The Boundary Review

The forthcoming review of Parliamentary constituencies, set off by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, is going to be based on the electorate on the 1st December 2010 (that is the day the brand new electoral register from last autumn’s annual canvass came into effect). The Office of National Statistics this week published the Uk electorate for that day, so we can start making some firmer preductions about what is going to happen.

The electorate in the UK on the 1st Dec is 45,844,691. The legislation sets out a formula to decide how these seats are divided between the nations, so we can say with some confidence that England will get 502 seats (including the two guaranteed seats for the Isle of Wight). Scotland will get 52 seats (including the two guaranteed seats for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland), Wales will get 30 seats and Northern Ireland will get 16, one more than had been expected from the 2009 electorate figures. Hence England will lose 31 seats, Scotland will lose 7, Wales will lose 10 and Northern Ireland will lose 2.

The new legislation sets out a strict limit on the size of the seats apart from the four guaranteed ones (and special rules for Northern Ireland and for very large geographical seats that will only affect the Scottish highlands). All seats need to be 5% above or below the quota of 76,641. This means seats in England, Scotland and Wales will need to have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473 (Northern Ireland will have a slightly laxer limit).

We don’t know for sure how this will translate into seats for each county or region – it depends on how the boundary commission divide things up. If you just divide each English region by the quota you end up with 2 too many seats for example, so my guess is the Commission will use the same formula (Sante-Lague) as they did to divide up the seats between the nations to make sure they end up with 500. The strict 5% limit means that there will be many cases of seats having to cross county boundaries, but we don’t know which counties the boundary commission will chose to pair up. However, from what we do know, here are some early guesses.

South East (-1). The South East is the region with the most seats and the one that loses the fewest. It currently has 84 seats, including the Isle of Wight. Under the new legislation the Isle of Wight will automatically have two seats, gaining one. The rest of the South East will lose two seats, one from Kent and one from Hampshire. Other counties will keep their current number of seats. On paper there is no need for any seats crossing county boundaries, but this would make it very tricky for the Commission in getting seats within quota in East Sussex, so they may decide to pair it with West Sussex anyway.

London (-5). London currently has 73 seats, my prediction is that it will fall to 68 (by quota it would get 69, but the Sante-Lague formula would give it 68). There are, of course, countless different ways that London boroughs could be paired up in order to draw up boundaries, so it’s hard to predict with any confidence exactly where the seats will go.

South West (-2). The South West currently has 55 seats and will fall to 53. One of the main controversies during the passage of the bill was that the strict rules would produce a seat that straddled the boundary between Cornwall and Devon – this does appear to be the case. Cornwall is entitled to just under 5 and a half seats, so it would not be possible to give them 5 seats close enough to the quota. Instead they will have to be paired with Devon, the two counties getting 17 seats between them (down 1). Dorset and Wiltshire are also both unable to be divided into seats within quota, and will likely need to be paired. They will have 14 seats between them, down from 15 at the moment.

East of England (-2). Essex needs to lose one seat. Suffolk will be able to retain 7 seats. The other counties in the Eastern region will probably need to be joined together in some way to get seats within quota. It looks likely that Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire will be paired together and lose one seat.

West Midlands (-5). As we head northwards through England we will see more lost seats, as the demographic trend of population movement in the UK tends to be away from the Northern cities towards the South. Staffordshire divides nicely into the quota and will lose one seat. Between them Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester will lose one seat. Warwickshire is too big for the five seats it would get to be within 5% of quota, so will need to be paired. Together with the West Midlands metropolitan boroughs they will lose three seats.

East Midlands (-2). This is somewhat problematic – Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire will both lose one seat. All the counties except Northamptonshire can be divided neatly into seats within quota, but Leicestershire will probably have to be paired with Northampton anyway. Between them they should also lose one seat..but that would give the East Midlands one seat too few. Over to you Boundary Commission.

North West (-7). The North West loses the most seats numerically in England. By quota it would be given 69, down 6, but if the the Boundary Commission use Sante-Lague to get England down to the right number of seats it would lose 7. Cumbria will lose one seat as will Cheshire. Merseyside will lose 2 seats – one from the Wirral and one from the rest of Merseyside. Thankfully the Wirral’s electorate is just small enough to divide neatly into three seats, so there is no longer the need for a seat crossing into Cheshire or a seat crossing the Mersey. On paper Lancashire doesn’t need to be paired, but it would lead to some difficult and small seats, so I think they may choose to have a seat crossing the boundary with the Greater Manchester boroughs – between them they would lose 3 seats.

Yorkshire and the Humber (-4). North, West and South Yorkshire and Humberside can all be split into within quota seats, with Humberside, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire each losing one seat. However, this would produce 51 seats, one more than the region should have. This could be solved with a seat crossing the boundary between South and West Yorkshire, when between them the two counties would lose 3 seats. Note that all eight of the current seats in North Yorkshire are within quota (the only English country where this is the case), so it’s possible they could all remain completely unchanged in the review.

North East (-3). The North East loses 3 out of 29 seats, the biggest proportional loss of any English region. There is likely to need to be extensive pairing of counties and Metropolitan boroughs here – very little divides neatly into seats within quota, so it’s difficult to predict exactly where the seats will go, other than Northumberland which is currently over-represented because of it’s sparse population will lose one of its four seat (or at least, most of it, given it will need to have a seat crossing a county boundary).

Scotland (-7). The Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland have their seats protected. The rest of Scotland will lose 7 of its 57 seats. The small Scottish counties lend themselves to many different pairings, so it’s to predict where the seats will go – Glasgow should lose one as should Edinburgh. The Highlands should lose one seat – which will almost certainly be Charles Kennedy’s – but there is the potential for the Scottish Commission to propose undersized seats in the Highlands if it is impossible to propose in-quota seats inside the limit on geographical area.

Wales (-10). Wales currently has the smallest seats, and therefore sees by far the most drastic reduction in its number of constituencies, losing a quarter of its existing 40 seats. Naturally all parts of Wales will be affected to some extent – interesting implications are a seat that links Anglesey to the mainland (almost certainly including Bangor with the island), seeing how the Boundary Commission deals with the Welsh valleys and which county it ends up pairing Powys with.

Many of you will be asking what the partisan effect of all this will be. It’s mostly too early to say – you can probably make some broad guesses about how some of the changes will impact on the parties (for example, the lost seat in Kent must be definition be a Conservative one, and it’s likely 2 of the lost North East seats will be Labour). However, you can only go so far with this – even if you can predict which seats are likely to be dismembered it will have a knock on effect on other seats. It’s also worth remembering that, with the exception of North Yorkshire, just because a county isn’t losing any seats doesn’t mean its seat won’t need to be re-arranged to come close enough to the quota, and that alone will lead to some seats notionally changing hands.

Note that there are some circumstances where the boundary commission can use data for 1st Feb 2011 instead, if there has been an election in the area, so there is still potential for these figures to change. The Scottish boundary commission has said they will make an announcement setting out how they will conduct the review on the 4th March, the Welsh Commission have said they will provide details in March, and I’d expect the other two Commissions to make similar statements. The expectation was that we’ll actually get some provisional recommendations in September, but we’ll know more next month. The final boundaries are due to be decided by October 2013.


189 Responses to “The Boundary Review”

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  1. SoCal,

    I think ther’d be be fisticuffs if the exit poll was released a ful day beforehand… where’s your sense of excitment? :)

  2. The exit poll if true [it has an MoE of 2.5%]

    Shows

    FG a couple of % less than the polls were showing them
    SF a % or two less than the polls were showing them

    Shows FF spot on what the polls were showing them

    Shows Labour an incy wincy bit higher….

    changes from 2007 are

    On the last election changes [2007] that is

    Fianna Fáil -26.5%
    Fine Gael +8.7%
    Labour +10.4%
    Sinn Féin +3.2%

    I like exit polls and tend to trust them, so this is a good morning for me, I did not want an FG outright majority.. Beforehand I thought FF would poll closer to 20% but if the exit poll turns out to be correct.. I was wrong about them… I’ve been trying to think of a shy linked word that would rhyme with Fáil or Fáil[er].. pronounced foyler? any ideas?

