In the last few days there has been quite a bit of attention given to a projection of what the possible impact of the constituency changes might be from Lewis Baston. Most attention has focused upon the projection showing the Lib Dems suffering particularly badly, while Labour don’t do that much worse than the Conservatives. Overall Baston has the Conservatives losing 15 seats, Labour 18 seats and the Lib Dems 14 seats (note that this is slightly different from the figures in the Guardian yesterday, as the projection for Warrington has changed – orginally they had a change from a North/South split to an East/West split, now they have a far simpler solution which moves just one ward).

The way the projection has been done seems perfectly valid to me – Baston just seems to have taken the known facts (things like the Isle of Wight having two seats, and the regional distribution of seats in English which the boundary commission have said they’ll stick to unless there are really compelling reasons to cross regional boundaries), then used educated guesswork and knowledge of the sort of things boundary commissions have done in the past to come up with a plausible distribution of seats that fits within the rules.

However, the important caveat is that it is only one of many different possible distributions of seats that might emerge, and some will be better or worse for other parties. The political parties will have done their own projections of possible outcomes, and over on the Vote UK discussion boards there are several people putting forward suggestsion just for fun. I’ve played about with possible seats distributions myself, and come up with different projections (I did ponder doing something along the lines of what Lewis has done, but never got round to doing it for the whole country). My own expectations based on playing about with possible distributions are that the Conservatives are likely to do considerably better than Labour, but that the Lib Dems are indeed likely to do surprisingly badly. Of course, until mid-September when the first provisional recommendations are published it can only really be speculation.

A second caveat worth noting is one Mark Pack makes here. Notional voting figures for new boundaries only show how the votes would have been totted up if people’s votes at the last election had been counted in the new boundaries, not how people would have voted at the last election on new boundaries (and certainly not how they’d vote now). The notional figures will look bad for the Lib Dems because the Lib Dems often have seats that are little islands of concentrated support, which will have territory from non-Lib Dem seats brought into them – while the people in those seats may not have voted Lib Dem last time in a seat that wasn’t a viable Lib Dem target, they may have done in if they had actually had been in a Lib Dem target. (of course, on present levels of support boundary changes may be the least of the Lib Dems problems!)

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov/Sun voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 44%, LDEM 8%. That’s the highest Labour lead YouGov have shown since April. I expect it’ll turn out to be something of an outlier, but it further underlines the impression that the average lead in YouGov’s polls is heading back up to 6 points or so after having fallen down to 2-3 points after the local elections.

450 Responses to “The likely effect of boundary changes”

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  1. @ Mike N

    Why do you talk down the economy. It will recover, as just about enough cuts are in place. As I say above I am not an apologist for this government but at least they are trying to get things better after finding out quite how appalling the mess left by the last lot was.

    The key question is will it recover enough to give the Tories a majority at the next election and only time will tell on that. If they do then I hope we will see a real realignment of the public and private sectors of the economy. We need to see no more than 25% working in the Public sector if we are to be a great nation again.

  2. @Lurker

    “As if any of these Westminster parlour games are going to make any difference if the economy does head south over the next twelve months.”

    Quite so. They’re not just parlour games, they’re ancient history parlour games too. I’m hearing that the Telegraph is about to reveal that, quite devastatingly for Labour, Barbara Castle and Jim Callaghan didn’t get on very well!

    @Mike N

    “Small wonder that the Tory media are trying to drown out bad news this week by dredging up a load of utterly irrelevant stuff about EB.”

    I sense a concerted attempt by the Tories and their legions of media friends to get some good old fashioned distraction techniques going here. Bad news for the Coalition is piling up daily (manufacturing contraction, inflation, low consumer confidence, declining high street spending, health reforms fiasco, u-turns on law and order, Huhne difficulties, Tory MP arrested etc etc.)

    I should imagine Messrs Cameron, Hilton, Oliver and the DT Editor have been as thick as thieves these last few days!!

  3. @CROSSBAT11

    It still remains true that last week was a worse week for Labour than the Government. As I say, I am not a Tory but they must be delighted with Ed M who seems totally unelectable to me and many other observers.

