Boundaries update

The final section of the revised boundary recommendations, those from Wales, are now out. Most of the changes from the interim recommendations are shuffling about of a ward here or there – the biggest changes are around Cardiff and the valleys: the rather odd Heads of the Valleys seat has been abandoned and the salamandery Newport West and Sirhowy Valley has gone. Meanwhile a recognisable Cardiff Central has been resurrected. The return of Cardiff Central means the revised boundaries have one more Lib Dem seat and one less Labour seat. The changes now go out for a new round of consultation, after which the Commissions may make some final changes (from past reviews, these are quite rare and often minor tweaks or name changes) or confirm these as their final recommendations.

Adding all the revised boundaries together gives us notional totals for what the seats at the 2010 election would have been if counted on the new boundaries of CON 302 (down 4), LAB 222 (down 36), LDEM 51 (down 6), Others 25 (down 4). As ever, it is important to remember that there are (a) notional results for the last election, not what would happen now and (b) what seats would have been won if people’s votes had been counted on the new boundaries, NOT if they had voted on the new boundaries. Some people would have actually voted differently had the new boundaries been in force, particularly wards moving into Lib Dem marginals. For this reason I suspect notional calculations underestimate how well the Liberal Democrats would actually have done on these boundaries.

On current boundaries the Conservatives need a lead of 11.1% to win an overall majority on a uniform swing. They need a lead of 4.1% to be the largest party. Labour need a lead of 2.9% to get an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 53 seats more than the Conservatives.

On the revised boundaries the Conservatives need a lead of 7% to win an overall majority, they would need a lead of 1.4% to be the biggest party. Labour would need a lead of 4.7% to win an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 16 seats more than the Conservatives.

Note that all these targets are on a uniform swing between Conservative and Labour, they aren’t the same under all circumstances. Most notably, if Liberal Democrat support falls the sort of leads the parties need to get an overall majority get smaller. Given that the Liberal Democrats aren’t very likely to get 24% at the next election based on current polling, I’ve also given some illustrations on what the picture would be if the Lib Dems were on 12%.

On current boundaries, if the Lib Dems fell to 12% then the Conservatives would need a lead of 5.9% to get an overall majority, the Conservatives would need a lead of 3% to be the biggest party, Labour would need a lead of 0.4% for an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 41 seats more than the Conservatives.

On the revised boundaries, if the Lib Dems fell to 12% the Conservatives would need a lead of 2.7% to get an overall majority. Labour would need a lead 0.4% to be the biggest party and a lead of 3.8% to get an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote the Conservatives would have 3 seats more than Labour.

Of course, to some extent this all academic as currently the boundaries look unlikely to go through, with the Liberal Democrats repeatedly stating they will not do a deal on the boundaries. However, there was slight movement on another front yesterday. It is broadly assumed that the Conservatives could strike a deal with the DUP to support the changes, as well as the SNP, who do very well out of the boundary changes themselves (they are the only party who wouldn’t lose any seats at all). However, this would be not be enough to get them through. Yesterday, however, Plaid Cymru said they were also open to a deal to support the boundary changes in exchange for greater devolution to Wales.

On paper the Conservatives, SNP, DUP and Plaid together have a de facto majority in the Commons and could push through changes. In practice it still looks dubious, even if some deal could be struck (which is far from certain!), as it would require no Conservative abstentions or rebellions, and at least one Conservative MP has publically said he’ll vote against it. My expectation is still that the boundary changes will not happen.

Full notional figures for the revised boundaries for England, Wales and Scotland are now available as a google spreadsheet here (note that I have not done separate notional figures for UKIP in Scotland or the BNP in Wales, they are lumped in with Others).


113 Responses to “Boundaries update”

1 2 3
  1. If the DUP SNP and Plaid support the Tories over the LIB Dem heads that must be a breaking piont in the coalition.

  2. Although the boundary revision would not have been good for my party in a way I would have liked to have seen a return of the old classic battleground Plymouth Devonport seat in its own right… Just for sentimental reasons.