  3. A comment on Sinn Féin if I may….

    In 1982 they had no representation anywhere on the island..

    In 2002 they captured 2% of the vote in ROI..

    Today they are set to caputre more than 10% of the vote in ROI and they enjoy c.25% of the vote in NI

    At the eassembly election in May, they are on course to become NI’s largest party and the new first minister will be a Shinner…

    In ROI today they are on course to win 1 in Louth, 2 in Cavan-Monaghan 2 in Donegal, 3-4 in Dublin, 1 in Kerry, 1 in Cork North Central…

    By any measurements it is some success for the party since giving up violence….

  4. @Socal Liberal

    “Historically, weren’t people excluded from voting if they did not own a certain amount of land? That would for the most part categorically exclude the poor from voting. Just from a cultural perspective, might that tend decrease one’s likelihood to register if they’re poor? ”

    The property qualification went almost completely in 1918, with some restrictions (don’t know the details). Anyway, I think the folk memory of that it going to be pretty limited after 90+ years.

    Poll tax, being a mere twenty years ago, is a different matter. It had a powerful and damaging effect on registration, that may well be ongoing. Once a link between taxation and representation is created in people’s minds it is hard to break it.

  5. The propoerty requirement to vote is interesting.. pre-1832 it was a 40 shilling freehold that entitled you to vote.. it actually meant the franchise was quite extensive in relative terms.. off the top of my head the Irish electorate was about 162,000 under these arrangements…

    post 1829 in Ireland and post 1832 in England and Wales.. that bar was raised to a £10 requirement… In Ireland it had the consequence of actually shrinking the electorate… off the top of my head I think it dwindled to about 16,000…

    MPs were also required to have a sufficient wealth to stand.. From memory it was c.£500 It was not strcitly adhered to.. in one xample the MP for KErry was heavily indebted, relied upon his wife’s inheritance and lived most of his life in fairly serious debt.. It causes historians to chuckle that someone who was such a thorn at Westminster could have been removed through this avenue had anyone thought of it and yet they weren’t

    back then you also had to resubmit yourself to a by-election if you took up a government appointment… such as occured in the East Clare by-election of 1828… I am not quite sure when that convention ceased to apply…

  6. @SocalLiberal

    “Do you really think that Labour grotesquely benefits? Didn’t the Tories used to benefit from FPTP because over 50% of the electorate would vote against a Tory candidate but the Tories would comfortably retain a seat because the anti-Tory vote was split between the Lib Dems (or Alliance) and Labour? Didn’t Labour lose the General Election of 1952 despite winning more popular votes overall?”

    I agree with a lot of what you say in your post (not for the first time!) and the correlations you make between the electoral and voting patterns in the US and UK are very illuminating. There is quite obviously a link between socio economic status and likelihood to vote (or even register) and that will benefit parties of the right in the main, as it does here and in your country.

    I’ve thought for some time that one of the worrying, and largely, untold stories of UK politics is the alienation of so many working class people from our political processes and the tendency now, not just in the social composition of our parliamentary representation but also in voting participation, for it to be slowly becoming a preserve of the affluent, educated and middle class. This is also reflected in the media coverage of our politics where it tends to be quintessentially middle class and well educated people looking at their reflections in the mirror, and the politicians doing vice versa. Was I the only person who thought that now famous Cameron and Clegg Rose Garden press conference wasn’t just a love-in between the two politicians concerned but also an English press corps wallowing in the warm feeling of seeing people just like themselves back where they all mutually felt they belonged? Couldn’t Clegg and Cameron morph seamlessly into Tom Bradby, James Landale, Martin Kettle, Andrew Rawnsley, Simon Jenkins, Nick Robinson, William Rhys Mogg, Peter Oborne (God, the list goes on and on!) if we closed our eyes ever so gently? To these media onlookers, garrulous commentators and opinion formers, politicians like Denis Skinner and John Prescott must appear like aliens from another planet! I think our politics are skewed and impoverished in the process. If I was a Marxist (which I was for 6 weeks in 1975 when I first read Das Kapital!) I’d say we’re witnessing the “bourgeoise-ification” of our politics!

