SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Constituents' interests

Supporters of smaller or very small parties see the merits of proportional representation.

Thursday, 21st July 2016, 12:00 pm
Sir Peter Bottomley

Supporters of the idea should list the disadvantages and the anticipated advantages.

When French President Mitterrand brought in the system, it was because he wanted to split the centre-right by encouraging the National Front.

The consequences are still felt today in France.

During one general election a Dutch journalist came with me from Rustington and East Preston with Kingston, through Ferring and Goring-by-Sea and into the two thirds of Worthing from Salvington’s windmill to the coast beyond the hospital.

She was amazed in the constituency to see how many residents knew me personally, how deeply as an MP I had been involved in individual and community interests, and how I could act as a local exchange, connecting people with problems with people with solutions.

My experience supports the value of the single member constituency.

I do realise the arguments are not all on one side: if the advantages are never shared, the debate can become one-sided.

Each MP has the responsibility and the opportunity to understand the interests and the experiences of every and of any constituent.

That helps to make politics less partisan.

There is cooperation across constituency boundaries just as councillors work together between wards.

On occasion, someone writes that a particular area is guaranteed to elect a person in a particular party.

The near complete 2015 wipe out of Labour in Scotland challenges that.

In 1996, when I first had a home in Worthing, the county council and borough council were led by the Liberal Democrats; Arun had the thinnest Conservative leadership and Adur, I think, had no overall control.

Change within a party can be as significant as between parties.

Who predicted that the Conservatives would have two female prime ministers before another party had one?

Our local councils have a good record of recruiting and electing candidates of all ages, including over-80 and under-21.

Women have led our hospitals, Northbrook College, the high school, the council and many other contributors to our common good.

I do believe that by working up from the constituency it is possible to have neighbourly and national politics that work and that can be self-correcting to a large extent.

Leasehold issues have led to my joint work with Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick in Limehouse.

Tackling the problems of haemophilia has me working with Diana Johnson of Hull.

On Sunday, at the 50th marriage lunch for friends, I talked with Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors.

He and I have cooperated on issues of freedom of information and of press freedom.

Often, advances that matter to constituents come from the overlapping activities of the media and the elected representative.

News and politics are local and national.


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