    I don’t think Anthony is realistic in running a simulation based on the Lib Dems only getting 12% – they’ll end in the mid-teens surely? Perhaps for academic reasons it’s an interesting experiment though, especially as a Lib Dem collapse seems to result in the electoral system delivering a narrow pro-Tory bias over Labour in some respects on the basis of the revised boundaries. At the moment lots of Tory votes are wasted in good second places in Lib Dem-held seats. Clearly a Conservative breakthrough in those constituencies would mean the Tory vote is spread much more efficiently.

  3. @Robin Hood,

    “I don’t think Anthony is realistic in running a simulation based on the Lib Dems only getting 12% – they’ll end in the mid-teens surely? ”

    I don’t think we can assume that. Given that they are currently polling below 12%, we cannot assume that they’ll gain at least 6%-9% between now and the GE. Otherwise, we could all also logically (surely?) assume that the same will happen to the Tories and they’ll hit 38-41 and Labour will slip back, given these shifts, to around 35-38%. Whilst this may conceivably prove true, we can only interpret within the context of current polls…and for that even 12% for the Libs seems generous!

    If the Tories, DUP, SNP and Plaid all join together for the boundary vote, they’d have an actual majority of 6. That would leave things very fine….especially if, as AW said, there are bound to be at least a few Tory rebels. But it does make things at least more interesting…especially if a few Libs vote in favour or abstain (as one senior Libs a while back said he would). Still unlikely to be passed IMO…..but you never know.

  4. The thing that strikes me about the boundary changes is not so much that it would make it easier for the Tories to win a majority (which it would, obviously)…..but how much harder it makes it for Labour to win a majority, or even become the largest party. Assuming the Lib collapse continues (or even a more modest collapse), we would end up with the Tories having a slight electoral bias or the system being virtually equal.

  5. Given that the increased prospect of a tory majority under the boundary changes, and the effect this would have on the vote for independence, I could see why the SNP might be amenable…

  6. It also shows how a Lib collapse is actually quite beneficial to the Tories – boundary changes or no boundary changes – as much as it is to Labour. Especially if they take back a bit of the Labour vote in 2015, but still struggle to get beyond 12-14% still.

  7. I think the SNP might be on dodgy ground in Scotland facilitating a Tory win in England.

    I’m not sure it would play well with anti-Tories in Scotland. But of course I’ve been wrong at least once before.

  8. I would have though it highly unlikely pushing through boundary changes in the face of LD’s voting against would be the de-facto end of the Coalition.

  9. More important to the SNP is that they do not want a Labour Westminister government when they fight the referendum.

    So they are unlikely to take the chance of bringing down the coalition (not to mention a reminder of them helpingThatcher to victory in 79)

    It is much easier to fight against Cameron and Osborne.

  10. @Steve

    Although I would have thought that the non-negligible risk of it being so would dissuade the SNP from supporting the Tories on the boundary review. The last thing they want is for a Labour GE victory before the referendum – their best campaigning tool is the damage being wreaked by the Tories.

  11. @couper2802

    Snap!

  12. I would assume that any pact with the nationalists for further devolution powers in exchange for voting through the boundary changes is… wistful thinking.

    Not only does this mean that the depend on there being no less than 6 conservative MPs who would vote down the boundary changes, but no less than 6 conservative MPs who would vote down further devolution powers!

    There simply isn’t a chance that there can be enough top-down pressure can be applied, not by this government. Can Cameron even make a good case to the nationalists that they can ever expect their end of the deal to be held up, when they have the evidence of how Cameron has treated their coalition partners.

  13. Really can’t see how it helps the SNP’s credibility to scare the Scots about Tories imposing policies in Scotland and then backing a measure to increase Tory power in the UK.

    Off-hand, I can’t see this PC deal getting far either. The level of devolution they are asking for in return for support is a big constitutional change, especially the horrendously complicated process of devolving the judicial system. I know there were complaints about the horse-trading between the Conservatives and Lib Dems, but that would just take the biscuit.

