600 seats

I’ve written a lot about AV over recent days, what about the boundary review. Now we know the new target number of seats upon which the quota will be set (600), the tolerance that will be allowed either side of that quota (5%), and the exceptions that will be allowed (the Western Isles, Orkney & Shetland and a cap by area), we can take some guesses at what the overall impact will be.

The North East is rather tricky to fit into the new quotas. Northumberland only qualifies for 3 seats (while Berwick-upon-Tweed is a large, underpopulated seat, it doesn’t come close to the geographical limit!), but they would be grossly overpopulated so would need to be paired with one or more Tyne and Wear Boroughs. Durham could be divided into 6 seats, but the Cleveland Boroughs need to be paired with it if not to produce oversized seats. We’d end up with 14 seats in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, down 2, and 12 seats in Cleveland and Durham, down 1.

In Yorkshire North Yorkshire would not lose anything, and would presumably have only minor changes. Humberside would lose 1 seat, as would both South and West Yorkshire.

The North West is also relatively straightforward on paper, Merseyside would lose 2 seats, Cheshire would lose 1, Lancashire would lose 1, Manchester would lose 1 and so would Cumbria. In practice there are probably some tricky problems to solve. The Wirral would currently get three seats, but they would be just above the 5% limit, so unless the quota has risen by December 2010 (or the population of the Wirral fallen), the spectre of a cross-Mersey seat would rise again. Cumbria is also probably also going to be tricky to divide into 5 neat seats.

In the East Midlands, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire would retain 10 and 7 seats, so would probably have only minor changes. Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire would both lose a seat. Northamptonshire would qualify for 7 seats, but they would be too small to be within 5% of the new quota, so it would need to be paired with a neighbouring county. The most obvious candidate would be Bedfordshire to the South, which also needs to be paired to avoid undersized seats. Between them they would have 12 quota sized seats, compared to 13 currently.

In the rest of the East of England Hertfordshire and Suffolk would have only minor changes. Cambridgeshire could also be treated alone, but Norfolk needs to be paired in order to produce seats within the quota limits, and a pairing with Cambridgeshire would produce seats closest to the quota – between them the two counties would retain 16 seats. Finally for the East, Essex would need to lose 1 seat.

The West Midlands are another tricky region. Worcestershire, the West Midlands (down 3) and Staffordshire (down 1) can all be divided into seats within 5% of quota (though dividing Birmingham’s huge wards into seats within the 5% tolerance will be fun!). Shropshire and Herefordshire would need to be paired, but putting them together doesn’t help, so they would need to be dealt with together with Worcestershire (between them losing one seat). But this leaves Warwickshire too large to result in 5 seats inside the 5% limit. It could be paired with some of the Metropolitan boroughs, but a neater solution may be pairing Warwickshire with Oxfordshire, which would otherwise be oversized – together the two seats would retain their existing number of seats.

The rest of the South East should have very little disruption from the review. Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East and West Sussex, Surrey could all retain the same number of seats and hit the new quota. Hampshire would lose a seat based on its own electorate, but unless an extra exception is made it will need to be paired with the Isle of Wight creating a cross-Solent seat. Between them the Isle of Wight and Hampshire will retain the same number of seats. Kent therefore becomes the only county in the South East to lose a seat.

In the South-West Cornwall will probably be upset about being paired with another county, but it is unavoidable. With an entitlement of almost exactly 5.5 seats it will need to be paired with Devon, between them having 17 seats, one down on currently. The former county of Avon will lose 1 seat, Gloucestershire will be largely unchanged. This leaves Dorset and Wiltshire where the average seat sizes will be too small, and Somerset where they will be too large. To me, the most sensible solution is pairing Wiltshire and Dorset, with Somerset paired with one or both of the parts of Avon originally drawn from Somerset. The result will be that Avon/Somerset lose one seat between them, and Dorset/Wiltshire lose one seat between them.

London as a whole will have 70 seats, down from 73. There are obviously a large number of possible pairings of Boroughs to get to this point.

Northern Ireland will lose 3 seats.

Wales will suffer the harshest reduction in seats, down from 40 to 30 as its quota comes into line with the quota elsewhere in the country. Once again, there will be some tricky decisions for the boundary commission. My guess is Gwynedd will need to be linked with Clwyd (losing 3 seats between them), Powys will need to be linked to some other county – perhaps Gwent. The ERS’s stab at what sort of result boundary changes might produce had a rather odd link between Powys and Dyfed, which looks unlikely, but does make the maths work nicely. Either way, most of the rest of Wales will need to be linked up and there are various ways it might pan out.

Finally, Scotland would have a quota of 51 seats, down from 59. However, we know there are exceptions to the rules for the Highlands and Islands. These mean that the Western Isles and Orkney and Shetland retain their current undersized seats. The Highlands are entitled to 2 seats based on the quota (though they would be more than 5% from the quota, so it would need to be paired.) In practice, I think it would be impossible to come up with a solution that didn’t involve a seat larger than the current Ross, Skye and Lochaber, which is to be the statutory geographical limit on size, so the Highlands will probably retain three seats (one possible solution that kept all the seats within 5% of the quota and under the geographical size of RS&L would be to put the south of the current RS&L with the undersized Argyll and Bute, then splitting the remainder of RS&L between the other two highland seats – I think one would still end up being too large geographically though. With the Highlands and Islands taken care of, the rest of Scotland would be entitled to 48 seats, producing a total of 52 or 53, down 6 or 7.


263 Responses to “600 seats”

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  1. Ha! DavidB – Direct politics indeed, good for you. Tell her I’m delighted about the UN Women!

    Anthony/JohnT – You know what I meant, lol. I just remember during several campaigns we’ve worked really hard to increase registration under the impression it helped Labour. Glad to hear nothing’s changing re population/registered to vote, that sounded bad.

  2. Just looking at London, according to the ONS figures the electorate in December 2009 was 5,604,025 – divide that by 76,000 and you seem to end up with London gaining a seat rather than losing three. Has the electorate gone down significantly since then or am I misunderstanding the stats?

    While I’m on the subject, the UK electorate in December 2009 was 46,455,890 on the ONS stats – divide that by 600 and you get about 77,500 – not 76,000 as you suggest or 75,000 as Clegg told the Commons. On those figures, London seems to stay static overall, though there would certainly be some big changes to get all the individual seats within the right range.

    But again, I’m not sure whether I’ve missed something…

  3. @Sue
    Sorry couldn’t resist that – written before I saw Anthony’s reply.

    @Ben Foley
    The Labour Party will not vote for STV – even to cause trouble. Suspect it will support the vote by Tory rebels to change the date of the referendum – which will cause trouble but not rupture the coalition.

  4. @Ben Foley

    Yes, you are right about these difficulties. But imagine the effect if LibDems would vote against PR. As DavidB said, the aim is to call their bluff and destabilise both the party and the coalition.

    PLP needs discipline anyway.

    My starting point is if Labour argues that GO is disasterous to the country to the degree as they claim (I agree with this), then the notion of constructive opposition, the improving or obstructing amendments to the Reform Bill are irrelevant, because then the duty of the opposition to try to bring down the government and for that the coalition needs to be broken or at least twisting the agenda-setting from them.

    However, I think Labour doesn’t want to bring down the government, it’s engaged in rather unconvincing rethorics, while the Tories set the agenda and have the winning hand.

  5. A “cap by area”? As in, people who occupy a lot of land will get more representation in Parliament than those who don’t occupy so much land? Hello, 1831.

  6. Laszlo – I don’t think Labour want to bring down the coalition either, not yet.

    What would be the point? The public voted Tory (well nearly) and that is what they have. (Well, nearly)

    Surely the public need to see what a Tory government will do? Feel the implications, and judge whether they approve or not? Labour can hardly try to bring down a government that has nearly 60% support currently amongst the public.