    My point about Labour benefiting grotesquely from FPTP also went on to say that the Tories had done so too in years gone by, although population movements in the last 40 years have tended, as Robin Hood as already said on these pages, to tip the balance of bias in Labour’s favour. The election you refer to was in fact the 1950 one, not 1952, but the point you make is right; the system was biased towards the Tories then and the 1950 election, which they lost in popular vote terms, but denied Atlee a working majority in parliamentary terms, was their bridgehead back to 13 years of power. I wasn’t alive then, but have studied the period extensively since, and the tragedy was that if Atlee and his epoch-making and seminal 1945-50 Labour Government could have got the majority they merited in 1950, after taking the country through the immediate post war economic storms, they could have reaped the political benefits that would have accrued through the days of affluence in the 1950s. How different might our country have been if Atlee could have prevented the Tory hegemony of the 1950s and early 60s, built as it was on a largely stolen election?

    P.S. By the way, I’ve just re-read my post and I think this may be the first time I’ve called upon Robin Hood as an academic reference in a piece on politics! It’s amazing what these assumed monikers can do to us!! Thanks all the same, Robin, and I may refer to the the Sheriff of Nottingham in future writings, although I tend to lean more towards Maid Marian from a political point of view!

  7. Guys/Gals,

    Your best link for ROI coverage is

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0226/election_count_live_saturday.html

    Enjoy!

  8. @SoCalLiberal,

    I don’t know if you’ve ever played with it before, but try this exercise.

    Using the Advanced Swingometer on this site, put in the GE scores for the parties (C37, L30, LD24). Then switch this to L37, C30, LD24. Then try LD37, L30, C24 and finally LD37, C30, L24.

    Hopefully it will illustrate just how “unfair” the current system is in Labour’s favour. Of course the worst victims of this are the LDs not the Tories. But in terms of who gets to run/lead the UK government (a Tory/Lab battle) the Tories are clearly disadvantaged by the system – at least insofar as proportionality is concerned.

    And in response to someone much earlier in the thread (Nick I think?) about “multifaceted disadvantage” – I didn’t mean “multi-faceted” as a word of emphasis (like “massive” or “huge”) but as one of description (like “complex”, “intricate”). My point was that there are several different features of the current system that benefit Labour (in terms of exceeding in seats their proportionate vote share) and that constituency size is just one (and not the biggest) of them.

    I presume some of those here that feel that it’s appropriate for Labour to benefit in this way because “people who can’t vote need representation too” etc don’t approve of PR given that PR would eliminate all of that in one stroke. Unless of course they propose a top up list of Left wing MPs to enter parliament specifically to take care of the huddle masses of the disenfranchised.

  9. Quip recap on 1950s elections.

    1950 – Labour outpolls Tories (and allies). Labour gets more seats than Tories. Labour forms government but with wafer thin majority.

    1951 – Labour outpolls Tories (and allies) by less than 1%. Tories and allies get 25 more seats than Labour and form a government with a small majority.

    For what it’s worth. If the 1951 vote shares were repeated today, AW’s swingometer shows a 44 seat Labour majority. If they were reversed (with the Tories having a 1% lead over Labour) the swingometer shows Labour 1 seat short of an overall majority.

    In other words, the system used to be capable of giving the Tories a small advantage over Labour (but as seen in 1950 didn’t always do this). Now it invariably gives Labour a big, big advantage over the Tories. It clearly has always, and continues to give both Tories and Labour a massive advantage over the Liberal Democrats.