  14. @ Anthony

    On paper the Conservatives, SNP, DUP and Plaid together have a de facto majority in the Commons and could push through changes.
    ———————–
    Does this include the effect of Corby being won by Labour?
    8-)

  15. Surely the SNP would abstain? They would lack credibility if they took part in a vote on boundaries for an election after they are hoping to win an independence vote. It would not do Tory credibility much either

    The seats should be equalised but on population size, there should be no reduction in the number of seats without a complete review of our constitutional structure (voting reform, regional devolution etc)

  16. @Amber,


    Does this include the effect of Corby being won by Labour?”

    It does, Amber. As it is, it’s unlikely to make much difference anyway – it’s likely that there will be a small Tory rebellion at least big enough to bring a halt to the boundary changes. But you never know, I guess. At the moment, I would say there is probably around an 80% chance of the boundaries not being voted through.

  17. The Tories ideally need at least a few Libs to vote through (or abstain) the boundary changes to win the vote IMO. This could either be achieved, in theory, through policy concessions/some kind of deal or through an appeal to Lib Dems not to fracture the colition and let Labour have an early GE (and likely victory). The problem is that Clegg seems opposed to any kind of deal at present, and the threat of an increase in the strained relations between both coalition partners will almost definitely not be enough to sway the Lib Dems.

    So faced with this, the Tories have clung onto the hope that they can do some kind of deal with other parties and get all/virtually all Tory Mps to vote it through.

  18. It’s going to seem a bit contradictory to see the SNP doing deals in a parliament that they are eager to have nothing to do with.

  19. It makes you realise how out Lewis Baston’s original boundary change prediction was! He predicted, in 2011, that Labour would only be 3 seats worse off than the Tories on the 2010 GE result. The reality is a rather more extreme 32!

    Just goes to show how difficult predicting boundary changes is. Going by past boundary changes, I always though a net change of around 20-30 was likely.

    @AW,

    If the boundary changes do not go through, does this mean that any subsequent boundary changes that DO go through in the future are likely to be as, if not more, extreme and favourable for the Tories than the present one? I mean, after all, even if Labour gets in in 2015 and 2020 surely they will still have to conduct a boundary review at some point to account for changes?

  20. What would the DUP gain from voting through the new boundaries?

  21. “On the revised boundaries the Conservatives need a lead of 7% to win an overall majority, they would need a lead of 1.4% to be the biggest party. Labour would need a lead of 4.7% to win an overall majority. If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 16 seats more than the Conservatives”
    ______

    Yip I hope the revised boundaries go through. As you can see it gives the two main UK parties a level playing field as the current arrangement is far too favourable towards Labour.

    The SNP, Plaid and the DUP should support the Tories and ignore the guff Labour will come out with in such an event.

    To Labour it has more to do with them hanging onto the current favourable system than the SNP’s independence prospects in the event of a Tory government if the changes go through.

    Labour spin doctors are about as credible as democracy is in North Korea.

  22. KEITHP

    “It’s going to seem a bit contradictory to see the SNP doing deals in a parliament that they are eager to have nothing to do with”
    _______

    It’s called “Contingency plans” ;)

  23. If they hadn’t gone for the reduction in seat numbers they might have got away with it.

    Greedy, greedy.

  24. I think rather than reduce the number of seats, they should just add seats in areas like the south of England where proportionally we are under-represented. That’s pretty much what happened at previous boundary reviews, only I would go further and say that from now every area should be (more or less) equally represented. In the south, we simply don’t have enough MPs (or representation) for the population sizes of our constituencies.

    That way everyone is happy and no one can complain about losing MPs and representation.

  25. AmbivalentSupporter

    If the boundary changes do not go through, does this mean that any subsequent boundary changes that DO go through in the future are likely to be as, if not more, extreme and favourable for the Tories than the present one? I mean, after all, even if Labour gets in in 2015 and 2020 surely they will still have to conduct a boundary review at some point to account for changes?

    Remember that there was a full scale boundary review before the 2010 election and I think they are normally only done every 15 years. So one wouldn’t have been started till the 2020 parliament.

    The reason why these boundary changes were so extensive was because of the reduction in seat numbers with its increase in quota and the decision to have the new constituencies stick so tightly to that quota. Without that there would only be the usual odd adjustments to cope with unusual population changes.