    Oppose of course. Point out where they would do things differently, but I imagine few are listening just now and what incentive is there for a public who just decided they didn’t want a Labour government (nearly) to welcome it straight back in relief? None I’m afraid.

  7. It’s possible to take the non-registered into account when allocating seats. The most notorious case was in pre-Civil War America, when slaves were counted as three-fifths (I think) of a person for the purpose of allocating seats. This is not a good precedent.

    In the end you have to base everything on voter registration. As Laszlo points out the Census is not terribly reliable (and may be even worse next year) and tends to miss out exactly the same people as voter registration does. You also need to know people’s nationalities now to know which version of the register to put them on.

    The real problem is the 5% straitjacket which the coalition want to put on the Boundary Commission. At the moment they can make some allowance for future population movement and maybe under-registration – after all a registration drive might throw the numbers out again the other way. With the 5% the BC paradoxically have less flexibility but more options (all equally bad).

    @ Barney Crockett

    I used the short version of the Machiavelli quote as I was too wordy myself, but longer version includes:

    “For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order…”

    which tells you everything you need to know about making tax changes. ;)

  8. @ Laszlo & Ben

    I think that tabling PR or STV would be seen as cynical if Labour are not truly in favour of such a change.

    That would simply draw the coalition together by setting up ‘cynical’ Labour as the target of their combined ire.

    Better for Labour to vote against or abstain on the entire bill because of the boundary changes, referendum date etc. – even though we’ll lose & they’ll get it through.

    Meanwhile, keep the coalition in suspense about whether or not Labour will recommend AV. 8-)

  9. Labour should honour their manifesto and support AV.

    Holyrood 2011 is a higher financial priority so that is where the resources should go…

    but if Paxman, Marr want an interview, send Alan Johnson or that blady dude that looks like the thing out of Lord of the rings…. they both love PR.

  10. EOIN

    Will do – is there a view in NI that Labour should be active in its own right or is the partnership with the SDLP a satisfactory arrangement?

  11. DavidB,

    Very unsatisfactory. The stoop down low party are despised by working class Catholics.

    Ed Balls has said he will allow Labour to contest the next Stormont elections. That would be a very satisfactory arrangement.

    SDLP props up segregated education and the Church interests… like a throw back to the late Victorian era…

  12. @ Sue

    I think what you said is true and dominates the Labour leadership’s thinking. And yes, it follows the British traditions. And more importantly, Labour wants the Coalition to deal with the economy. So far the unelected media did point out the problems with the coalition policies than the Labour Party.

    But, 1) even with my scenario, there would be plenty of time for the public to experience the Tory policies… 2) brings in dynamics that changes many things (among them public perception) 3) upsetting the Conservative agenda, 4) moves the orientation of the Labour outwards

    The reason for my pushing my point is because I think the constructive opposition (which is not constructive) is a loosing strategy.

  13. Laszlo – I think more than absolutely anything, Labour DIDN’T and DOESN’T want the coalition to deal with the economy.

    I do agree that there should be many challenges to some of the proposals I’ve heard, certainly legal challenges, and I think there will be.

  14. I stand corrected regarding the relative accuracy of the Census and electoral register. I also didn’t realise current constituencies use registered voters as a guide either, making the changes less politcially significant I suppose.

    Overall though I still feel that democracy is best served by promoting geographically coherent entities that permit some level of local identity and sense of connection. The problems of varying population size can still be largely addressed within this framework but the 5% variance is too low to avoid some very strange arrangements.

    Another perfectly valid way to help minimise any bias would be AV+. Retain 650 MPs but with 600 constituencies flexibly equalised to within 10% or so but subject to a geographic coherence test, and then a further 50 MPs voted in on a proportional vote basis organised on regional lines. Regions with bigger constituencies would get more of the regional MPs.

