What price treachery? The cost of voting against boundary reform

30 January 2013

"Their volte-face means taxpayers will be hit with a bill for £157 million - quickly dubbed the 'Clegg betrayal tax' because the Lib Dems have ensured that the size of the Commons will not be cut for another five years, costing taxpayers £14 million a year. To that can be added the £75 million cost of the 2011 AV referendum and £12 million on the abortive boundary review."

The Daily Mail, 30 January 2013

The cost of betrayal can sometimes be counted in currency.

Yesterday Labour and the Lib Dems voted against a Conservative plan to redraw the electoral map and to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

The Lib Dems sabotaged the policy after the Conservatives rebelled against their proposal for House of Lords reform. Meanwhile Labour MPs are set to lose their historic advantage if constituencies become larger - at the moment, Labour MPs do not, on average, need to win as many votes to secure their seats.

The proposal is now on hold until at least 2018. And, according to the Daily Mail, the taxpayer will end up paying the price for the obstinacy of 334 Honourable Members.

How much are 50 MPs worth?

The Daily Mail proposes that it will cost £14 million per year until 2018 to maintain the status quo (650 MPs). This is the largest share of the bill.

We find this figure (as £13.6 million) in a Parliamentary briefing paper:

Other items on the bill

The Daily Mail also includes the £75 million cost of the 2011 AV referendum. The Lib Dems agreed to form a Coalition with the Conservatives in return for certain concessions, including a referendum on the Alternative Vote. Yesterday certain Conservative MPs claimed that the Lib Dems owed the Government their votes on boundary reform quid pro quo.

The Electoral Commission's report on the referendum confirms the Daily Mail's £75 million figure.

As for the Daily Mail's claim that £12 million had been spent on the boundary review, the House of Commons Library has put the cost at £11.9 million.

Creative accounting?

The Daily Mail's £157 million figure is based on a set of rounded numbers. The more precise total, using the same itemised invoice, is actually £155 million. However, the newspaper's calculation is broadly accurate.

On the Labour party website, Sadiq Khan MP notes that while 50 fewer MPs would save £13.6 million per year, the increase in the number of peers in the House of Lords will eliminate any savings in this area. He adds, "Claims by the Tories that cutting the number of MPs reduces the cost of politics simply don't stack up."

Indeed, some might take issue with the style of the Daily Mail's book-keeping. Designed as an attack on the Lib Dems, its analysis is certainly selective.


Flickr image courtesy of Cayusa

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