Arron Banks attempts to become the UK’s Donald Trump.

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Arron Banks (left) with Nigel Farage. 

At the weekend Nigel Farage and his group of hangers-on travelled to New York to visit President-elect Donald Trump. Among the group was millionaire UKIP and Leave.EU donor Arron Banks. Clearly the visit had some effect upon him because he has since announced his plans to launch a new political party solely dedicated to ‘draining the swamp’ of Westminster.

Banks has suggested that he will be funding a new movement which will look to stand candidates against 200 MPs deemed to be the “worst, most corrupt MPs”. His aim is to harness the ‘anti-establishment sentiment’ which he believes is sweeping through world politics, and which has led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

The idea is modelled somewhat upon the candidacy of Martin Bell, a BBC journalist who stood against disgraced Conservative MP Neil Hamilton in the 1997 General Election, ultimately winning his seat of Tatton. Incidentally Hamilton is now, like Banks, a member of UKIP.

Banks has suggested that the targets will be chosen by some form of direct democracy, however he does seem to have some ideas about who he would like to get rid of. He has said that he would rate MPs by undesirability with “Keith Vaz at number one”, whilst a picture released on the Leave.EU twitter page also suggests prominent Remain campaigners Nick Clegg, Anna Soubry, and David Lammy as targets. One would assume that UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, for whom Banks doesn’t conceal his contempt, would also be a target for the new party.

Banks’ new party won’t take party positions in the traditional sense, however he has suggested some causes that they would likely support, including: “forcing through a change of the rules so that MPs can only hold office for two terms, abolition of the House of Lords and pushing for an elected senate, and insisting on a lower age limit of 40 for MPs to stop career politicians.”

Now I get that Banks wants to harness some of the hateful rhetoric that came from the Trump campaign for the Presidency, and bring it into UK politics. However, I have some questions about how he thinks he can achieve this.

Firstly, Banks’ attempt to unseat MPs is modelled somewhat on the one-term independent candidacy of Martin Bell, and its success in unseating Neil Hamilton in 1997. Whilst Bell was successful in unseating Hamilton and won the seat with a majority of 11,077, this was in part because of a plan masterminded by Alastair Campbell where he arranged for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their candidates for Tatton so as not to split the anti-Hamilton vote. Banks wouldn’t have this advantage. In most seats he’d face the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green Party, and UKIP; whilst in some he may also face the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru — therefore splitting the vote even further. Therefore, the likelihood of one of his candidates being successful in gaining election is very, very low.

Secondly, Banks suggests he wants to field, “a great candidate, a military guy, doctor, someone who has done something with their life.” However, the chances of him finding 200 candidates that fit this description, and who are also willing to stand on a platform created by someone like Banks (who was a key part of the racist Leave.EU campaign), seem very slim to me. What’s more, Bank’s suggests an upper age limit of forty for MPs. Therefore, quite how he expects to find 200 candidates with amazing life experience, who are also under forty, and are also willing to stand on a platform created by him, is beyond me. Overall, the likelihood of him finding the personnel to complete this ridiculous pet project seems to be very slim indeed.

Thirdly, this project by Banks is an attempt to ride the populist wave from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. However, Theresa May still insists that the next general election won’t be until 2020, by which time Brexit will be four years in the past and Donald Trump will be struggling to be re-elected. Populism in politics seems to be something which moves extremely quickly, and who knows what its status will be in four years time. My guess is that voters will have long grown tired of the non-solutions offered by populist politicians.

Finally, some of the suggestions which Banks has put forward as issues which his new party might support just don’t seem workable to me. In the previous paragraph I mentioned the proposal of an upper age limit of forty for MPs, but there is also the insistence that each MP should be limited to just two terms in the House of Commons. Although this might sound good when he says it too himself, it just wouldn’t work. With Parliamentary terms being a maximum of five years long, we would never have a Prime Minister with more than ten years experience as an MP — this would not be good for governance in this country. Our last Prime Minister, David Cameron, took office as PM after serving as an MP for nine years. Most of his predecessors had served for much longer: Gordon Brown for twenty-four years, Tony Blair for fourteen years, John Major for twenty-one years, and Margaret Thatcher for twenty years; and the list goes on. I am confident that none of these people could have done the job of Prime Minister after less than two terms as an MP, and I don’t think that the British public would have let them do the job of Prime Minister without this experience. What’s more, I think that it is extremely unlikely that someone could come in with no experience of the workings of Parliament and simply become Prime Minister. For all the talk of Donald Trump’s lack of political experience being a virtue, there have been reports that President Obama is having to spend extra sessions with Trump before the inauguration because his knowledge of government is so lacking. Realistically, to ask someone with no knowledge to do the job of Prime Minister straightaway seems a non-starter to me.

