IN Victorian times, the British and the French sat down and drew lines on maps to carve up Africa, with pleasing straight lines often the end result.
Unfortunately, the countries they created often took no account of tribal lands or other important factors, which has exacerbated, even caused, on-going problems across the continent ever since.
Now our own desk-bound cartographers are at it here in England. They comprise London-based civil servants and are called the Boundary Commission.
Under their plans for constituencies, which have just been announced, most existing parliamentary seats in East Sussex will be torn asunder and new artificial creations put in their place.
For Seaford, the result is as astonishing as it is unwelcome. For decades now, in fact since 1918, Seaford has nestled in the same seat as Newhaven and Lewes, in a constituency that roughly equates to the boundaries of Lewes District Council. The present constituency is compact, resembling a slightly leaning rectangle.
But all that is to go, if the Boundary Commission have their way. Instead, Seaford is to be separated from the county town (which will be thrown together with Moulscoomb and Whitehawk), and a new long thin seat created that stretches as far as the Surrey border, yes as far as Surrey.
Whoever designed this seat can have had no concept of local geography or community ties.
What does Seaford have in common with Forest Row? Do you even know where Forest Row is? Worse, the new seat has Seaford firmly in the bottom right-hand corner from where it is hardly likely to command the attention an important town of 25,000 deserves. And to add insult to injury, the Boundary Commission wants to call the new seat “Uckfield”. Many in Seaford over the years have grumbled that the present seat is called “Lewes”, when Seaford is actually the biggest town in the constituency, but they have accepted it, both because Lewes is the county town and because of historical precedent. But Seaford playing second fiddle to Uckfield? Come on!
Seaford’s connections are to Lewes, for administration, to Eastbourne for health and for shopping, to Newhaven for its port. Where are the links that bind Seaford and Uckfield together? There’s not even a train service, despite my best endeavours to have the Lewes-Uckfield line reinstated. Tell a lie. You can get to Uckfield by train if you change at Lewes and then again at East Croydon. It will take you two and a bit hours.
It is a shameful way to treat Seaford. I hope Seaford people will join me in objecting to this act of vandalism on the part of the Boundary Commission. Those who want to register their opposition can do so here or by writing to this address: Boundary Commission for England, 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ.