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Study Notes

Forms of Representation - Constituencies

AS, A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, IB

Last updated 27 Aug 2017

The concept of a constituency is the foundation of representative democracy.

What is a Constituency?

A constituency is a group of voters in a specified area who elect a representative to a legislative body. 

For example, in the UK there are currently 650 parliamentary constituencies each of which elects Member of Parliament to represent them in the House of Commons.

Every person in a constituency therefore has a representative who is accountable to them and whose interests they should act.

Levels of Constituency in the UK

There are different levels of constituency representation in UK politics reflecting the different forms of representative democracy undertaken:

Ward / Parish Councils

There are around 10,000 parish and town councils in England. Over 16 million people live in communities served by these local councils. 80,000 councillors serve on these councils. Local (community, neighbourhood, parish, village and town) councils are statutory bodies and are the first tier of local government in England. They serve electorates ranging from small rural communities, towns and small cities; all are independently elected and raise a precept – a form of council tax – from the local community.

Parliamentary Constituencies

Westminster parliamentary constituencies are the areas used to elect Members of Parliament to the House of Commons. At the last general election (June 2017) there were 650 Westminster parliamentary constituencies in the UK, comprising 533 in England, 40 in Wales, 59 in Scotland and 18 in Northern Ireland.

The typical size of parliamentary constituencies differs between parts of the UK. The Office for National Statistics gives the median total parliamentary electorate across constituencies of about 72,400 in England, 69,000 in Scotland, 66,800 in Northern Ireland and 56,800 in Wales.

National Assembly Constituencies

In Wales, there are 40 National Assembly for Wales Constituencies and 5 Electoral Regions.

There are 60 Assembly Members (AMs). 40 are elected directly from single member constituencies, while the remaining 20 are elected from the electoral regions using a proportional system

In Scotland, there are 73 Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies and 8 Electoral Regions that elect representatives to the Scottish Parliament. There are 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). 73 are elected directly from single member constituencies, while the remaining 56 are elected from the 8 electoral regions using a proportional system.

In Northern Ireland, The Assembly has 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), with six members elected from each of 18 constituencies.

Metropolitan Authorities

London was the first region of the UK to have an elected mayor. 

The Mayor of London is an elected politician who, along with the London Assembly of 25 members, is accountable for the strategic government of Greater London. The current mayor is Sadiq Khan, who took up office on 9 May 2016.

The London Assembly comprises 25 London Assembly Members, who are elected at the same time as the Mayor.  Eleven assembly members represent the whole capital and 14 are elected by constituencies.

On 5 May 2017, six mayors were elected for the first time to lead combined authorities in: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, the Tees Valley, the West of England and the West Midlands. The six combined authority areas account for a total population of 9.5 million people, almost 20% of the population in England.

European Parliament

Whilst the UK remains part of the European Union it elects MEPs - Members of the European Parliament. The UK is divided into 12 electoral regions made up of the nations and regions of the UK. Each region has between 3 and 10 MEPs and each MEP in a region represents each person living there.

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