Ultimately, this is pretty typical from Banks, a ridiculous idea attempting to get some publicity and massage his ego — all whilst bringing the likes of Nigel Farage and himself further into the limelight than anyone wants them to be. In an entertaining article from earlier today, Iain Martin describes Banks’ new party as, “The Stupid Party”. That seems like a pretty good name to me.

The problem with the boundary review.

Earlier this week the Boundary Commission released their proposals for a reduction in English parliamentary seats from 533 to 501 and Welsh parliamentary seats from 40 to 29, as part of a wider scheme to reduce the size of the House of Commons from 650 MPs to just 600.

The aims of this scheme are twofold. Firstly, the review aims to equalise the number of voters in each constituency in order to make the system more democratic, and secondly it aims to reduce the cost of politics by lessening the number of MPs. However, although attempting to increase the democracy of our parliamentary system makes perfect sense, the way the boundary review has attempted to achieve this leaves a lot to be desired.

The aim of equalising the number of voters in each constituency is an admirable one, and one which ostensibly should improve our parliamentary democracy.

Currently, there are a great deal of parliamentary seats with a greatly unequal electorate. For example, Wirral West has an electorate of just 54,232; in stark contrast to Manchester Central with its electorate of 87,339. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to try and equalise constituencies such as this in order for each voter to have the same democratic rights.

However, achieving this by reducing the number of MPs is not the way to go. There are already complaints from the public that MPs don’t spend enough time serving their constituents. For the most part this is because they simply don’t have the time, and tend to represent so many people that it is simply impossible for them to do all of the work requested of them. By reducing the number of MPs we are simply going to make this more difficult, and constituencies would be represented in Parliament to an even lesser degree. To reduce the number of MPs would be a grave error, particularly in a year when we have already lost 73 MEPs. In reality, if we want to equalise the number of voters in each constituency, then we should be increasing the number of MPs.

As well as this, the gerrymandering which has taken place in order to engineer constituencies of the same size means that we are left with constituencies made up of communities which bear little similarity to each other. Many of the new constituencies have been created by combining traditional Conservative and Labour seats. This surely means that whoever is elected in these seats will be representing a relatively small proportion of the seat’s population. What’s more, these new constituencies have been created using data that is almost a year out of date, excluding all those who registered to vote between December and June in advance of the EU Referendum, and the increase in political participation that this brought.

In addition, despite this reduction in the number of parliamentary seats there has been no mooted reduction in the number of Government Ministers. The main job of MPs is to scrutinise the work of the Government. The fact that the number of Ministers isn’t also being reduced means that the Executive will have an even greater presence in Parliament, therefore making the scrutiny of Government proposals considerably more difficult for MPs.

What’s more, the aim of increasing the democracy in our parliamentary system is an admirable one, and it would be hoped that voter turnout could be dramatically increased if people felt that the system was more democratic. However, if the government are so keen on increasing democracy then why won’t they entertain the idea of electoral reform, or reform of the House of Lords? If we are going to go ahead with one set of reforms to improve our democracy, then it would make sense to also check the democracy of other aspects of the system.

Since the boundary review was set up, 144 new peerages have been created. This means that the unelected House of Lords now dwarfs the House of Commons with 796 members. Last week Conservative MP Charles Walker, Chair of the House of Commons Procedures Committee said: “It seems perverse to reduce the number of elected representatives in this place while the Lords continues to gorge itself on new arrivals.” He is absolutely right. For an unelected chamber to be larger than our elected House of Commons seems absurd. Many members of the House of Lords do bring skills and experience to the table which are extremely useful for the scrutiny of Government legislation, however it has increasingly become full of the political allies of past Prime Ministers, who are given peerages as rewards for loyalty. This type of patronage should not be what the House of Lords is about. There does seem to be appetite from within the House of Lords for such reform, with many peers feeling the chamber has become too bloated. Lord Desai says as much in his letter to The Times today. Desai states that slimming down the Lords should be a priority, and that it is the House of Commons which hasn’t favoured reform rather than the Lords itself.

In addition, throughout this boundary review the Government have stated that one of their key aims is to make every vote count. We already know that this is unachievable under the First-Past-The-Post system, yet the Government do not seem inclined to consider electoral reform.

Overall, the idea of equalising constituencies is a good one. It is right that the vote of each UK citizen should be worth the same amount. However, doing it this way has been a mistake. Although the rationale for reducing the number of MPs is to save money, the actual saving will be just £66m over the course of a five-year Parliament. A drop in the ocean in terms of the budget. The significant loss of Parliamentary representation is far more important than this negligible saving. Whilst if we are examining our democracy and looking for improvements, why not further consider electoral reform or reform of the House of Lords? Changes such as this would make people value their right to vote much more, and would lead to a significant improvement of our Parliamentary democracy.