MP’s husband warns killer boundary changes could lead to High Court challenge
Exclusive: Christian Percy intervenes with claim that two million people have been left out of Boundary Commission's work
02 March, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Chris Percy with his wife MP Tulip Siddiq and Ms Siddiq’s aunt, Sheikh Hasina
BOUNDARY changes which could leave Hampstead Labour MP Tulip Siddiq’s House of Commons seat vulnerable could be challenged in the High Court, her husband has warned.
Chris Percy’s intervention was revealed as the Boundary Commission published all of the submissions it has so far received in a consultation survey on a redrawn map, which aims to even out the number of voters in each constituency.
He believes the location of up to two million people nationwide who rushed to rejoin the electoral register before last year’s European Referendum has not been taken into account because the boundary process had started before then.
“The ultimate goal of the Boundary Commission’s work in this area is that our democracy functions fairly and smoothly by having fair and representative constituencies, and is widely seen to do so. “This ultimate goal is wrecked by its choice of cut-off date,” his written submission, made public on Tuesday, said.
“If ethics are insufficient to persuade you of the merits of a repeat of the analysis, then legal concerns might,” he told commissioners. “Should it turn out that those voters who have been discarded by your analysis are disproportionately drawn from low-income or ethnic-minority groups, or indeed any groups with a protected characteristic, then your work would be failing the Equalities Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equalities Duty. As such, it is likely to be subject to legal challenge or judicial review.”
Mr Percy’s comments are the first time the prospect has been raised of a judge being called in to look at the way the proposed alterations are drawn up. The material published online revealed that, with more than 750 submissions, Ms Siddiq’s constituency is the most hotly-debated in the country.
Her parliamentary future has been put in peril by changes which shift the constituency towards Tory strongholds in Barnet – creating a potential Hampstead and Golders Green seat – and away from Kilburn. Labour wants the Boundary Commission to step away from adding Highgate to the constituency and instead to add new wards in Brent, rather than areas from around Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Tulip Siddiq campaigning in Kilburn High Road at the 2015 general election
Mr Percy said: “While the electoral roll does not include information on protected characteristics, there may be sufficient data in the ONS Lower Super Output Area neighbourhood analyses, Experian postcode databases or similar location-based datasets to draw a sufficiently robust analysis that enables judicial review.
He added: “Based on anecdotal conversations in my constituency, Hampstead and Kilburn, I suspect that such an injustice has been carried out in this area and would look to support such an equalities analysis if you go ahead with the proposed changes.”
Labour members have appealed to the Commission to look again at the proposed changes to the seat. Several, including Councillor Thomas Gardiner, Sienna Rodgers and Peter Taheri, appeared in person before commissioners urging Kilburn to be kept in the constituency.
Jonathan Creek star Alan Davies helping out with Ms Siddiq’s campaign in 2015
So did Ms Siddiq, who likened the proposals to “gerrymandering” when they were first released last year.
“Life expectancy in Kilburn is 10 years lower than any other part of my constituency,” she told the Commission. “It is an area where people end up dying early because of the conditions they live in, because of the lack of money they have, and because of the lack of care they have had in their lives”
She added: “I think the worst thing we can do is rip up the most vulnerable area in my constituency and show total disregard for the links that they have created over the years.”