    I’ve always felt there is some merit in having non constituency MPs in the mix as well. There are times when decisions need to be taken that upset constituents but where the decision is still valid on a wider perspective. Regional MPs who don’t answer directly to constituents can help bring and alternative perspective.

  15. @Sue Marsh – you might be interested in martin Wolf in todays FT – he says;

    “My conclusion, then, is that the advanced countries remain highly short of demand. In this environment, rapid cuts in fiscal support make sense if, and only if, monetary policy can be effective on its own and expanding the interest-elastic parts of the economy is the best way to climb out of the hole. There is reason to doubt both ideas.”

    There are many, many people who just don’t think rapid fiscal contraction is at all a good idea at this time and some of the US economic numbers from may and June are truly shocking.

    I’m not one of those redneck survivalists and I may be something of a natural pessimist, but to be perfectly honest I am starting to identify things I need to survive for the years ahead, starting with basics like food and wood for my fire, and seeing if if there are reasonable steps I can take to provide for myself. The 1930’s were a dreadful decade and there are worrying signs that the same policy mistakes are being made again. This time though, with our obsession on consumerism, we are a much less resilient society and I can see the results turning pretty ugly.

  16. Reading the many posts it does appear that the changes are certainly debatable but the overall effect is probably marginal. Excluding poll junkies and the LDs, the vast majority of the population does not care. If it appears that the changes have little tangible effect then I expect a very low turnout, around 30%. This will increase if it becomes a referendum on cuts.

    We consider 70% turnout at the GE as a good response yet 30% of registered voters did not vote. We expect a 50% turnout for the regional assemblies and 20-30% for stand-alone council elections. Some wards will be delivered on a sub-20% turnout. The changes proposed are dwarfed by this lack of participation.
    Getting voters registered will obviously increase the roll but their actual voter participation will be very low. Rather than concentrating valuable resources on increasing the electoral roll it would make more sense to ‘get your vote out’ at elections and win them.

  17. @ Alec

    I’m thinking about solar panels & a roof garden to grow some food & collect rainwater for the reasons you mention; also fire escapes in case rioters set my building on fire. This from me, an urbanite who is used to 24 hour supermarkets!

    It can’t hurt to be prepared. 8-)

  18. @Alec
    Thanks for that article.

    On monetary policy the problem is that narrow money has been expanding (6.3% yoy) whereas broad money growth has been much slower (2.8% yoy) due to weak bank lending. To make matters worse the velocity of circulation has been falling due to concerns on the economy. I would question the article as to whether money supply with the fall in bank lending has been given a fair chance to grow the economy. I am sure that it will get that proper chance early next year.

    The flow of funds analysis highlights the fact that the if the overseas component is neutral then the public sector deficit is matched by a private sector surplus. It is logical that one replaces the other through the cycle and vice versa. It follows that if people believe that public deficit is falling then the private surplus must also fall. I believe the key to this shift now is one of expectations and therefore a vision of hope rather than disaster is needed. I would recommend that GO went positive to boost confidence even in the middle of immediate cuts.

    A survival anecdote. I am reminded of the early 1970s where a friend stored loads of tins in his attic for ‘the end of the world’. Many years later he remembered them but mice had eaten all the labels so every evening was a lucky dip dinner. Tinned peaches and tuna with condensed milk!!

  19. @Phil

    Just read your 9.00 ish post. Thanks as it answered a question I put last night about how the number of voters in a constituency is to be counted. I agree with you – looks like another coalitioin stitch up.

    Oh well onwards to the next thread

  20. Roger Mexico. In many ways I agree with you about John Thurso. He is a good MP (why did Danny Alexander get to be a minister ahead of him?). But he is, as your description shows, not a crofter. And John Dick hits the nail on the head when he points out that Scottish MPs’ postbags are empty because so much has been devolved. This means that conscientious Scottisn MPs can get more than their say on matters which are still dealt with on a UK basis, such as finance. They are doing their best, which is only right, but it isn’t democratically fair when English MPs are up to their necks in constituency casework. It is a disgrace that the West Lothian question has not been addressed.