  4. CrossBat –
    I’m not sure this is so much the ‘Tory media’ as the Telegraph is extremely unfriendly toward Cameron.
    I think it’s more that Labour are doing extremely well by saying nothing at all and it’s more an attempt to remind people that ‘these guys are the same guys you voted out’ – before Labour can create the narrative of renewal.

    The Other Howard-
    I’d disagree with you on cuts vs tax, but I think the major lesson that we can agree on is that you should always run budget surpluses (so you have some extra for an emergency) – whether you have high or low spending.

  5. The Other Howard
    “Why do you talk down the economy.”

    Umm, obviously you are unhappy with the real world and the evidence about the current state of the economy.

    The people you shoudl direct your ire at is the DC and GO who only last year talked down the UK economy.

    This gov is too fast and too furious.

  6. @ Mike N

    Sorry I am in the real World and the economy will recover despite comments like yours. The left has no sensible policies to offer after messing up.

  7. @The Other Howard
    “We need to see no more than 25% working in the Public sector if we are to be a great nation again.”

    I don’t buy into your definition of what makes a great nation. But given that the proportion was well under 25% in 2010, I’m puzzled by your use of “again”.

  8. @TingedFringe

    “you should always run budget surpluses”

    Not sure I agree with you there. I’m a bit of a Keynesian on macro-economic policy and I think there are times, 2008-09 being a classic one, when it’s entirely sensible, even essential, to run a budget deficit. FDR in the US after the Great Depression would probably agree too.

    I also think it’s very difficult to cut and tax your way out of a budget deficit when and if the economy is only growing very sluggishly, or maybe not growing at all. A rapidly growing economy, maximising tax takes and minimising social security spending, is the best way for a deficit to more or less cure itself. My fear, echoed by the economists who wrote to the Observer last week, is that we’re in danger of creating a vicious and not a virtuous economic circle. Low growth, high structural (and some cyclical) unemployment, lower tax revenues, higher social security expenditure, obstinate and unmoving deficit. And if you add in the spectre of stagflation, then you can see where the current pessimism is coming from.

  9. @ Phil

    Quite right I meant to say no more than 25 % of the current Public sector workforce ie reduce by 75%.

  10. @ The Other Howard

    “It will recover, as just about enough cuts are in place.”

    Why’s that? Crowding out effect is a fantasy of neoclassical economics – no evidence for it. (Somebody mentioned the Laffer curve the other day: Gardner back in 1983 calculated it on the US figures – it does not exist either)

    To put it very simply: modern capitalism in order to return profit ABOVE capital requires that somebody else takes the burden. The measures are varied: inflation (US 1929-1937, 1947-1982), personal loans (US middle classes: 1920s, working classes: 1960s, non-working classes: 1990s), credit cards (US middle classes: 1950s, working classes: 1980s, non-working classes: 2000s), mortgage to treat homes as assets, exchange rate manipulations (making others to pay for current consumption – but only a few countries can afford this).

    Currently households reduce their debt, large firms are full of cash (hence the madness of VC about bank lending and SMEs in the UK as historically if they financed their growth from debt, it was overdraft), the government is cutting expenditure (supposedly – I’m really not sure, the figures are really all over the place).

    This all make sense: the British standards of living is far too high in the context of the existing ownership relations. In order that the owners of capital provide the firms with equity the return and the time frame of the return requires a production and service systems that provide high return to them (and high even in international comparison), while the overall value created is low (even in international comparison) because they can externalise the low value creation (somebody else – the government – pays for it in the form of various benefits and public services). It would be immediately clear if firms would have to pay those elements of the wage that is currently paid for by the government (training, keeping children, economically inactive, etc.). I have not seen any increase in wages due to the reduction in public spending related to the reproduction of the workfoce.

    From this it is quite self-evident: in order to maintain the interest of the owners of capital, because the lenders to the government who in the last decades carried a part of the cost of private business, that is subsidised private business (all public expenditure that is related to the reproduction of the labour force is subsidy) are not ready to bankroll this subsidy, the median living standards of the UK population has to be reduced in the tune of 15%.

    This can be done politically because it is masked as government debt reduction and also because the opposition has not got an alternative narrative and because the trade union movement in its narrative is concerned with redistribution rather than creation of incomes.

    If South Europe refuses to accept the reduction of living standards (probably closer to 25%), the it will be politically impossible in the UK too (as the boogeyman of insolvency will be dead).

  11. @ The Other Howard

    “Sorry I am in the real World and the economy will recover despite comments like yours. ”

    Although you addressed it to Mike N, but very briefly:

    As I pointed it out in my previous post, a very large proportion of the government expenditure is actually subsidy to private enterprise. I would be quite happy if they repaid what they got in the last 50 years and then reduce the size of the state.

    The S&P 500 destroyed 4.5 trillion dollar shareholder value (including pension funds) in the last 17 years. I would be surprised if it was different in the UK (just the sum would be smaller). So, yes, let’s reduce the size of the state, after the British companies compensated the public for the unbelievable level of value destruction.

    I’m afraid, the real world you talk about is simply the fantasy world of segmented view of the world we live in.

    Agree with your view that the Torygraph don’t like Cameron. I tried to tell Ann in Wales exactly that, much good it did me. However, to go on and suggest that Labour are doing well, is a bit OTT, in my opinion. They need a leader and they need a narrative on economics.
    A point that has been made before, but deserves repeating, if the Tories are 6 to 9 points adrift, 40 plus months before the next election, it really does not mean much. However Milibands personal rating is a disaster and really must improve big style, for Labour to win.

  13. The Other Howard

    “Sorry I am in the real World and the economy will recover despite comments like yours”

    Let’s hope so. But the polices of this gov may make things worse than they need be.

    Lab does have a policy in this – you just need to listen and pay attention rather than blindly believe everything from DC and GO.

    Lazlo – You put it better than me! Ta

  14. Tories gained another seat from Lib dems in a Chelmsford LA by-election on Thursday and Labour beat Lib Dems into second place in another one in Kensington and Chelsea.

    Ed M’s strategy of not saying too much about anything and allowing the incredible unpopularity of the governmen’t cuts agend combined with their dire political management of ‘evebts’ to be the main political focus of the media is sensible.

    So, this week there’s been this fairly pathetic attempt to dredge up some stuff about Labour to deflect attention from the government’s woes. It won’t work because more and more people are suffering, decent pensioners who have given a lot to this country are not looking forward to being cold this coming wnter as they turn down the central heating because of the price of gas and a demoralised country will be even more disquieted as it becomes even clearer that we’ll be lucky to get economic growth this year above 1%.

  15. Mike N & Lazlo

    I feel a little sorry for you, you seem intent on self delusion……. so be it. Off to do more gardening, try to keep more cheerful.

  16. The policy of reducing living standards was made clear by the Tory economic advisor Prof Dieter Helm before the election AIUI. Obviously not framed in the terms of the owners of capital of course.

  17. The Other Howard: there’s only one school of economic thought that argues cutting will aid during a recession, which is the school of rational expectations. They argue that, for a government to fund a deficit, it means taxes will have to be increased at some point the future, thus, individuals, rationally expecting this, begin reducing their spending to prepare for future taxes, thus decreasing demand and making the recession worse.

    Outside out of that small group, the majority of economists, which includes monetarists – those who, roughly speaking, the Conservatives take their ideology from – recognise that fiscal stimuli is sometimes necessary. The argument in economic circles is not really “will cutting help growth/hinder growth”, as only a tiny minority of economists think cuts will aid growth, the main argument is “how much can we cut without hindering growth”.

  18. @The Other Howard
    “Quite right I meant to say no more than 25 % of the current Public sector workforce ie reduce by 75%.”

    Please accept my apologies for taking you seriously.

  19. @ Phil

    Please accept my apologies for taking you seriously.
    :-) LOL :-)

  20. @DAVID B
    Myself and Lady Tory must be indecent pensioners. Because we will not be turning our heating down this winter. On the contrary we will be turning it up this winter.
    Regarding your other comments, do you not think that it was just a rather partisan pro Labour affair, to aired on a site like this. I am told that like Rolland Zappa, my comments can be too partisan, well perhaps it takes one to know one, because your post most certainly was.

  21. “The policy of reducing living standards was made clear by the Tory economic advisor Prof Dieter Helm before the election AIUI.”

    What is ‘AIUI’, please anyone?

  22. Sorry

    “As I Understand It”

  23. Lurker
    Thanks – obvious now I see it.

  24. @ Phil

    I am serious. This country started to go down hill with the formation of the welfare state with the Atlee government and has been going downhill ever since regardless of the colour of government, due to the size and inefficiency of the state sector.

  25. The other Howard,
    Any judgement of PMQs will always be subjective.Presumably you think EM was hopeless because he did not engage in the punch and judy politics
    that Cameron is supposed to dislike but actually loves.
    Cameron will always win on style over substance,but some of us prefer substance.It is interesting to consider
    how many U turns have been because of EDs incisive
    questioning at PMQs.

  26. Anne (in Wales)

    A good measure of Ed M’s performance is to look at the other Labour faces during PMQT. It was clear he had failed yet again. He clearly is a big asset to the Tories and I am sure they would like him to stay in place until the next election.

    As I have said many times before on this site I am not a supporter of the current Government, which I feel is left of centre, although I do feel that Osborne is going in the right direction.

  27. Lordtory

    If you can afford it do it. Personally you’d be better putting some more insulation in. You must be a Tory councillor . it’s what they would do.

  28. I once had chance to ask a well-known parliamentary sketch-writer how important PMQs was.

    He replied that it was important for backbench morale but otherwise not that important.

    From a short-term tactical point of view, the Tories have done well from the last few days. But the things which have gone wrong for them (NHS, economy) are strategic issues.

    If short term tactics were that important, then you might expect to see polls make rapid, statistically significant fluctuations correlating to which party is on top of the newscycle. The only poll which could show this is Yougov’s daily tracker. It doesn’t.

  29. The other howard

    “We need to see no more than 25% working in the Public sector if we are to be a great nation again.”

    That seems a nice pat figure. Why 25%? And how will reducing the public sector make us a “great nation”? And what, precisely, is a “Great nation”?

    Frankly I think it’s b*llocks. You have plucked it out the air and in fact it means nothing.

    I am really at a loss to know why we have to dismantle the public sector to stop “stifling” the public sector. Unless you are just talking about getting pay and welfare down to slave levels. And then you risk public order problems.

    And the police are being cut, too.

  30. A d’Hondt calculation for the North East and Glasgow is here:

    Richard Lochhead is single handedly responsible for the non proportionality in this region.


    Besr wishes to Lady Tory and I hope she doesn’t get heat stroke this winter.

    Your reply to me was a feeble attempt at humour. My comments are germaine and relevant and would only seem extremely partisan to th sort of person for whom a holistic approach to issues would probably mean something to do with darning socks.

    The fact remains that our energy prices are some of the most expensive in Europe and I, for one, object to the fact that our high prices to companies such as EDF helps that company remain comercially viable in the much more regulated French trading environment.

  32. @CrossBat –
    “Not sure I agree with you there. I’m a bit of a Keynesian on macro-economic policy and I think there are times, 2008-09 being a classic one, when it’s entirely sensible, even essential, to run a budget deficit. ”
    Ah, my use of ‘always’ was a bit of a misrepresentation.
    You should always run budget surpluses – creating a ‘rainy day’ fund with the excess – except in exceptional circumstances (like post-crash) when taxing or cutting would reduce growth.
    Then once stable growth returns, you run surpluses and use the excess to pay back the debt/save again.
    But these circumstances are rare – so in general, surpluses should be the policy (which almost every government has ignored for decades).

    “A point that has been made before, but deserves repeating, if the Tories are 6 to 9 points adrift, 40 plus months before the next election, it really does not mean much. However Milibands personal rating is a disaster and really must improve big style, for Labour to win.”
    First point – it matters for the same reason it mattered in 1992. If the Tories do not fix the economy early on, it doesn’t matter how much growth there is (like in the 93-97 period), Labour could still take advantage of the economic pain to win (and reap the benefits of inheriting a booming economy).
    Second point – In 1987, Kinnock had approval ratings of -30. Minus 30.
    While the Tory vote share declined 0.2%, Labour’s grew 3.2%.
    In 1992, Kinnock had approval ratings of -20.
    While Tory vote share declined only 0.3%, Labour’s grew 3.6% (which, by the way, is about how much Cameron improved the Tory vote in 2010, while on a whopping +3% approval – despite Labour’s worst election result in decades after a major economic catastrophe).

    It is extremely rare for a sitting government to improve their electoral standing at the next general election.
    So we can assume, that at a best case scenario for the Tories is that Cameron can do a Thatcher and Miliband does a Kinnock.
    So that puts the Tories on 35.9%. And Labour on 32.6%. This would require the LDs decline to be about 3.6% – which would put them on around 18.4%.
    This leaves open the possibility of another hung parliament.
    And since for the LibDem vote to recover, they’d have to recover left-wing votes (I could provide polling figures, if you wish), I can’t see them entering another coalition with the Tories if they have the choice.

    So despite poor approval ratings (Cameron’s aren’t much better), Miliband could still improve the Labour vote easily enough to deny Cameron a majority at the next election.

  33. @WOLF
    Yes and no. We are already insulated up to the hilt, and I am not a councillor.

    @David B
    I bow to your superior skill and knowledge David. I showed Lady Tory your hilarious joke about wholes, my, we did laugh. Your rounded vision is an inspiration to us all.

  34. We seem to have drifted somewhat from the topic of boundary changes, but i suppose there’s only so much you can say about them.
    There are some obvious cost-cutting measures that have not been taken:
    1) Withdraw from the EU
    2) Stop all Overseas aid till we can afford it again
    3) Do not pay any benefits at all unless someone has either been born here or has contributed taxes and national insurance for a period of years (say 10).

    That would start to get the budget back in balance and would also discourage those who come here primarily for our benefits system and who work, if at all, in the Black economy. Just to head off criticism, this does not mean that I think all immigrants are benefits scroungers – just many of them.

    You know, when you quote me, you could do a heading with my name on. You know ” @ Lord T” or something.
    Perhaps the other girls wont like you talking to me, but it is good manners.
    I actually quite like you, you recognise that Labour inherited a booming economy from Major. Also the best you see for Miliband, is depriving Cameron of a majority next time. I think to say that Miliband is not far behind Cameron in popularity is a bit far fetched, but still you are a lot less like a disciple of Kim Jong – il than some people.

  36. to The Other Howard.
    A confession first: I am a public sector worker, I have been teaching for 32 years at secondary and FE level.

    The midwife who delivered our children, our GP, and the nurses who cared for us- public sector workers.

    The policeman who patrols our roads is a public sector worker.

    The men who take care of our parks and beaches in sunny Bournemouth are public sector workers.

    When we buried our dad and mum, they were buried in public sector graveyards by public sector workers.

    BP, HBOS, Northern Rock and Santander were…., private sector bodies, as was Enron.

    And can someone explain why the deficit has risen in the last 12 months? , well if people are made unemployed, they spend less, so ourput falls and more people are thrown out of work, pay less tax, claim benefits, thus increasing the deficit, which is solved by throwing more people out of work…. and so the cycle goes… the last time there was a coalition government 1918-1922 and 1931-1939

    Or am I missing something?

  37. @pete b
    WOW…… there is an agenda. I leave you to the other posters who will love it.

  38. @LordTory
    You seemed to be a bit beleaguered (though handling it well). I thought I’d give them some raw meat to take the heat off you for a while.

  39. @chris lane
    You are a council school master and in consequence, know everything, teachers always do. Therefore why do you mention SANTANDER BANK as if it is in the same category as Northern Rock or HBOS ? It was Abbey National and it was purchased long before the crisis by Santander.
    It has never had or needed a public hand out. [snip]

  40. Anthony

    Was my last post a bit partisan, hence moderation. Apologies. I will refrain and stick to topic in a neutral way.