  10. SoCalLiberal

    Draughtsman is an alternate spelling to draftsman (but here it has the added piquancy of also implying a draught of cold air, or the draught of the ferry needed to get to the Small Isles).

  11. Joe:

    If the islands had not 3 times but 30 times their due, their different problems would still get less understanding and attention than London an the SE

    That’s why they have got an SNP MP and MSP.

    The problem isn’t a population problem. It’s a problem of ignorance and lack of imagination in the Westminster politics/media/entertainment/finance culture.

    The number of people in that select and powerful elite is not very different from the number of people in the Island constituencies.

  12. The electoral system contained a significant pro-Conservative bias in the 1950s – the reason that happened then, and then vanished, was for two main reasons. Firstly, the Ulster Unionists were still part of the Parliamentary Conservative Party and won several uncontested seats (so there were some seats the Tories got with just 1 vote).

    Secondly the boundary commission at the time used to propose seats with a smaller electorate in rural areas than in urban areas (presumably to account for difficultly of travelling around and representing large geographical areas). This resulted in an systemic bias towards the Tories in the electoral boundaries.

  13. Anthony,

    The pro-Conservative bias in 1830 was signifcantly worse :) They say the Duke of Newscastle had about 100 seats in his pocket.. :)

    the old Lady Londonderry or Kilmorey in Ireland was as bad but on a more local scale..

  14. TGB

    The longer term trend in Argyll and the highlands is that votes are leaking slowly but inexorably from excessive LibDem majorities and lost votes are split betwen SNP Labour and Greens in the SNP’s favour.

    It may be a while before this makes much dfference in seats.

  15. Anthony, or should that be Tory ?:)

  16. @AW,

    Surely the former is not strictly speaking a bias? After all if a seat is uncontested then it’s not an unreasonable assumption that the seat’s electorate leans fairly strongly towards that one party (if it leaned another way, another party would have stood and won). So the Tories/Unionists may (in theory) have won the seat with one vote, but if it had been contested might well have won it with 60,000 votes. And as for the inclusion of Ulster Unionists with the Tory total, well there were two Nationalist MPs elected as well. If Labour wasn’t willing and/or able to ally with them than that’s a question of political strategy isn’t it?

    Overall, the seat share in 1950 was more or less proportionate to the vote share for the Tories and Labour. So any bias introduced by the smaller rural constituencies must have been small. Or at the very least counterbalanced by biases working the other way.

  17. Politics Home headline on RoI election made me giggle. They’ve misspelled the front runners, leaving wishing I could meet this lovely lady they describe as “Fine Gail”.

  18. John B,

    Thanks a lot for that…

  19. @ Crossbat11

    Great post. Elsewhere, it has been well documented how the public school/Oxbridge domination of UK journalism has actually got worse in the last twenty years. Which chimes in very neatly with what you say.

    As to whether the boundary review is politcally motivated – of course it is! It deals only with the comparatively minor issue of Tory underrepresentation compared to Labour, while actually making the much bigger democratic problem third/minor party underrepresention worse, owing to the reduction in the number of seats.

    Putting aside the actions of their leadership since, the biggest outrage of the last election was the Lib Dems polling 24% of the vote and getting 9% of the seats. The fact that the Tories did not get an overall majority on 36% is – democratically speaking – a just outcome.

    It’s back to that enormous, unearned sense of entitlement again.

  20. Fianna Fáil are said to be outperforming the polls….

    Too early to confirm but a shy-Fianna factor is looking an increasingly distinct possibility…

    It would be poor for the ROI polls not to have looked at the 1992/7 UK polling and taking account of this possibility…

  21. The ROI count is well under way and FF are getting a pounding, as expected. It seems FG aren’t doing quite so well in Dublin as they are elsewhere and that may well have cost them the chance of an overall majority: the “Dubs” have gone for Labour instead.

    Ironically, the only seat declared so far is for FF.

  22. @Neil A

    “Overall, the seat share in 1950 was more or less proportionate to the vote share for the Tories and Labour. So any bias introduced by the smaller rural constituencies must have been small. Or at the very least counterbalanced by biases working the other way.”