  21. @Amber

    I think Ed Balls was talking a lot of sense. I’m warming to him. It helps he has a wife who I have a lot of time for. I trust Yvette’s judgement! :-)

  22. For Wales you have some weired ideas. Powys is now 2 constituenceys so wouldnt need to be merged with any other counties. However on your point I completley disagree, Powys and Dyfed would be the natural pairing, both geographically and the fact they are both large rural counties, not a big rural area botled onto old industrial coal mining areas.

    For more information see http://syniadau–buildinganindependentwales.blogspot.com/2010/06/wales-29.html for a more realistic idea of what should happen (Im not the owner of the blog BTW)

  23. Matt – that’s why Powys will probably need to be paired. It currently has two seats, but has too low an electorate to retain two seats. Rather it will end up with one and a bit, being paired with at least one other preserved county for the purposes of the review.

    The electoral commission may decide to pair it with Dyfed (as I said, mathematically it would work very nicely indeed, and that will be one of their considerations!) – on the other hand, they don’t like crossing natural geographical barriers, and any east-west seat would have a bloody great expanse of uninhabited mountain in the middle of it.

    (And for the link, Penddu has paired Powys with Clwyd, with a cross-county-boundary seat there)

  24. Hi Anthony – in relation to my question above, where did you get the figures for UK electorate as at the election just gone? Thanks!

  25. @ Ben

    Just not going to happen, Labour have no money and further, no stomach for another fight in the next couple of years.

  26. Eoin,

    Sorry not to reply re SDLP seat earlier. Contra my previous crack about Gerry Adams representing the Malone Road, I think the SDLP would have a decent chance of winning a SouthWest Belfast constituency, just as SF would have a good chance of winning a North Belfast which comes any reasonable distance along the Falls Road (as it would have to in the three-seat Belfast scenario). It would then be tough between Alliance and the DUP in the new expanded East Belfast, but the areas likely to be moved from South Belfast are not bad for Alliance, especially in an AV scenario where they certainly pick up all SDLP and SF transfers and probably some from the UUP as well. So on balance, if there are only three seats in Belfast elected under AV, the DUP are most likely (but of course not certain) to lose theirs, though I agree that the SDLP seat is also at risk. One can also see two SF seats in both North and SouthWest Belfast as a distinct possibility, which would compensate for their likely loss of a seat in the west of NI.

  27. Nicholas,

    Thanks for that.

    What do you think of the BC continuing their penchant for lopping chunks of West Belfast and attaching them to Lagan valley?

    thereby reducing the W Belf constit… Similarly losing Belvoir and upwards to the East Belfast or North Down constit?

    This type of chopping would leave us with c. 80,000 in Springfield, Beechmount, Clonard, Lower Falls, Markets, Ormeau, Botanic, Malone, Lisburn Road?

    Feasible?

    It would be a three way if the Unionists could sort out a unity candidate? :) (although I venture to say Adams would win it, bearing in mind Maskey’s c.3000 stayed at home this time)

  28. Nicholas,

    Needless to say Belvoir and upwards would go from S. Belf (not West as I think my post reads) .. and Poleglass and upwards is already Lagan if I am not mistaken?

  29. About time the Welsh and Scottish quota was reduced inline with their population. their overepresentation has turned a few close elections in Labour’s favour.
    One query is that with island seats being excepted from size equilisation what happens to the Isle of White? It is too big for one seat but to equalise it’s size would mean putting part of the Island together with a chunk of the Hampshire mainland. This would make it a very strange seat.

  30. @ Laszlo

    1) The obvious default assumption is that non-registered voters would vote for candidates in the same proportion as the registered voters in the consitituency.

