The detailled legislation for the boundary review and the AV referendum is now out – if you are not a hardcore political anorak, you may wish to skip this post! For those who are left, here are the details.

Alternative Vote is the more straightforward section. The referendum is May 5th and the question is “Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the “alternative vote” system instead of the current “first past the post” system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”. There is no minimum turnout or anything on the referendum and it is binding – if the referendum is won, the minister must bring the provisions introducing AV (which are all in the Bill) into effect.

Rules for boundary changes are much more complicated. First, the legislation proposes boundary reviews every five years, significantly speeding up the current timetable where they occur between 8 and 12 years apart (normally at the latter end). With fixed term Parliaments of 5 years, that means seats would change every Parliament (though it would also mean that the changes were normally quite small).

There will one national UK quota, rather than seperate quotas for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is, however, an exception to this for Northern Ireland, where if the number of seats Northern Ireland is entitled to is more than a third away from a whole number (as it probably will be this time round), they will have their own quota to aim at, which prevents the boundary commission in Northern Ireland being left with an impossible task.

The quota will indeed be based around the electorate of the UK, minus the two protected seats, divided by 598. All seats must be within 5% of the quota, with three exceptions: the two preserved seats (the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland), Northern Ireland under the circumstances discussed above, and any seat with an area above 12,000 sq. kilometers where the commission is satisfied it is not possible to get it within quota. As proposed before, there is a cap of 13,000 sq km on the size of consistuencies.

The Commissions may still take in account special geographical considerations, like size and shape, local government boundaries, local ties and minimal change (except, that is, for the coming boundary change, when they should not pay heed to minimising disruption). They may now also take into account the European electoral regions (making some of the possiblities I wrote about in this post less likely). All these considerations are subject to the rule on seats being within 5% of quota, which means that the boundary commissions will have to cross county boundaries if it is necessary in order to get within 5% of quota.

There is no mention of splitting council wards, but then, the old legislation doesn’t refer to them outside Northern Ireland either. In practice, the rule about seats being within 5% of quota may compel Boundary Commissions to split wards in places like Birmingham with very large wards.

In terms of speeding up the review process, the Bill is pretty brutal. Local inquiries on boundary changes are abolished – though it is slightly balanced out by the period for written representations being extended from 1 month to 12 weeks.

All of this is, of course, subject to whatever amendments get made as it trundles through the Commons. I expect some bits may have a tricky passage.

361 Responses to “AV referendum and 600 seats”

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  1. @DAVID B
    Assuming your dream scenario posted earlier came to fruition, Lab and Lib dont have enough MPs for an overall majority. There would certainly be no mandate to govern in such a deal. Polls do not decide who is in government and who isn’t, General Elections do.

  2. Anthony & Michael B – one interesting feature of the Bill is that, though the boundary review will go ahead regardless of the referendum result, AV cannot be brought in until the new boundaries are in place, even following a Yes vote at the referendum. You can have the new boundaries without AV, but you can’t get AV without the new boundaries.

    So if there was an election before the new boundaries had been implemented, then the election would still be under FPTP.

    The legislation does therefore tangle up the two issues in way that I think is worthy of note.

  3. @Chris Todd, @Amber Star

    Chris and Amber, hi!

    Chris, you wrote “…At the last general election the Tories had an average votes per seat won of 34,865, Labour’s was 33,370…A quick bit of maths follows…Con achieved 10.7 million votes. Which does equate, roughly, to 34,865 per seat won…Lab achieved 8.7 million votes. Which does equate, roughly, to 33,370 per seat won…And in order for Labour to win 306 seats (as the Conservatives did) – at 33,370 votes per seat – they would have needed to gain 10.2 million votes…So any discrepancy in the electoral system would seem to be just 0.5 million votes. It takes the Conservatives 10.7 million to win 306 seats and Labour 10.2 million to win 306 seats…So what is the fuss about?…That seems a pretty balanced system to me already…I guess I’m missing something…But what?…”, and Amber asked for somebody to check your maths.

    Somebody may have already pointed this out to you, but…yes, you are missing something. I’ll explain as follows.

    There are several problems with FPTP, but one is relevant here: the amount of extra votes needed to gain one extra seat depends on the number of votes/seats you already have. So the LIBs need hundreds-of-thousands of extra votes to gain one extra seat, UKIP need millions of extra votes to raise their seats from zero to one (UKIP got >900,000 votes and zero seats: difficult to defend), and so on. This also reflects at the other end: if CON raises its share from, say, 44% to 46%, then it starts to get into landslide territory.

    Your specific mistake was to assume that if LAB got 8.7 million votes for X seats (at a rate of 33,370 votes per seat), then 33,370 more votes would have gotten them X+1 seats, 33,370 more votes above that would have gotten them X+2 seats, another 33,370 votes would have gotten them X+3 seats, and so on. It wouldn’t: that’s one of the (several) problems with FPTP.