    Labour won the 1950 election by a 6% vote share margin and by one and a half million votes. That’s worth repeating. One and a half million votes. This decisive popular vote win converted into a wafer thin five seat parliamentary majority. The clearly expressed popular will was suborned and the electoral outcome perverted. They had to go to the country again in 1951 where, despite winning the popular vote, they lost their majority and we then had a Tory Government for 13 years.

    In the scale of its dis-proportionality, 1950 was unique in British political history and electoral grand larceny of such magnitude has never been repeated again. The inbuilt Labour bias that now exists in the system only served to exaggerate their clear wins in 1997 and 2001 and deny Major the size of majority he deserved in 1992. That said, it didn’t stop him governing for a full term and, whereas February 1974, 2005 and 2010 are interesting ones to look at, none of them contain the perversions of 1950, or even 1951. Wilson formed a minority government having polled marginally less than Heath, but it was the Liberals who were truly robbed, as they were again in 2005 and 2010, not the Conservatives.

    As I said earlier, an electoral system that can usher Mr Cameron into Downing Street on 22% of the electorate’s votes, cannot, without a sense of acute irony, be said to contain multi-faceted disadvantages for his party.

  23. One source of bias in the outcomes of elections that has not been mentioned so far is the difference in campaigns. Labour and LibDem campaigns rely to a large extent on local volunteer support, whereas Conservative campaigns less so, due to the bias of the national media. The local volunteer effort is concentrated in winnable seats whereas the national media output is indescriminate.

    The result is Labour and LibDem votes are more likely to accumulate in places where they matter – and the result is these parties are more efficient at winning seats than the raw vote total would suggest – taking into account that this is FPTP not PR (e.g., if the LibDem vote was spead more evenly they would lose everything).

    This effect is not going to be eliminated by redrawing the boundaries. And I don’t think it is “unfair” that local campaigning influences election results.

  24. There was a battle of Egos for the Louth constituency..

    With Gerry Adams running for th efirst tiem, the southern based parties were determined he would not top the poll… but it appears they have failed to prevent this from happening… expect Adams to top it with a bit to spare…

  25. @ Neil A

    Unless of course they propose a top up list of Left wing MPs to enter parliament specifically to take care of the huddle masses of the disenfranchised.
    ——————————————————-
    That’s a cracking good idea. You will convert me to PR, if you keep this up. ;-)

  26. Shy-FF factor is looking really apparent in many consituencies… they are still taking a hammering but to my mind at least, they are performing better than polling suggested they would

  27. A very interesting stat from the exit poll is that only 2% of former FF voters switched to their minor coalition partners.. the Greens…

    IS this type of occurence applicable to UK do we think?

  28. Can I propose “Coy Fáil” as the shorthand you’re looking for?

  29. I do not understand why Western Isles has to have its own constituency. If STV was in operation there might be a single highlands and islands constituency.

  30. Hal

    “One source of bias in the outcomes of elections that has not been mentioned so far is the difference in campaigns. Labour and LibDem campaigns rely to a large extent on local volunteer support, whereas Conservative campaigns less so, due to the bias of the national media.”

    If you read the Sun, yes. Otherwise your comment is complete rubbish. The leftwing/liberal bias at the BBC coupled with an overall leftleaning press is well recognised. Even the Murdoch Times has plenty of pro-Labour (and formerly Lib Dem, less so now) articles and negative Tory ones to supplement the pro-Cameron ones.

    Of course the incumbent government, which last year was Labour, get more negative press in a general way – this is true of all governments, especially after they are past their sell-by date like 1997 and 2010.

  31. Crossbat11

    “Labour won the 1950 election by a 6% vote share margin and by one and a half million votes. That’s worth repeating. One and a half million votes. This decisive popular vote win converted into a wafer thin five seat parliamentary majority. The clearly expressed popular will was suborned and the electoral outcome perverted.”

    This is laughable, honestly, coming from a very sour grapes Labourite it seems.