    2 and 3) Voter registration is very difficult. Councils already employ staff to chase up registration. The major reason for lower registration levels is probably that in city areas people move more often and so a proportion of the electorate is always not on the register. There is little a party of volunteers can do to impact the situation. The new law is effectively disenfranchising these people to the advantage of the Conservative party. This is gerrymandering.

  31. Anthony…or anyone

    Please could you answer my earlier question. I really don’t understand. Thanks!

    I’m puzzled why the second preferences for the largest parties are so significant in AV. The second preferences of candidates with the least votes are redistributed in turn. Where there are several candidates, their second preferences may affect the final result long before the second preferences of the main parties are taken into account. This may particularly matter where the leading candidate has only a small lead. Unless we can predict the trend for second preferences in the minor parties, I don’t see how can make a meaningful projections.
    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  32. @John
    I’m confused. What new law?

  33. Eoin: Poleglass, Twinbrook, Dunmurry and Lagmore are all in West Belfast now.

  34. Anthony,
    I would be most interested if you could please explain where the 76262 comes from. I know it would have to be working on assumptions, but I can’t replicate the figure working through a variety of assumptions, and have looked on this and previous threads to find an explanation without success.

    One interesting aspect: if you are right about the numbers of seats lost in Scotland, Wales and NI, it looks to me that the number of seats in England would be in the range 502-503, that looks like it would give a quota for England of 75,954 – 75,803, with a quota of 76,258 only being reached if England has as few as 500 seats.

  35. Ben F,

    Have you factored in the greatly reduced constiuency sizes of The Orkney’s Shetlands RSL and the N’-Aileann….

    They would push the rest up a bit would they not?

    I must confess at a very crude math I had the figure closer to 79,000 :(

    ______

    what is your thoughts as a green on AV? Should Caroline table an STV amendment?

  36. Ben F – I took the total electorate of the UK, subtracted the two protected seats, then divided the remainder by 598. If you get a different figure still, then it probably means I buggered it up.

    My assumption is they’d work on a single UK quota and every seat would be within 5% of that, rather than the seperate national quotas they currently have.

    Assumming, however, that they won’t create any seats that cross national boundaries (which I’m certain they won’t), that could in theory leave commissions in a tricky position (say Northern Ireland was entitled to 15.49 seats. They would get 15, but for them all to be within 5% of the UK quota, they’d all need to be pretty much bang on 1.049% of the quota – which would be silly – so it could be they have national quotas after all. We shall see.

  37. CromwellChiefofMen – in theory you are right. However, for practical purposes there are fewer votes for smaller parties so they won’t make as much of an impact (circumstances where they change which of the big three parties get eliminated will be fascinating, but not very common), and more importantly, they are a much lower incidence so it’s harder to tell from polls how they will split. For example, in a normal poll you’ll get 10 or so people voting BNP, a sample size too small to draw any conclusions on where their second or later preferences would go.

    Bottom line is that right now, this is the best we can do. If the referendum is won, and we actually have to predict AV elections, things will certainly get more complex.

  38. When calculating the electorate(s), do they take in to account all voters who are eligible to vote in any election, or just those entitled to vote in parliamentary elections?

  39. Anthony, thanks for replying. More likely is that I haven’t got the same number for the UK electorate as you.

    I haven’t found a clear number for the UK electorate (and it does keep changing all the time, anyway, just to make it trickier). My best estimate was 45,613,083 (based on General Election votes and turnout). If I apply your method to that, I get 76,184. If I exclude RS&L, too, and divide by 597 I get 76224. (That’s what I had been doing already, Eoin – it would have been 76022 dividing by 600).

    To make things worse, I don’t know the date of the 2010 electorate figures helpfully provided by the Boundary Commission for England website: a difference of dates could account for a discrepency between the 502-3 seats for England implied by your posting that this is commenting on, and the 500 that is implied by dividing the BCE electorate for England by 76262 (BTW my inaccurate number for UK electorate is neither here nor their for this calculation).