    (the distribution of the votes is also very relevant, but this makes it simpler to explain)

    In short: the marginal increase in votes necessary to get one more seat is not the same as the average number of votes per seat already gotten.

    If I may be forgiven riding my hobby-horse for a moment [nope, you can’t. Snip – AW]

    Regards, Martyn

  4. Nick,

    Interesting point about AV not being applicable until after the new boundaries have been implemented.

    Now was that clever drafting (if so, on whose part ?) or a detail glitch (the devil is always in the detail) ?

    Of course, if the AV referndum is carried, and the Boundary Comission looks like being bogged down for years, then there is nothing stopping the Govt passing an amendment decoupling the two parts.

    On the other hand, if AV is defeated, it becomes academic.

  5. @ martyn…i think

    I don’t regard AV as an improvement over FPP…indeed FPP I think produces more chance of political change…even if its change I don’t like… I honestly think any form of PR would be superior…AV would be retrograde. Moreover once it’s passed like the current system there’ll be an entrenched majority…LibDems and whoever they’re in coalition with who’ll not want to have PR. And after recent events with LIb Dems…5 year fixed parliaments, attempt to change confidence vote, reducing the size of parliament but NOT the treasury bench… I don’t think they’re any clearer of party interest than other political parties.

    I guess the govt need to railroad these changes through in case the libdems bail out when they realsie they’re being absorbed into the conservative party…like every other time they’ve been in coalition with them.

    I can’t see they’d offer Labour supply and no confidence support in a monority govt when they’ve so clearly said its not in the national interest….but hey who knows….after all turkeys don’t normally vote for christmas but this lot have signed up for 5 christmas’s.

  6. @Simon Roberts

    Simon, hi!

    You wrote “…My guess is that the AV referendum held next May will be lost for a number of reasons…1. People like myself voting against as a form of protest to bring the coalition down…2. The impact of the cuts will be taking effect by next Spring with the VAT rises, public sector pay freeze, redundancies etc…A referendum defeat would mean the Libdems would have little reason to stay in coalition with the conservatives beyond saving their cabinet jobs….”

    I cannot say whether the AV referendum will be won or lost (although I fervently hope it is won). However, I can say that your first point (“…voting against as a form of protest to bring the coalition down…”) is counter-productive: a “No” vote will not bring the Coalition down, it will prolong it. Governments in power with 4 years left of their term do not react to a defeat by calling a General Election, they stay in power until the end of their term in an attempt to recoup lost votes.

    Indeed, in normal circumstances, the reverse would be true: if the AV referendum was won, the Coalition would call a GE to capitalise on the poll boost implied by a victory. However, if my (imperfect) understanding of the 66% threshold and fixed-term Parliaments is correct, that is no longer an option. But this also has bearing on your point: those same rules also prevent a premature dissolution in response to a defeat, even if they were mad enough to attempt one.

    To summarise:

    * LIB turkeys would not vote for Xmas after a AV defeat because it would harm them.
    * Rules are now in place to *prevent* LIB turkeys voting for Xmas even if they were struck by a inexplicable urge for Xmas pud and sprouts.

    [snip – AW]

    Regards, Martyn

  7. John, hi!

    1) Sorry this post is so short: I have to go to work.
    2) I agree that PR would be better than AV
    3) I disagree that FPTP is better than AV (although some people share your views: wrongly IMHO, but I understand the argument)
    4) I do not care whether AV is apotheosis or disaster for the LIBs
    5) The importance of the AV vote lies in the impetus it’ll give to electoral reform: a “No” vote will kill ER stone-dead.
    6) In my intensity on this subject, I sometimes post intemperately, so I have of late taken care to post in a more sympathetic manner. Unfortunately, I cannot spare the time to proofread this post. So if it does come across as blunt/rude: please forgive me: it’s just that I’ going to be out of the door in about two minutes and I have to brush my teeth!
    7) [snip – AW]

    Regards, Martyn

  8. I see the first 1000 Police Officers have lost their jobs (Durham I think?) today.

    Still, they’ll “muddle through” .

  9. @ ALEC

    There is reason to suppose that crimes not covered by BCS have behaved differently, particularly crime against under 16s (e.g. mobile phone theft, knifings, sexual offences).

    Booms & busts:

    A mid term election needs to be planned well in advance if an economic boom is to be created: monetary policy has up to a two year lead time, and other policy levers also have lead times. There could be reasons not to press the start button (like Brown flunking in 2007) which then might make your second attempt messed up. A fixed parliament guarantees the timing and planning: you can’t do anything about “events dear boy” but you can fix the economy.

  10. Poll Watch:

    After receiving a “few mutterings” on my political radar re. Poll news, I predict the following:
    ICM C44 L33 L14
    Mori C45 L32 L14
    YouGov C44 L34 L14

  11. WAYNE

    I think ou should try your look down the bookies with your predictions.

    Meanwhile back in the real world, I have been thinking about ‘who actually votes Liberal Democrat’ – had a look at Wikipedia entries for the Torrington by-election (1958) and Orpington by-election (1962) didn;t learn alot and then came across this –

  12. AV vs FPTP:

    I have conducted very extensive research over the last month on the above subject. I can confirm that had AV used at the last election theTorys would have a majority of 16!

  13. @martyn

    Not blunt or rude…
    I understand your position…
    I’m chary of leaving one party permanently in power…that seems even more undemocratic.

    Frankly I don’t know why someone doesn’t put down an amendment to ask us all the relevant questions…it’s a bit of an insult to us all really and that’s not a party political point.

    Also very much against this being held on day that devolved parliaments are elected…I think this subject deserves its own day. If it was good enough for Common Market Wales and Scotland surely it’s good enough for UK voting system.

  14. @ Sue
    I see the first 1000 Police Officers have lost their jobs (Durham I think?) today.
    Neil A hasn’t posted for ages. I liked his comments; they were often witty & always entertaining. 8-)

  15. @Wayne
    You must be a reincarnation of the “Oracle” Richardson who used to be a regular on here a year or two back – always predicting Tory landslides.

  16. @ Amber Star

    Neil A posted a while ago saying he would be too busy to come on to UKPR for a number of months (preparing a big case).
    Being ‘at the sharp end’ I keep thinking he might vote red next time. ;)

  17. “Polls do not decide who is in government and who isn’t, General Elections do.”

    Except this time, of course, when 8 men sat in a room, and presented totally different manifestos to the ones we’d just voted for.

  18. No Sue, they were not manifestos, they were government agreements and received the backing of the parties concerned. In case you missed it, the LD’s at least went the whole hog and gave their branch electorate the final say.

    My knowledge of LD conference reps is that they tend to be the somewhat lefty awkward squad so I am very content with the outcome.

    Nobody is panicking about the current polling and the council by- elections are looking OK.

  19. @ Sue Marsh………..Don’t panic Sue, 1160 back office jobs will go, but no officers, the good people of CD can sleep safely, I’m surprised at your lack of diligence , surely you’re not chasing a cheap headline. :-)


    Totally agree people just don’t get coalition yet do they ?

  21. @Sue
    Most people don’t know what manifestos are – and nobody reads them. I was brought up on Burke: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
    I know my place.

  22. @woollymindedliberal – “Nobody is panicking about the current polling ………..”
    Really? Don’t you think they should be? Just a little?

  23. @ Billy Bob

    My study of human evolution leads me to believe Neil A may indeed vote red next time.

    I have noticed, during my time on earth, that many earthlings are in favour of taxes & cuts that apply to other people. They also appear to believe that voting for a particular government acts as a protective talisman…. “I voted for this lot, how could they do this to me?” is muttered by those who find they are penalised, rather than rewarded, by the government they voted for. 8-)

  24. Sour grapes on my part, and open no doubt to accusations that I am being patronising towards the clear sighted independence of mind of the UK electorate, but… one media tycoon and a non-dom between them significantly skewed the result of the election imho. I have a stack of fawning, personally addressed election literature that dropped daily through my letterbox direct from central office (there being no discernable tory presence on the ground in my constituency).

  25. @ Billy Bob………..I recall thinking the same in 1997, but of course it was from the other side then, same media tycoon but different non-doms. :-)

  26. @ Ken – “1160 back office jobs will go, but no officers”

    Only problem is that approximately 1160 officers will then have to go into back offices to carry out all vital support tasks.

  27. Apparently David Davis/Lord Ashcroft describe the Government as “Brokeback Coalition”. Interesting times as Wayne would say. Try google if you are interested. Will doubtless be in tomorrows papers.

  28. @Billy Bob…………Unison made a statement today regarding the cuts to back office staff, they anticipated only 100 job losses after the 80 day consultation period and the spending review in October, the rest is spun whichever way you lean. :-)

  29. Tim Fallon none too complimentary towards the coalition amid other rumblings
    h ttp://

  30. @JOHNTY……………It was an Ashcroft quote, FT tomorrow, non-story. :-)

  31. “The Last Fandango” said

    “You can’t really compare the US presidential handover period to the UK system.

    The handover period in the US applies only to the president and the executive, who are of course separate from the legislature.

    It couldn’t work here because the executive is part of the legislature.”

    This is completely untrue. The 111th Congress was sworn in on the 3rd of Jan 2009 (17 days before Obama) having been elected on the previous November along with the President.

