by the deficit to the gerrymandering of constituency boundaries for Conservative electoral advantage. The LibDems killed it off while they were in Coalition but, unfortunately, with last year's Tory majority the fix was always coming back. And so we have today's first draft, drawn up again on the same principles which, if implemented, will make it much more difficult for Labour to ever win a general election. With fewer marginal seats to fight over it makes them even more important, apparently demanding a Blair-ish triangulation strategy to win over the timid, conservative-leaning voter in the timid, conservative-leaning swing seat. It's almost as if the whole thing is designed that way.
This, however, is but the first draft. There's to be a repeat of the consultations and public gnashing of teeth. And, to be fair to the Boundary Commission last time, they did make some pretty big changes after listening to thousands of submissions. I recall previous proposals feeding Stoke Central anabolic steroids and swelling to a silly size, biting chunks out of the North and South constituencies now poised to share its unloved carcass. This followed the first draft in which Central reached out and nicked a bit of Staffordshire Moorlands around Werrington. As a large, relatively well-to-do village, I was privy to one or two snobby letters dead set against to the proposal, claiming this leafy dormitory for folk who mainly work and shop in the city "had nothing to do with Stoke-on-Trent". I digress. Once representations are made, I expect there will be more changes. But ultimately, the outcome is the same" the Potteries loses an MP, and Labour gets stiffed.
There are many more problems with the boundary review as presently constituted. Chief among which is constituencies are getting redrawn according to the registered electorate, not population, and those electorate figures are from December 2015. This was after hundreds of thousands dropped off the register thanks to changes to the registration process, and before two million extra people re-registered to take part in the EU referendum. It is hopelessly out-of-date and is set to recompose British politics off inaccurate data.
For Theresa May, this attempt to cook the next election's books is a test of her alleged One Nation Toryism. As someone who's always been sceptical about a snap general election (even putting down an amendment to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires Parliamentary time, which comes with plenty of warning), and as May has ruled one out, I believe she has a clear incentive to keep the boundary review going. Uncharacteristically, this is one set of findings she won't be kicking into the long grass. And yet, if it does go through, it could store up very serious problems for British politics.
As noted recently, the reason why revolutionary movements have a tendency to either become domesticated or disappear in liberal democracies is because constitutionalism opens up political paths for the achievement of objectives without the constant mobilisation and pressure of extra-parliamentary activity, be it demonstrations, strikes, occupations, or other forms of direct action. If the constitutional path is choked off, then it is reasonable to assume that more radical, confrontational politics strike down thicker and wider roots. This is what May's Tories are playing with. I'm not suggesting a huge revolutionary movement will rise up, but if something as simple as the everyday interests of the labour movement are locked out of official politics because of boundary fixes, they will find expression in other ways. Some of which might be sharp, militant, and violent.
And so the ball is very much in May's court. How much does she want to see the Tories win? Is she as entirely short-sighted as per her late and unlamented predecessor, or will she stop and think for a moment? Dave, as a man afflicted with a disastrous gambling habit was happy to risk the legitimacy of the British political system for the small reward of a few dozen extra seats. Is May?