    It was when I discovered this last discrepancy that I started to wonder if there was something wrong with your figures: when I found the BCE numbers, I assumed yours were consistent with them, but they aren’t. Can I ask where they come from?

    Eoin,
    An STV amendment should be tabled (if just for the entertainment value of seeing LDs justifying voting against STV), and would almost certainly get Green support, but Green Party policy is for additional members, so I am not sure CL would table it herself.

    Personally, I don’t think AV is significantly better than FPTP (and the increased constit size is a significant adverse change), so my personal view is that the harm to the coalition and the LDs of AV being defeated may do more good than AV would if passed in the referendum.

  40. Ben – thanks for highlighting the ward electorate figures on the Boundary Commission site – v.useful.

    The figures I used were the electorate figures for the general election, drawn from Pippa Norris’s results file on her website. There are some errors in some data files of the election results in terms of electorates, but the ones I know of have been corrected in Pippa’s spreadsheet (though there are some errors on it in allocating seats to regions).

  41. Excellent comment by Roger Mexico on page 4 – the one with all the QCs in it!
    This is pretty much what I have been trying to say on pb.com, though much more wittily. I have been studying the workings of boundary changes for three decades, and would describe the attempt to push through such a massive change of policy and effect as ‘a can of worms’.
    Will the traditional public rights to object and to address inquiries be abnegated?
    If the thinking behind the equalisation in electorates is that this was responsible for the bulk of the bias against the Conservatives this flies in the face of all the considerable body of academic analysis. Labour get more seats than the Tories for the same vote percentage for a number of reasons, for which the constituency size does not rank in the top two.
    The main reason is the lower turnout in Labour seats, which would not in any way be affected. Mind, if the turnout were higher in Labour seats, they would still win those seats so the apparent bias would be much reduced. It is to this extent partially illusory.
    If the motivation is reduction of costs, this must be offset both by the much increased cost of the review process by hurrying it – and also by the logical need to repeat this almost constantly, to maintain the low 5% discrepancy allowed.

  42. I mean, of course, that RogerMexico’s post put things more wittily than mine!

  43. More head-scratching about what the quota will be. According to the Norris figures, the England Wales and Scotland electorate is 44,445,044. AW said upthread he was using an EONI figure of 1,169,184. So total UK electorate 45,615,228 (a couple of thousand more than my previous estimate). Na H Eil… 21,780, Ork & S 33,085, Ross, S & L 51,836 (slightly less than my previous estimates). Remaining electorate 45508527. Divide by 597 … result of 76229 (5 more than my previous estimate).

    This does look like 503 constituencies for England. Some perplexities that have appeared: Neither Wirral nor Newcastle-and-North-Tyneside can fit within the 5% variation without either crossing the river, or crossing the boundary into the adjoining (non-met) Unitary. Similarly NE Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire combined. Will the BCE be more willing to cross rivers or met/non-met boundaries? Will they be more willing to cross the regional boundary within the ceremonial county of Lincs than the Humber?

  44. If a part of the IoW is ‘joined’ with the mainland, thereby metaphorically bridging the Solent, surely crossing a little river is not such a big deal?

  45. Mike,
    I can see what you say, but there is 100% no alternative WRT the Solent, whereas for all of the Wirral, Newcastle-and-North-Tyneside and ‘SouthHumberside’, crossing a previous county boundary (and keeping within an ancient county) provides an alternative.

    With the increase of unitaries, the BC would always have had to cross a lot more ‘county’ boundaries, since (apart from Berkshire) all non-met unitaries currently count as counties in their calculations. And few of them can cope with a whole number of constituencies without crossing the boundary (36 such, I think; while Bristol, Darlington, Co Durham, North Somerset, Shropshire, Swindon, Warrington and York UAs are the only exceptions, but most of them will be affected by neighbours, anyway).