  32. @Ken
    Yahoo has a bit more detail than FT. Strikes me that David Davis is bitter – and that Cameron has some problems in his party – but these predate the coalition. I think Fallon makes the same point – although it is interpreted as him rocking the boat.

  33. @ JOHNTY………..I agree, the whole thing sounds a bit drink fuelled to me, the brokeback comment is typically Ashcroft. Farron is an unattractive individual, over promoted and out of his depth.

  34. @Roland – “Polls do not decide who is in government and who isn’t, General Elections do.”

    I know what you mean, but you’re wrong. MPs decide, which is subtly different to what you say.

    & “What I do know is statistics nowadays need to be treated very carefully.”

    But just a bit less carefully than we needed to pre 1997?

    @Colin (c 4.26pm) – agreed the construction data is a big factor, but there was also good growth from manufacturing (for the third consecutive quarter) and the positive news was broad based. Did you pick up the June car sales data a couple of days ago, plus the June growth in retail sales?

    It’s always worth standing back and reviewing what people with partisan viewpoints were predicting before hand. Most pro Tory posters here were highly confident that once the VAT rate went back up and the stimulus measures unwound there would be a double dip. The Q1 figures were expected by many to show this and the initial 0.1% growth announced during the campaign was taken as a sign that things were not working.

    These same posters are now looking for excuses to downgrade the Q2 figures as they are unconveniently good. Labour have brought us out of recession with much stronger than expected growth. It’s pointless to argue this. What is much more relevant, and a point on which really can argue, is whether the price they paid (we paid) to do this was worth it and the level of future impact this has on economic and social development.

    @Mark – “There is reason to suppose that crimes not covered by BCS have behaved differently, particularly crime against under 16s (e.g. mobile phone theft, knifings, sexual offences).”

    Yes – some possible divergence, but a) these crimes would need to inflate massively to overcome the 40% fall in crimes recorded within the survey and b) the crimes you mention are all covered by actual police reported crimes, which as with the BCS also show sharply falling crime.

    Lets try to actually look at statistics for what they are. Please put away your politcal prejudices and just run the numbers – no one, anywhere, in any serious branch of criminology study in the UK believes overall crime has done anything other than fall sharply since around 1995. This isn’t political. The political argument is about the reasons behind this.

    Personally, I suspect that fewer young men, much better car security and decent window locks have probably had more to do with the numbers than anything Labour did.

  35. AW
    As I understand it, the ancient County boundaries will play no role in the coming BC work.

    This is logical if so because there cannot be many areas left where these boundaries have any demographic importance.

    For instance, every morning 10s of thousands of commuters leave Bournemouth to charge across the New Forest to the Southampton/Portsmouth conurbation. They do so by road as the railways were closed down or emasculated. In any case there is no effective restriction to them doing so. It’s the same on the M62, the M25 and the M42 (to name but a few examples).

    On what basis does the present concept of ‘constituencies’ have any validity? Nearly everyone lives in city regions and the BC will have to take this factor into account as the paramount one.

  36. Anthony said in his post July 23rd, 2010 at 1:48 pm the bill implies 503 constituencies for England. My calculation of Sainte-Lague makes it 504 (my calculation still gives Scotland 49+2)

    However, my calculation, based on the quota for the size of the electorate, suggests that the natural number of MPs in England for that quota would be more like 501. The discrepancy comes partly because of the difference between the effective quota for allocating constituencies to parts of the UK according to the specified Sainte-Labue method (76093, on my calculation) and the quota calculated as specified in the Bill 76188 (both on 2010 electorates). Some also comes from the method of grouping constituencies into groups of counties, and rounding of a few percentage points here and there.

    Anyway, like Anthony did on July 5th, I have been working out how many Constituencies will be allocated to each county, and likely groupings.

    While the bill as published implies a quota of 76188 on 2010 electorates, I have tested my thoughts over a range of quotas from 74500 to 76250.

    On my calculation London will have 68 MPs, although a 69th London constit would be the 505th English constituency, and a 70th would be the 509th English constituency, if there were that many. By contrast Anthony thought there would be 70 even with less than 505 English constituencies. Like Anthony in his previous thread, I haven’t tried grouping Boroughs, because so many need to be grouped, and there aren’t many clues about how the BCE will do it. Worth noting, though, are that Bromley (3MPs), Greenwich (2), Haringey (2), Tower Hamlets (2) and perhaps Waltham Forest (2) are the only London Boroughs that could be dealt with without pairing or grouping. Whether they will be, depends on what happens to their neighbours.