  41. The other Howard,
    I repeat what I said before,this is subjective.So what if they looked glum or whatever.The best sound bites on the BBC,were actually EMs.By the way,what looked really
    awful was NC,peeping out from behind Cameron and
    As I notice that you are a gardener and therefore a man
    after my own heart,perhaps we should just agree to differ.

  42. Lurker,
    Agreed, regarding PMQs.

  43. Q. Does the weekly PMQ’ have any affect on the parties polling ?

    Or is it only of any interest to political anoraks, Westminster village and the media. i.e Normal people just treat it as a silly game without any relevance to the real world.

  44. John B Dick

    Thanks for the link. I know I speculated pre-election that there was a theoretical tipping point where a party could sweep the constituencies and get an additional list seat, that was theoretically only. I didn’t believe it would happen in practice.

  45. ROLAND,
    Now I know that It is is you,because you describe
    someone as a council school teacher,an odd old fashioned phrase,that you used to describe me some time ago.Also your phraseology in one of your responses
    to me ,regarding dates,is identical to one you used a year
    ago.What was the old saying,that you have to have a good memory to be a good liar?

  46. I don’t think PMQs have much effect on day to day public opinion… *except* where a Question is asked on a specific scandal, or a question uncovers something that is damaging for the government. In other words, PMQs are normally a wash, but they can be damaging to the government. They are almost never damaging to the opposition.

  47. I think PMQs matters in as much as it feeds into a general narrative if things are going badly on other fronts. So Hague was brilliant at PMQs but pretty much everything else was going pear-shaped, or was against him at the time so it didn’t make a bit of difference.

    IDS was terrible at PMQs and that DID feed into a general depression about his performance, his style, where he was being bettered and made to look pretty feeble most weeks – but it was his general all round performance, grasp of policy, positioning and position in the polls that was all part of a whole.

    Conversely Blair and Cameron were both great at opposition PMQs but they had the added advantage of a very unpopular government who was giving every opportunity to be hammered at PMQs.

    I think if EM loses a by-election they should win, or fails some expected hurdle (e.g. next year’s council elections), or Labour fall behind in the polls, then his average performances at PMQs will start to hurt him.

    But at the moment he is sticking to fairly populist themes that put him on the side of the people (whether he wins the argument at the despatch box is not as important).

    BTW – a few posters have said that it was a good week for the Tories. I’m afraid I missed the bit that was good for them … I am honestly intrigued by what you think it was … could a Tory poster enlighten me.

  48. The effect of PMQs on public opinion is secondhand… in other words the effect is on opinion formers and Westminster watchers.

    For instance, the media has picked up on the dismissive “calm down dear” Flashman side to Cameron’s personality. One or two columnists from the Telegraph have even cautioned against underestimating ED Miliband on the strength of his performances.

    Week in, week out the PM has nowhere to hide, and must be must be able to assert authority over the house. Any leader’s days are numbered when they attract ridicule, or stony silence from their peers.

  49. oldnat @John B Dick

    “I speculated pre-election that there was a theoretical tipping point where a party could sweep the constituencies and get an additional list seat, that was theoretically only.”

    That was as close as anyone else got. Patrick Harvie “got it” but only when he arrived at the count. Three list SNP candidates (2 in 1 out) got a big surprise.

    The objective was not, as Alex Salmond says “to prevent the SNP from ever gaining an outright majority” but to have any combination of MSP’s which passes leislation into government voted for by a majority of the voters.

    This parliament will still have that when Labour abstains or Cons vote with the government.

    44% of the votes producing 53% of the seats isn’t a perfect match, but its not a bad failure considering the need to put constituencies into regions etc. and we don’t know yet whether it happens in one parliament in four, or one in four hundred.

  50. John B Dick

    “we don’t know yet whether it happens in one parliament in four, or one in four hundred.”

    Well neither you nor I are going to be around long enough to find out! :-)

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