Despite the Liberal Democrats saying they intend to vote against its implementation the boundary commissions are still legally obliged to continue with the boundary review process and tonight the English boundary commission release their revised proposals. Given the unlikelihood of them coming to pass they may end up being more of academic interest than anything else, but they are available for perusal on the BCE’s website here.
Unlike the Scottish Commission, whose revised proposals had mostly very minor changes, the English Commission have made some substantial changes from their original proposals. Some of the oddities in the provisional recommendations have been altered. For example, Sutton Coldfield is now in a single seat, Leigh now remains in Leigh, Salford and Eccles has been resurrected, the ludicrous Mersey Banks seat is confined to just one of the banks of the Mersey,
Henley no longer has the inaccessible Radley ward added onto it (actually, it does!), the proposed Gloucester seat does now include Gloucester City centre.
The English Boundary Commission has accepted the use of split wards… but only in Gloucester (in order to get around the problem of Gloucester City centre). Most observers had expected the most likely split wards to be in Cheshire, where the cumbersome ward boundaries the Commission was sticking to have actually already been abolished. In the event the Commission stuck with them.
Looking at some other interesting changes, the strange pairing of Edmonton & Chingford in North-East London has been abandoned, although Iain Duncan Smith’s seat still gets carved up, and the new Chingford would still be a marginal. Instead of crossing the Lea Valley the new proposals join Bethnal Green with Shoreditch and Tottenham Hale with Edmonton.
In the South East Eastleigh returns, as does a Romsey seat. Brighton Pavilion is back, but is notionally Labour on the new boundaries, and Lewes is resurrected as Lewes and Uckfield, although the new seat would be notionally Conservative.
North Yorkshire, where all the existing seats are within quota and could have been left alone, is now left alone. David Davis’s seat is still abolished, being divided between Goole and Hull West. Grimsby is now split between two seats – Grimsby North and Barton and Grimsby South and Cleethorpes. Both would be notionally Conservative.
The name of Nadine Dorries’s Mid-Bedfordshire seat returns, but the seat doesn’t really – the proposed Mid-Bedfordshire and Harpenden seat is mostly made up of the old Hitchen and Harpenden. George Osborne’s Tatton hadn’t really gone anywhere either, but is once again called Tatton. Malcolm Rifkind’s Kensington seat is back. The new Hampton seat is actually mostly made up of Vince Cable’s Twickenham seat, and will have a solid notional Lib Dem majority, so he would have somewhere to go too. There are plenty of other substantial changes across the country.
The overall partisan effect of the revisions is to make the proposed boundaries slightly better for the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives than those originally proposed. The Liberal Democrats would have notionally won 4 more seats in 2010 than on the original proposals, the Conservatives 3 more seats, Labour 7 fewer. I will put up full notional figures in the next couple of days once I’ve been through and checked them all. Essentially though, depending on what the Welsh commission produce next week it looks likely that these boundaries would have delivered a Conservative majority at the 2010 election.
The boundaries now go out for another round of public consultation, after which the boundary commissions will make further changes or confirm them as their final recommendations. They are due to report by October 2013 at the latest, though given their progress so far they may well be done sooner. After that they submit their reports to the Secretary of the State (ironically enough, Nick Clegg in this instance) who must lay them before the House of Commons and then put a draft Order in Council before the House to implement them… at which point it looks likely that the Commons will vote them down, and the next election will be fought on the old boundaries.
The Liberal Democrats are adamant that they will vote against the boundaries. The Conservatives continue to say they believe that some sort of deal may be possible. We shall see. What we do know is that unless primary legislation is passed to prevent it, the Parliamentary vote on the boundaries is unavoidable.
UPDATE: I have put the notional figures online as a Google spreadsheet here. This is a first draft, so I can’t vouch for it being perfect yet – let me know if there is anything that looks downright wrong!
UPDATE2: Made a few corrections to the notionals for Basingstoke, North West Hampshire and Ludlow and Leominster. These are still draft figures, so if anyone else spots anything odd please let me know.