    Met County boundaries could be kept to, and I expect the BCE will continue to normally do this. Thus Greater Manchester will have 26 MPs (or 25 if England only has 502MPs). It can keep within quota by dividing up, crossing district and ward boundaries if necessary. South Yorkshire will have 13 MPs. West Yorkshire will have 21 (but would lose one, on my boundary suggestions, if England only had 500MPs). West Midlands would have 25, and would only get a 26th if England had 507 constituencies (it is worth noting that the three Coventry MPs might be treated with Non-Met Warwickshire, see below – that would not cause problems for the rest of the WM).

    Merseyside is more difficult. Wirral has too many voters for 3 MPs, and having had a cross-Mersey constituency rejected by local opposition at the last review, from a careful reading of their report, I think the Boundary Committee will combine Wirral with Cheshire Unitaries. Combining with neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester doesn’t work (over 105%), but combining with Cheshire East as well would, for 10 MPs total. However, this leaves Halton over quota. It could be combined with that part of Merseyside East of the Mersey, for 11 MPs total. However, if the BCE decides to treat all of the Met county of Merseyside, Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East and Halton together, then combined they would warrant 22 MPs (incidentally if they did go cross-Mersey and treated Merseyside separately from ‘Cheshire and Halton’, that would also give 21 constituencies total between the two parts). In my calculations I have assumed all of ‘Cheshire, Halton and Merseyside’ will be treated together giving 22 MPs. If it isn’t then the extra English MP would be found elsewhere, putting my comments about five-hundred and X MPs one out. Whatever happens in these neighbouring councils, Warrington will have 2MPs: combining it with a neighbour doesn’t solve any problems, and on current electorates, it has 1.98 times the quota, so will fit 2 constituencies within quota relatively easily.

    Tyneside is the other tricky Met County. On the face of it, like Merseyside, it is simple, but that is only if the Tyne is crossed. Certainly the 1983-2010 Tyne Bridge constituencies give an unhappy precedent for doing this, however, the argument against is strengthened by the size of Northumberland, which has enough voters for 3.22 constituencies, and thus can’t have 3 within 105%. Combining Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside gives 8 constituencies. South of the Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland can fit 6 constituencies within 5% of the UK-quota, but only just, so I think it is plausible that a constituency crossing the boundary into CoDurham will be created. Co Durham itself would have 6MPs and Darlington 1, but treating them separately causes problems on Teeside. No grouping of Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool, and Stockton can come up with constituencies near enough the quota, but combining with Co Durham and Darlington would give 12MPs for the combined ‘Counties of Durham and Cleveland’.

    Apart from the Met Counties and the former county of Cheshire, what of the NW? Cumbria fits 5 constituencies. Non-Unitary Lancashire would have 12, but will need to take voters from Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool, both of which have far too many voters for 1MP each, but nothing like enough for 2. The combined result would be 14.48 MPs at quota. For England to have 502 or more MPs, the combined Lancs, Black and Black will be allocated 15 MPs, I think.

    York is simple, still having 2MPs within 5% of the quota. The rest of North Yorks fits 6 constituencies. The former county of Humberside is more difficult. The Bill requires unitaries to be treated as counties in their own right (as I understand it). None on their own will fit a whole number of constituencies within 5% of the quota. Combining Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire would give 6MPs, while combining North East Lincolnshire with North Lincolnshire gives 3 constituencies, but at 4.96% over the quota, which I suspect will make drawing boundaries impossible: thus I suspect some North Lincolnshire voters in the Isle o Axholme (West of the Trent) will probably vote with East Riding of Yorkshire voters in a recreated Boothferry constituency.

    That would enable the Euro-Regional boundary between ‘South Humberside’ and the Lincolnshire County Council area to be respected, even though the arithmetic is such that ‘South Humberside’ can either be combined with the rest of ‘Humberside’ or the rest of Lincolnshire.

    Lincolnshire County Council area would have 7MPs. The Unitary authority of Nottingham is oversized for 2MPs. Considering with Nottinghamshire would give a total of 10MPs. Similarly, the Unitary authority of Derby has too many voters for 2 constituencies, and so would be considered with Derbyshire, giving 10MPs in total. Rutland is far too small an electorate for a constituency to itself, while Leicester doesn’t have quite enough voters for 3 constituencies, so both need to be considered with Leicestershire. That would give 10MPs for the combined area. However, to the South, Northants cannot quite muster enough voters for 7 constituencies. Treating Northants, Leics (including the City of Leic) and Rutland together would give 16-17 constituencies: the 504th Engish constituency would be the 17th to be split between the 1973 counties of Northants and Leics .