  26. NICKP

    On the current boundaries.

    “If the two main parties had equal shares of the vote Labour would have 53 seats more than the Conservatives”
    ___________

    Labour are the greedy ones for not wanting change!!

  27. @NickP,

    I think both Labour and the Libs still probably wouldn’t have voted it through. Labour never likes boundary reviews because they always do badly from them! If they had their way we would have as few boundary reviews as possible. As for the Libs, even without the reduction in seats, the Libs would have lost out too. The Tories still wouldn’t have granted them HOL reform either, so why would they vote the changes through when they still would have been seriously disadvantaged by them?

    The reason for opposition to the changes may have been different if the reduction in seats hadn’t been a pre-condition, but I think the end result would have been the same – opposition.

  28. @Roger Mexico,

    I thought AW said Labour would revert back to boundary reviews only being done every 10 or 12 years (or so). I may be wrong.

    If the review doesn’t go through, that would be 5 years since the last review and 10 years when/if a GE takes place in 2020.

  29. If, as I said above, instead of reducing the number of seats, the boundary commission were allowed to add seats, where appropriate, to make every region in the UK roughly equally represented (per population), would Labourites be in favour of these changes? This would obviously mean a lot more southern seats but would not reduce representation up north, in Scotland or Wales.

    That way, surely everyone would be happy?

  30. @Robin Hood
    “At the moment lots of Tory votes are wasted in good second places in Lib Dem-held seats. Clearly a Conservative breakthrough in those constituencies would mean the Tory vote is spread much more efficiently.”

    True.

    I draw a further conclusion from AWs projections. They suggest to me that some of the “bias” in the current system is an illusion that results from those on the left voting tactically for the LDs in order to keep Conservatives out, most notably in the South West. There’s certainly polling evidence to that effect from 2010. But when that tactical voting becomes ineffective as the potential for the LDs to win seats fades, the real bias becomes much less. And that means that if you simply tallied the votes of those who identified on the left against those who identified on the right, the % difference in 2010 would have been a lot less than the 7.4% difference in the aggregate Con and Lab votes.

    So the bias in the current system is overstated.

  31. Did the PM jump the gun on market sensitive GDP figures?

    Probably shouldn’t have, but if he did, I don’t think there is much in the way of sanctions to use. Speaker tells him off?

    Again?

  32. The foregoing comments say everything you need to know about the efficacy and fairness of the FPTP system.

    @AS
    The BC likes to stick to units of LA boundaries, so I think the idea of creating more SE seats is difficult.

    That all these issues will be decided in the Westminster bubble is a sad commentary on the ability of our voters to think about the issue and demand change. The same voters complain about the politicians’ quality and their contempt for voters but are unwilling to do anything about it (one assumes).

  33. Anthony

    You must have done the calculation as part of your analysis, so could I ask how many seats would the LDs get on a 12% share on the current boundaries and the new boundaries respectively? I think the difference between the two will be more pertinent to Clegg’s thinking than the difference based on an incredible scenario where the LDs still maintain their 2010 vote share.

    Also, how quickly do the boundary changes take effect once the final parliamentary hurdle is passed? That is, if they were passed, and if as @DaveM implies this precipitated the immediate break up of the coalition and (after two weeks) a GE, would this immediate election take place on the new boundaries? Surely not, for all sorts of practical reasons if nothing else. So if he lost the vote, Clegg would still effectively have an option of fighting an immediate election on the old boundaries.

  34. Seems to add to the general air of corruption hanging round Government.

  35. @Howard,

    Yes, but I was talking about in theory. I mean, as with the reduction in the number of seats – any new government can set the framework that the BC has to work to. The BC has added many seats during past reviews.

    Personally, I think the whole thing should be made free of political interference and regular 5-yearly boundary reviews should be held before every general election. A big part of the problem is that members and supporters of every political party are only really interested in what benefits their party most, and many kid themselves by using facile arguments in their favour.

