Siobhain speaks out against abolition of Mitcham & Morden

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28 February 2017

boundary commission Back in October 2016, Siobhain made formal representations to the Boundary Commission, opposing its plans to abolish the constituency of Mitcham & Morden. She was joined by many community leaders including Stephen Alambritis (Leader of Merton Council), Alan Barley and Christine Kelly (Mitcham British Legion), Naomi Martin (Commonside Trust) and the late Revd Dr Andrew Wakefield. 

These representations have now been made available by the Boundary Commission. You can watch her speech below, and download her letter to the Commission here.

"My name is Siobhain McDonagh; I am the MP for Mitcham and Morden. I was born, brought up and have always lived in the constituency which I represent and therefore you can imagine that that is an enormous privilege and I have loved every single day of representing my home, both as a councillor where I was a councillor for Colliers Wood ward from 1982 to 1998 and as the MP since 1997. It was not quite an easy journey; I did manage to lose the constituency in 1987 and 1992, finally winning in 1997.

I appreciate that I have more days of representation behind me than I have in front of me and I am not here in order to ask you to move round bits of my constituency in order to suit me or my political career. I am here because I believe with all my heart that these proposals will disadvantage a community that is already beset by many problems and issues. By breaking Mitcham and Morden into four, the community that exists there is broken asunder.

When I do my Friday advice surgery, I always make the mistake of saying to the constituent, “Where do you live?” What I mean is, “What is your address?” The answer to the question, “Where do you live?” invariably is “Mitcham” or “Morden” and I am going, “No, no, no, your address”. Clearly, that says that those people have a sense of identity about where they live. This is not a political construct; it is a town and people identify as living there. The same cannot be said for the London Borough of Merton. That is a political construct put together in 1965. There is very little that unites Wimbledon or Mitcham and Morden. People in Mitcham and Morden feel that they are the poor relation of that borough and they believe that Wimbledon gets the best. For those people interested in the boundaries, to read that Wimbledon Village should be put into the Putney constituency because Wimbledon Common should stay together but have no similar reference to Mitcham Common, you do not need to be a conspiracist to believe that perhaps both ends of the borough, as usual, are not being treated equally.

I wanted to have a look at what the size of the bits of Mitcham and Morden that are split up would be in their home constituency should the proposals go ahead. If we look at Graveney, Graveney is going to be an orphan ward placed in the constituency of Tooting. Graveney takes it name from the River Graveney which traditionally marked the boundaries between the Parishes of Mitcham and Tooting as it still does today though this will be ignored under these proposals. Graveney will be a small ward in comparison to the others in Tooting; Graveney ward has 5,900 electors while the average ward size in Tooting is 9,800. Graveney will represent only an eighth of the Tooting constituency. The problems in Graveney at the moment relate to street drinking by groups of older men, principally from Eastern Europe, and younger men who are Tamils.

Only last week I had a large community meeting with the police attempting to address this. The major issues of street drinking will be something that the people of Graveney will look to Merton Police Service and Merton Licensing to resolve, but seven-eighths of the constituency in which they will be placed will look to Wandsworth. The longest standing councillor for this ward is Cllr Linda Kirby who has been the councillor for 30 years: 30 years a Graveney councillor, 30 years in the constituency of Mitcham and Morden. She has two friends who live in the same street in Graveney: Geraldine Stanford who represents the neighbouring ward of Figge’s Marsh, and Judy Saunders who represents Cricket Green wards. For most of those 30 years, all three have represented neighbouring wards in the same constituency. They will now be representing neighbouring wards in three different constituencies, namely Tooting for Linda, Streatham and Mitcham for Geraldine and Wimbledon and Merton for Judy.

If we look at Figge’s March, Longthornton and Pollards Hill moving into the Streatham and Mitcham constituency, these three wards, which form one half of Mitcham, will only represent 28 per cent of all electors in this new constituency. The other 72 per cent will be based within the London Borough of Lambeth. How likely is it that that 28 per cent will be the focus of the Member of Parliament for that constituency? Figge’s Marsh, Longthornton and Pollards Hill feel themselves a part of the same place as the three wards, Cricket Green, Lavender Fields, Colliers Wood and Ravensbury, that will now be part of Merton and Wimbledon. Those constituencies will also not represent even half of the new constituency and believe that their neighbours, Wimbledon, will get more influence and interest anyway.

These wards have really significant problems. A contributor to the Boundary Commission only yesterday suggested that we should not mix up inner and outer London constituencies. I believe that that does not recognise what has happened to poverty and deprivation in London. If you look at the Trust for London, you see that the average family in poverty ten years ago lived in inner London, in social housing and was on benefits. The average family today lives in outer London, is in work and in private rented accommodation and, most of that community in the current constituency of Mitcham and Morden live in Figge’s Marsh, in Lavender, in Cricket Green and in Pollards Hill. They have a community of interest that requires representation but, by being split up, they will have even less of a voice than they currently have. If we move to Morden and see that Ravensbury will be in Wimbledon and Merton, while Lower Morden and St. Helier will be in Sutton and Cheam. We have already heard from Friends in St. Helier how there is a large pensioner population who get their services from Merton but will be part of a constituency based in the Borough of Sutton where they will represent only 18 per cent of electors. These are real issues about what goes to the heart of being a MP.

If we look at the National Health Service, at no point during the last almost 20 years that I have been the MP has there ever been somebody from Mitcham and Morden who has been on the CCG, its predecessor the PCT, either St Helier or St George’s Boards.

People are not represented. In many cases, I am the only voice that argues for those areas. I am not suggesting that public bodies mean to favour one area over another, but that is just how life works and whoever the MP is and whatever party they come from, they will represent who the bulk of the people who live in their constituency are and I believe that these current proposed boundaries prevent that from being effectively done for the people who need it most who are currently living in Mitcham and Morden.

I could quote the Common, I could quote the Cricket Green, I could quote the War Memorial but I am just here to say that people need to be represented. It is what keeps the glue of our politics together and even in times of great turbulence like we are going through at the moment, many people in their area know who their MP is and believe that their MP will represent them. These boundary proposals will make that harder to believe."

If you share Siobhain's views and oppose the abolition of Mitcham & Morden, please get in touch on, or ring the office on 0208 542 4835.