    To the West, in non-Met West Midlands, Stoke is like Nottingham and Derby – too many voters for 2MPs, and so would need to be considered with the county around it. Staffordshire & Stoke-On-Trent combined would give 11 constituencies, but Warwickshire has too many voters for 5MPs, so I suspect some North Warwickshire voters would vote with Tamworth voters. Further West, we start running into problems along the Welsh Border. Herefordshire isn’t big enough for 2MPs. Combining it with Worcestershire gives a combination that doesn’t have enough voters for 8 constituencies. Meanwhile, Shropshire would be OK for 3MPs, but would leave Telford and Wrekin with way too few voters for 2. Combined, Shropshire and Telford don’t have enough for 5, and combining with Herefordshire still leaves us too far from quota. It looks like Shropshire, Telford &W, Hereford, and Worcestershire will all have to be treated together, giving 12 constituencies.

    Heading South, we hit one of the bigger controversies in Cornwall, as Anthony pointed out in his first 600 seats blog posting. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are remarkably close to 5.5 constituencies. Unless they can chuck a huge number of 2nd home owners off the register, or get the legislation amended, they will have to combine with Devon. Both Plymouth and Torbay also need to combine to get within the 5% margin, so a combined Devon & Cornwall, IoS, Plym, Torbay would have 17MPs. Heading back East, none of Dorset, Bournemouth or Poole can give a whole number of constituencies of an appropriate electorate, either individually or in combination. Joining with Somerset works, however, with 13MPs for Somerset and Dorset combined (inc B’mth & Poole). The former county of Avon poses problems. “Bath and North East Somerset” is too far short of quota, and combining with North Somerset would leave something so close to 95% of the UK quota as to be impossible, I suspect, to divide into 4 equal electorate slices. South Gloucestershire is even further from quota. So while Bristol and North Somerset each look like they could be treated on their own (4 and 2 MPs respectively), I think all of the former county of Avon will be treated as one, for 10MPs. If England has 508 constits, the 508th would be an 11th here, but it would mean going below 95% of UK wide quota on current electorates, so that is the limiting point on my thinking.

    Swindon fits 2constituencies quite well, but the rest of Wiltshire Unitary causes problems, and they are not solved by treating Swindon and Wiltshire together. Combining with Gloucestershire (which would fit 6 constituencies on its own) gives a combined Glos and Wilts of 11 constituencies, but rather close to 95% UK wide quota (or 13 including Swindon, and a bit more breathing room against the quota).

    The South East region will need to include a cross-Solent constituency unless the Bill is amended, since the Isle of White has an electorate of 1.45 times the quota. Southampton and Portsmouth also need to combine with Hampshire. The combined Hampshire, Southampton, Portsmouth and IoW will have 19MPs if England has 500 constits or more.

    For reasons I don’t understand, the Berkshire Unitaries don’t count as counties in their own right, so the Boundary Commission will treat them together, giving 8MPs. Contrary to Anthony’s earlier thoughts, I didn’t see any trouble giving Oxfordshire 6MPs, unless the quota is distinctly lower than I suspect. Bucks looks simple, with 5MPs until you try to cope with Milton Keynes, which is too large for 2. The combined Bucks and MK works with 7MPs, and the current Speaker’s constituency will have to include some voters in MK (unless both County and Regional boundaries are crossed). Further South, in Surrey, the electorate will be divided between 11 constituencies. West Sussex will have 8. Brighton and Hove is already too small for 3 whole constituencies, and will be considered with East Sussex, for 8 constituencies total. That doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre, though, giving 96% of the quota electorate for 8 constituencies (and combining East and West Sussex, including B&H hardly helps). It is possible, thus, that the BC will cross the East Sussex boundary with Kent. Medway will continue to give some voters to non-Unitary Kent, and the combined Kent and Medway would have 16MPs (even if it gave a few voters to East Sussex).

    As for the Eastern Region, Southend and Thurrock are both so close to 1.5 constituencies they will have to be considered with the County, and the combined Essex, Southend and Thurrock will have 17 MPs. Suffolk looks like it would have 7 MPs, but Norfolk is too far over quota for 8, so a combined Norfolk and Suffolk would neatly give 16MPs. Peterborough has the electorate for 1.5 constituencies, so will be considered with Cambridgeshire, for a total of 7MPs. The electorate is such, however, that it will be very difficult for the BC to keep all 7 electorates within 105% of the quota (the aggregate is over 104%, on my calculation), so perhaps some voters will be in a Norfolk or Suffolk-based constituency. I don’t think the border with Bedfordshire will be crossed, because Bedfordshire and Central Beds Unitaries combine for 4 constituencies (I suspect boundary changes will be implemented so only one constituency crosses the border between those newly-created unitaries, instead of the two at present). Luton is already too small for two constituencies, but with the new quota can no longer combine with the rest of Bedfordshire to make a whole number of constituencies. The only solution I can see is crossing the border with Herts. A combined Herts and Luton would have 12MPs, but the way Central Bedfordshire Council area curls round to the South of Luton makes me wonder whether a small part of that council area (precious few voters, mind) will be included in a seat that includes parts of Luton and Herts.