    On your reasoning, Conservatives won the 2010 election by 7% (and a lot more than one and a half million votes) – yet they did not even win a 5-seat majority like your example, they fell short with a 36 minority. So clearly a far worse case of “…the clearly expressed popular will being suborned and the electoral outcome perverted.” No doubt you accept unequivocably that the Conservatives deserved a decisive majority.

  32. A Brown

    “I do not understand why Western Isles has to have its own constituency.”

    Because it keeps a lot of SNP and Labour voters away from the LD mainland seats. There is nothing either logical or honourable about the LD gerrymandering of the Highlands.

  33. Given the number of times it is mentioned that comparing our current electoral situation with that during the 80’s is not entirely helpful, it is worth saying that if we go back to the 50’s there were about 20 million less people here, not to mention them living in different places, doing different jobs, having different lifestyles and most importantly patterns of thinking.
    Thus I think comparing all that way back might not be too revealing.

    FPTP is just generally vulnerable to population movements in a way that something like the PR system used for european elections isn’t.

    btw, once this new boundary layout is established, when is the next review due? And if Labour came to power next time, would they dare reverse or tinker with it? (I doubt it)

  34. btw, FF are down 21.5% in the ROI election. That is a rare humbling for an incumbent losing an election.

  35. @Neil A

    “Surely the former is not strictly speaking a bias? After all if a seat is uncontested then it’s not an unreasonable assumption that the seat’s electorate leans fairly strongly towards that one party”

    But a similar effect operates even now, so as to understate the Labour vote. The seats with the lowest turnout are by-and-large the very safest of safe Labour seats. On the other hand, in Tory safe seats the culture is much more to vote regardless of the likely outcome. The effect is to inflate the Tories’ share of the popular vote.

    If we take each seat and calculate the projected vote with a uniform turnout nationwide, the effect is to increase Labour’s share of the vote from 29.7 to 30.6, and to reduce Con from 36.9 to 36.1 (and LD from 23.6 to 23.3).

    The number of seats that Can and Lab won is now almost exactly in proportion to their relative vote – in fact, Con come out 1 seat ahead. The alleged Lab bias is a fiction resulting from differential turnout.

  36. Robin/Neil A –

    When I say bias I merely mean that the situation where if the two main parties got the same share of the vote, one would have more seats than the other. I’m passing no judgement on whether it’s justified or not.

    For example, part of the current bias is down to tactical voting against the Conservatives, and there is nothing wrong with people using their votes in the way that penalises the Conservative party the post if that’s what they wish to do. Equally there was nothing wrong with the Ulster unionists benefitting from the fact that that no one put up candidates against them.

  37. KeithP – the new legislation has one boundary review every 5 years (so if the Fixed Parliament Bill becomes law, it will be one each Parliament).

    It is fairly likely that Labour will seek to change this if they win, there is a long, long history of Labour always seeking to delay boundary reviews when in power (or in the 1980s, when not in power!) and the Conservatives trying to speed them up.

    I’d not be surprised if that continued.

  38. @Far Easterner. Here is some solid evidence of election bias in the national media.

    An analysis of the coverage of the top seven newspapers in the 2005 election shows the Conservatives favoured over Labour and LibDems:
    (see particularly table 11 and table 12).

    h ttp://www.essex.ac.uk/bes/EPOP%202005/Papers/Campaign%20study%202005.doc

    A survey by themediablog on the 2010 campaign coverage shows 64% of respondents thought coverage favoured the Conservative against 12% who thought it was biased in favour of Labour and 7% in favour of the LibDems.

    h ttp://themediablog.typepad.com/the-media-blog/2010/04/uk-media-bias-election-politics-leaders-brown-cameron-clegg0545250410.html

    I would be interested if you could find any solid evidence of the bias going the other way at *any* general election.

  39. Hi everybody

    apologies if this was already mentioned:

    your best source for Irish election info this afternoon (if you are in the UK) is BBC Parliament channel (ch81 on Freeview; ch 612 on Virgin; ch 504 on SKY) which has been running a live feed of the RTE TV coverage.