  36. Because we cannot measure or know the following factors, we cannot know what, if any bias exists in the current boundaries:

    1 lazy Labour voters in safe seats (and eager voters in ultra safe Tory seats)

    2 how much tactical voting goes on

    Simply saying that if people voted (or did not vote) exactly the same way under some revised system would be fairer is just wrong. It might (or might not) result in more Tory seats and less Labour, but that doesn’t mean it is fairer.

    People who don’t vote now or vote tactically because of where they live might vote completely differently if all votes counted,

  37. Roger/Ambiv-

    It only my guess that Labour would want to revert back to the 8 to 12 year gaps, they’ve not said or hinted at anything.

    The previous legislation required a boundary report to be submitted between 9 and 12 years after the submission of the previous report. The Boundary Commission for England submitted its 5th review in October 2006, so the next review would have been required to be submitted by 2018.

  38. @Anthony,

    Thanks. So there will likely be one after the next GE anyway.

  39. Incidentally, the legislation only refers to a report being submitted, not its recommendations being brought into law.

    Hence, if the 2011 Act was repealed after the next election, the next boundary review would not be due to happen until between 2021 and 2025, as the clock would start again from this review, even though it was never brought into force.

    In practice if Labour did win and change the law they’d probably pass brand new amendments, rather than just do a crude repeal, so this is academic, but there goes.

  40. ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “Labour spin doctors are about as credible as democracy is in North Korea.”

    Why always with the North Korea, already? I mean, come on. Parties left of Labour in the UK: the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, RESPECT. Hell, economically the BNP are to the left of Labour. Comparing us to North Korea is so reductive that the concept of hyperbole itself would say “Wow, that’s an exaggeration.”

  41. Just on the debate on the other thread, can I say thanks for the info about the PCS standing outside the Labour party on voting rights for the Labour leader. I didn’t know that, and stand corrected!

    I was actually talking to a friend of mine today who is in the PCS, and he told me a very interesting piece of information, that Mark Serwotka, as part of his campaign to be elected general secretary, actually pledged to take an average civil servants wage if elected. Of course once elected, he now earns a package in excess of £125k. I found that very interesting, but not surprising I must say.

  42. Phil
    “left voting tactically for the LDs in order to keep Conservatives out, most notably in the South West.”
    Ashcroft’s polling showed 10% of Lib Dem voters in current LibDem seats were tactical anti-Con voters, but 5% were tactical anti-Lab voters.

    So even losing the ‘pure’ anti-Con tactical voters would only knock a small portion off LibDem VI.

  43. Apropos of nothing in particular, the statement from Mervyn Barrett, who was running as an independent candidate in the police elections in Lincolnshire on why he is standing down from the election is startling!

    http://www.lincsfm.co.uk/news/local-news/full-statement-from-mervyn-barrett/

    I did see some mentions in articles about the election in Lincolnshire of Barrett running in third place in the “polls” and ponder how on earth there were polls of the race. It seems there weren’t….

  44. Tinged

    But were the anti con tactical voters in the same seats as the anti lab tactical voters. That would be strange but there is nowt so queer as folk, so I’ve heard

  45. AW

    What a story but he should still stand, he might get something out of the wreckage.

  46. AW

    As you say-bizarre.

    “Naive “doesn’t really come near it.

    That he met this bloke at NACRO really puts the tin hat on it :-)

  47. R-i-N: I’m not sure if you get your deposit back if you withdraw after close of nominations, but before last date for withdrawal.

    If you do he could probably do with the £5k to pay some of the debts that have been run up in his name, poor guy.

  48. AW

    Re the Mervyn Bennett statement. Perhaps he should look at himself more than he appears to be doing. He allowed someone he did not really know, access to his bank account to pay for various parts of a campaign. Perhaps if Mervyn had paid attention to what this campaign manager was doing, he would have realised what was happening.

    Are these prospective Police commissioners spending a lot of money on campaigns ? I don’t think they should be allowed to spend more than say £5k at the most. The Home Office should be funding a basic level of campaigning costs, such as local newspapers adverts, hiring of local town halls for meetings. This would hopefully avoid wealthy individuals buying the jobs through massive campaigning.

  49. A look at how the QE money could have been used in the states, I wonder if anyone has done the same one of sums with British QE

1 2 3