  37. @ Amber Star

    Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics estimates that household income will have eroded by 8% by 2015… economics is not my stong point so I don’t know how, or whether, inflation/interest rate fluctuations can be factored into this forecast:
    h ttp://

  38. WoollyMindedLiberal

    “AW As I understand it, the ancient County boundaries will play no role in the coming BC work.”

    Not exactly: current administrative county boundaries will play a role, but given the number of Unitaries who count as counties in their own right, and other current administrative counties for this that can’t fit a whole number of constituencies and remain within 5% of quota, a lot of boundaries will be crossed. Boundaries like that between Dorset and Hants are particularly likely to be respected, as the legislation recognises the Euro region boundary that follows that county boundary.

  39. I think we have 2 points made clearer this week:

    1. There will be Boundary Reviews every 5 years rather than the present system of 12/13 years.
    2. As there is only one Bill encompassing all, the new boundaries will not apply till ratified by Parliament in 2014 and the present boundaries apply till the next GE scheduled/intended for 2015. Hence if AV passed in referendum, FPTP still applies in byelections for the duration of this parliamant.

  40. On another note my CLP backed Ed MIlliband, agood thing as he came to visit us last week.

  41. Excellent results for Labour in a couple of local authority by-elections on July 15th in Preston and Walsall with both showing remarkable swings away from Lib Dems and Cons respectively.

  42. @Ben Foley, @WoollyMindedLiberal

    Oh lord, subdivisions of the United Kingdom, my specialist subject…:-(

    That the prospective new constituencies will cross admin boundaries will cause only minor inconvenience (basically turf wars). The UK has no stable internal boundaries: even the Wales/England and England/Scotland borders have changed in living memory.

    The council areas (“counties” if you’re into inaccurate phraseology) change like wobbly jelly: there was a reorganisation in 2009, 2007, there’ll be another in 2011, and that’s only the recent ones. Council borders change more each year than the rest of the EU combined. This is why the Post Office has routinely ignored counties on addresses since the 90’s.

    If you into administrative comedy*1, you may want to pay attention to the Wirral. It’s hemmed in by the Welsh border to the West, Irish Sea to the north, Mersey and Liverpool to the East, and Cheshire to the South, none of which want anything to do with it: the Wirral is famously difficult to do anything with. I look forward to see where it’ll end up.

    Regards, Martyn,

    *1 We get together every year and regale ourselves with “Monmouthshire” (only formally in Wales since 1973), “City of London” (tiny), “Berkshire” (exists now only for ceremonial purposes), “Kingston-upon-Hull” (which is both in and out of the East Riding simultaneously) and the Dumfries and Galasheils postcode areas (both of which extend into England despite being obviously Scottish). Oh, the laughs…

  43. I suppose one advantage of larger constituency boundaries (AV or no AV) is that it loosens the link between an MP and a specific locality, potentially paving the way for public acceptance of a PR system.

    I can see AV assisting the Tories in most of their heartland areas (SE, Southern England, Outer London), as in most of those areas, they already get well over 50% of the vote, and the effect of AV will be minimal. Even larger boundaries will make no difference. Also they should benefit from LD second preference votes in Lab/Con marginals.

    As for Labour, boundaries of 100,000 could be problematic, as it could adversely affect their natural advantage in inner city areas as there will be fewer exclusively inner city seats.

    As for the LDs, it’s difficult to see them benefiting at all. Larger boundaries could hurt them badly, due to a lack of roots in most areas, and the dearth or resources available to them. They will get some Tory second preference votes in Lab/LD marginals, but they’ll get no favours from Labour in LD/Con or Con/LD marginals.

    Finally a general point of the existing boundaries. I do not think these unduly prejudice the Tories. This only appears so as the Tories poll much higher in their heartlands than Lab does in theirs. I suppose if we had party list PR, every vote would count, and so this additional support would reflect in extra seats. But overall, it’s better to see this discrepency for what it is, higher turnout in true blue territory, rather than a boundaries issue.

  44. I’d been wondering what was planned with Wight, seems they’re having a constituency that straddles the sea. Doesn’t seem very sensible to me.

  45. ALEC

    “These same posters are now looking for excuses to downgrade the Q2 figures as they are unconveniently good. ”

    Not at all- my concern is that theQ2 figures are clearly unbalanced by a Construction sector component which is accepted by all as being exceptionally high.

    Be this phasing, or be it an error ( which will presumably come out on revision), if Q3 shows lower growth, simply because because the Construction component of Q2 has reversed, there will still be the almighty din of Labour supporters claiming that Osborne has caused the reduction.

    Yes-I did note the Manufacturing component-it is encouraging.