    Currently on a pause- restarting with live feed from RTE again at 16:15.

  40. Anthony – have you noticed that the 2010 ONS data shows electorates in Labour areas holding up pretty well vs 2009?

    There are large increases in Glasgow and parts of inner London. But there are also significant increases in many other Labour urban areas.

    I wonder if the trend of people moving from Labour to Conservative areas may be coming to an end, or at least slowing significantly.

    Two reasons come to mind – immigration (and children of immigrants reaching 18) being concentrated in inner city areas, plus more inner city redevelopment.

    This may mean that future boundary reviews – ie from 2015 onwards – have much less effect than the current one.

  41. @Hal

    You seem to have failed to notice that the BBC is totally biased in favour of the Labour Party so much so that many of us have given up watching BBC News and have to watch Sky instead. This has been true for as many years as I can remember but the biase has deepened of late.

  42. Guys this link will work.. and it is not on a break so uninterupted…

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0226/election_count_live_saturday.html

  43. @Howard

    While during the election campaign, many Labour supporters, indeed many on this very site, called the BBC biased in favour of the Conservatives. And some consider them currently biased in favour of the current government. And some of them even pointed out that Nick Robinson was formerly head of the Oxford University Conservative Association…

    The BBC seems to be biased against what ever it is that the person in question supports…

  44. @ The Other Howard

    You’re having a laugh, surely?

    You think Sky News is less biased than the BBC?

    Can you explain to me the jubiliation in the Sky News studio on election night when it was announced that Kingswood had been taken by the Conservatives?

    Perhaps I can venture to suggest that your interpretation of what is “biased” or “unbiased” may have been shaded by you reading too many editions of The Daily Telegraph..?

  45. Hal – themediablog poll appears to be a voodoo poll (an unweighted, open access poll of their own readers), so is worthless.

    Everyone – I find this is a subject that never fails to lead to a particularly unenlightening “Are so”, “Are not”, “Are so” party partisan tantrum, so please don’t feel the need to discuss broadcast media bias.

  46. @Crossbat.

    I think you’re forgetting to combine the National Liberal and Tory shares of the votes/seats when you look at the 1950 result.. The difference between Labour and Tory/Allies is less than 3%. The differential between vote and seat share is very small between the two sides.

    @Robin,

    I accept that some safe Labour seats are virtually “uncontested” and that this reduces turnout there. There are similar Tory seats though. I simply don’t think that historically “uncontested” seats made that much difference to the fairness of the system.

    If we bring the example forward, what would you expect to happen in a safe Labour seat in 2010, say Barnsley East, if all the non-Labour candidates withdrew? I would guess that alongside the turnout falling by the 12,000 or so non-Labour voters, there would also be a steep drop in the number of Labour voters (after all why bother to show up if your man can’t lose). The net effect would be to depress Labour’s national vote share to some extent but not all that dramatically.

  47. Anthony,

    I accept themediablog poll may be unscientific so maybe should be discounted but not so the 2005 survey I mentioned, which is a proper piece of work by academics from the University of Aberdeen. Would you regard that as worthwhile?

    I agree arguing by anecdote isn’t useful.

  48. Feeling jealous that the Irish have a sensible voting system. Don’t envy them their economic situation though.

    Enjoyed helping out at a ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ street-stall on the Finchley Road earlier today. Peter Kellner turned up for a chat…

    The Camden Yes campaign has support from Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and Green activists. I wonder if this cross-party cooperation is being mirrored in other parts of the country.

  49. Mike L – there are some areas where there is a different pattern – some of the fastest growing seats are inner city areas where there is large scale redevelopement (like Salford or Manchester say).

    These specific figures I’d be more cautious about. They may just be the sign of a council making a specific effort to get a high response rate to the canvas for this year to try and protect their Parliamentary representation (or less positively, being – ahem – less than thorough in cleaning off out of date entries on their register).

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