    But this still leaves issues in all three of these riverside cases: the met unitaries don’t count as counties in their own right, so crossing the river allows constituencies within quota and within county boundaries, _providing_ the neighbouring ‘county’ doesn’t need to cross the land border (in the case of Wirral, Cheshire West and Chester needs to combine across a boundary with _somewhere_, in the case of North-of-the-Tyne, Northumberland needs to combine across a boundary with somewhere).

    In the case of SouthHumberside, they are non-met unitaries, so crossing ‘county’ boundaries is forced by the size of the two unitaries themselves (both individually and as a pair). But do they cross a regional boundary to join with an administrative county that is within quota already (and keeping within the ceremonial county), or do they join with East Riding and Hull (which are unitaries, and thus ‘counties’, which _together_ are within quota already)? I am fairly sure they will continue to creep round the West of the Trent/Ouse confluence, perhaps re-recreating Boothferry, rather than crossing the Humber directly (but they will have to stop using the Ouse as the boundary).

    Meanwhile, North of the Border, I have been having more thoughts about Ross, Skye and Lochaber. I think the LDs are hoping it will force an undersized Caithness, Sutherland etc constituency too, but with major disruption to boundaries, and not respecting ward boundaries (something that the announcement said would happen), there is actually no need for ANY under-electorate constituencies. It might result in a bit of a mess that is harder for an MP than the current Ross, Skye and Lochaber, but it could be no larger than RSL in area.

  46. Actually, now re-calculating assuming that the limit by area _doesn’t_ affect the quota for England (see last para of my last post) results in North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire combining to 3 whole constituencies just within the 5% limit. Continuing to include Goole with North (East) Lincolnshire constituencies would, presumably make that a little more securely within the limit, unless there is a change in size of the electorate in the UAs.

  47. Try again. The problem is at the other end of the range: including Goole with the North (East) Lincolnshire constituencies would make it worse, and the electorate is already only 102 below quota when shared across three constituencies, so the boundary would be more likely to be the Trent, putting the Isle of Axholme in with Goole (re-creating Boothferry, I think, but not as one of 3 ‘SouthHumberside’ constituencies, so much as one of 6 North of the Trent/Humber constits).

  48. Ben,

    Membership on the panels of one of these BC’s is quite open… you should consider putting yourself forward… or at the very least submitting a deputation….

    Very interesting thoughts… I would love to trouble you with some of my queries but I would imagine you are a busy man.

  49. Ben – in practice the boundary commission seemed to pay much less attention to the boundaries of unitary authorities with the status of counties than they did to “proper” county councils at the last review anyway, there are many, many cases of their boundaries being crossed (the boundary between Medway and Kent, for example, was happily crossed).

    Crossing the Tyne wouldn’t be a problem either, given there is the (albeit rather unpopular) precedent of the old Tyne Bridge seat. With the creation of the Lancaster and Fleetwood this time round, I believe we even have a precedent of a seat with a river where you need to leave the constituency to cross it.

    Eoin – I’m not sure where you get that idea. In England at least (things may be different in NI), the commission has only three members. One is always a senior judge, the other two are a QC and a former civil servant. This may, of course, change – one of the reasons previous reviews have been so slow is that the commission are part time, and that it meets very rarely. It may be better if they appoint a retired Judge full time, rather than a Judge who also continues to sit in court. Assistant commissioners are, IIRC, exclusively senior barristers.

    That said, any Tom, Dick or Harry is invited to submit proposals.

  50. Anthony,

    Ours has to be different… given our history of gerrymandering, we could create a Tory majority of 100 at the dash of a pen on a map…

    We have eight members..

    chairperson (bog standard elected politician actually- currently a Unionist)

    then three retired civil servants (one with experience at the bar but one also an academic) Given that Ben Foley is an academic I though under these auspices there may be some scope to avail of his services.

    This is especially relevant when one considers that underneath the four I have just mentioned we have three further ‘assessors’ and a mapping advisor…

    all in all that is 8 :)

    Are you sure the English just have three members?

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