    What the press never give is the Export / Domestic split. I don’t know whether it is in the ONS data.

    I am very concerned that we-as opposed to Germany for example-do not yet seem to be growing exports. Relying on domestic consumption, ahead of government fiscal tightening is not adequate.

    I am pleased to see DC spending as much time in USA on British trade interests as with BO. DC’s remarks about the Foreign Office’s key responsibility on foreign trade is spot on.

    I think DC & GO have the correct focus on overseas trade . I hope our private sector has too.

  46. @ Epochery

    A surge in endorsements from CLPs with DM on 130, EM 106, AB 34, DA 18 and EB on 8. Surprised to see Ed Balls trailing the pack.

    Do you know the total number to declare?

  47. @BILLY BOB

    DangerMouse is in the lead? :)

  48. @colin – I don’t disagree with your comments. I suspect the claims by some that government spending had a lot to do with the surge in construction are probnably a little overstated. Most of this will involve long lead times so hasn’t yet shown in the figures.

    Agreed also with the notion of a fall back in Q3 not necessarily being due to the new government. However, you personally ought to remember what you are implying should Q3 be better than expected again – the flip side is that this equally won’t be to Osborne’s credit.

    On exports, I don’t know why, but UK exporters are notorious at using favourable exchange rates to increase margins through maintaining prices as opposed to seeking increased market share through price cuts. It’s a key negative feature of our export market management and is one of the reasons we have struggled. Not sure what the answer is, but it is seen by many as a symptom of UK businesses obsession with short term gain at the expense of strategic improvement. Some suggest this is due to the overbearing dominance of the city and finance sectors and the unreasonable pressure applied on share dividends. It’s one of the reason why Lamont and Brown went for the ACT changes we discussed a while back, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much.

  49. @Martyn, @Ben Foley, @WoollyMindedLiberal

    “That the prospective new constituencies will cross admin boundaries will cause only minor inconvenience (basically turf wars).”

    Largely, I agree: from what I can work out many people living near a county boundary would be pretty happy being in the same constituency as people on the other side of the boundary. However, the Boundary Commission for England have traditionally treated them as pretty close to sacrisanct (wherever they happen to be at the time they review), preferring to put forward absurd cross-river constituencies for Merseyside and Tyneside, rather than cross the (Met) county boundary.

    “If you into administrative comedy, you may want to pay attention to the Wirral.”

    I did, in my mammoth post of July 23rd, 2010 at 10:57 pm, that I think was in moderation when you posted, Martyn. Reading between the lines of their last report, I am pretty sure the BC will want to consider a constituency crossing the Wirral/Cheshire border.

    ““Berkshire” (exists now only for ceremonial purposes)”. Not quite. Unlike other counties that have been turned into unitaries over the whole county area, for some reason Berkshire is the appropriate council area for the BC. By contrast, purely ceremonial counties such as Bedfordshire are to be treated with each unitary as a separate county area by the BC (fine, apart from the fact that very few are a suitable size).

    @ Wood
    “I’d been wondering what was planned with Wight, seems they’re having a constituency that straddles the sea. Doesn’t seem very sensible to me.”

    But unless they get the legislation amended, that is what they will get: and amending the legislation to treat IoW separately goes a long way to undermine the principle of it, so I can’t see it happening.

    All told, the proposal for boundary changes to give so little variation in the size of constituencies isn’t very sensible.

    Eventually something needed to be done about the constant rachetting-up of the number of MPs (that was inevitable on previous legislation), and there is a valid argument that SOME of the variations were excessive, due to over-slavish following of pretty arbitrary council (and, in places ward) boundaries. However, this bill does not end the over-slavish following of pretty arbitrary council boundaries, just cause more exceptions: I strongly suspect that the combination of over-slavish following of council boundaries and the required over-strict requirement to stay within plus or minus 5% of the UK-wide quota will result in absurd constituencies – for example with two wards of a town, a tranch of countryside and two wards of a neighbouring town, even though each town more-or-less justifies having its own MP, but for the knock-on effects of neighbouring constituencies.

  50. @Alec and Colin

    The growth in the construction sector follows two very poor quarters. This is backed up anecdotally; a friend, who is a crane banksman, has been in and out of work for the last two years. The place was littered with cranes but they weren’t moving. Recently he got a longer term job and has since been inundated by agents offering him other work.

    Construction has a long lead time so any sudden reversal has its roots way back in time. Fiscal policy is a relatively short-term weapon whereas the effect of monetary policy has a 18-24 month lag. As construction is heavy dependent on interest rates I would consider the slashing of interest rates and the subsequent QE in 2008/9 to be the critical factors.
    If I am correct then we should not expect a reversal in Q3 from the construction sector. Of greater concern to me is the slowdown in land transportation which is a good indicator of general business activity.

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