Opinion: ‘Our city deserves two named Parliamentary seats’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 24th July 2021, 2:08 pm
The Houses of Parliament.

For years, the parliamentary boundaries have caused confusion. Half of Peterborough is subsumed into Cambridgeshire, along with villages to the north, such as Barnack and Northborough.

Many people don’t know who represents them. They live in Peterborough. Their council is Peterborough City Council. So surely their MP is the MP for Peterborough?

Wrong. I get dozens of emails each week from people who think, understandably enough, that I’m their MP. If you live in Fletton or Stanground, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that your constituency is called North West Cambridgeshire.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The boundary review is our chance to put this right. Last time, one Boundary Commission suggestion was to create two seats called ‘Peterborough North’ and ‘Peterborough South’. This was never implemented because the national proposals were dumped.

So surely the Boundary Commission wants to fix the problem this time? Wrong again. In their first draft, two seats cover our city, but only one is called Peterborough.

All of the southern parts of Peterborough – such as the Ortons, Fletton, Hampton and Stanground – are labeled as ‘North West Cambridgeshire’ again. That’s despite Peterborough residents making up more than 70% of those living in this proposed ‘Cambridgeshire’ seat.

At the same time, the northern Peterborough villages are lumped together with Ramsey, which is miles away to the south. It doesn’t make any sense.

One of my predecessors, Stewart Jackson, wrote to this newspaper noting that almost every town or city of our size has at least two named MPs. Bolton and Sunderland get three.

As he put it, Peterborough needs two MPs. That isn’t about having extra politicians, which even I don’t want. Constituencies must be equally sized, so everyone’s vote is worth the same.

It’s about recognition. It’s about our identity. It’s quite literally about ensuring we have our proper place on the parliamentary map.

We all live in Peterborough. We can’t all live in a single Peterborough seat, because our city is too big for that. So it’s time for Peterborough to be named in both seats.

That could be done without changing anything, or anything much, in terms of boundary lines. Some adjustments might be sensible, but at the very least the constituency covering the southern half of the city needs to contain the word ‘Peterborough’.

Fenland District Council has put forward a suggestion for ‘Peterborough North’ and for ‘Peterborough South and Ramsey’, keeping both seats compact, but without creating any knock-on effects for surrounding areas.

They also, quite rightly, want the constituency that covers Fenland exactly, to be called ‘Fenland’ – and not ‘North East Cambridgeshire’.

Names do matter.

The south of Peterborough isn’t a rural Cambridgeshire idyll. It makes up one half of our city, with the same urban needs. We are getting short-changed.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it. The Boundary Commission is willing to change the proposals, but only if you tell them to do it.

Please go to bcereviews.org.uk. Enter your postcode. When the map appears, click on the ‘Make a comment’ button and then click either ‘Peterborough CC’ or ‘North West Cambridgeshire CC’ on the map itself. It only takes a minute or two to tell them online.

Doing it the old-fashioned way, you can also write to: The Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ.

Just make sure your comment reaches them by Monday, August 2.

We all live in Peterborough and our city deserves to be named in both seats.