The Lords (including Lib Dem ministers) have voted in favour of an amendment to the Electoral Registration Bill that bangs another nail into the coffin of the boundary review. The amendment changes the law so that instead of the boundary review having to report before this October, the commissions cannot report until after October 2018, killing the review for this Parliament.

The bill now returns to the Commons, where David Cameron has three choices:

1) He tries, and probably fails, to overturn the amendment in the Commons. Obviously this will be tricky to do with the Lib Dems supporting the amendment, it will lead to coalition friction by Conservative MPs seeing Lib Dem ministers voting against the government and keeping their jobs. It would, however, deliver Cameron’s promise fro last week of having a Commons vote on the boundaries…even if it is at one remove.

2) He withdraws the Bill, or tries to use the Parliament Act to pass it, as suggested in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. For our immediate purposes these are the same, the Electoral Registration Bill is withdrawn and reintroduced next session, after the Boundary Commissions have reported, meaning the Commons vote on implementing them will go ahead. Whether it is worthwhile messing up the passage of the Electoral Registration Bill when it looks extremely unlikely that the Commons would approve the new boundaries is a different question – it would at least mean that the recommendations were there ready for future implementation in the case of a Conservative majority after the next election, or if something entirely unexpected comes along to change minds. It also means the promise to have a proper Commons vote on implementing it is kept and the spectacle of Lib Dem ministers voting against the government is delayed for now.

3) They accept the boundaries are dead and accept the amendment, avoiding Lib Dem and Conservative ministers voting against each other and keeping the Electoral Registration Bill… but at the cost of failing to allow the Commons to vote on the matter (and in the eyes of Conservative backbenchers, giving into the Lib Dems). The third option also gives the government the option of replacing the rebel amendment with a better one that does the same thing … as I mentioned in the comments to the last post, the current legislation effectively requires the Boundary Commissions to report at least 18 months before a general election so there is proper time to implement the boundaries, for returning officers to make the necessary arrangements, parties to reorganise local associations and select candidates. Under the amendment the boundary commissions will have to report at most eighteen months before the 2020 election, which has the potential to cause chaos if not enough time is left. If you did want to delay the next boundary review to 2018, much better to have the clause say “before October 2018, but not before 2017” or something like that.

For all intents and purposes the review appears dead now (there are theoretically ways it could be got through, but with the SNP seemingly suggesting they’ll also vote against they all require quite a suspension of disbelief), but time will tell if Cameron keeps it on life support for reasons of optimism or party/coalition management.

70 Responses to “Boundary Review Update”

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  1. RiN

    Bob Boothby (Aberdeenshire MP) was “involved” with McMillan’s wife since the 30s, and also sexually with criminals such as Ronald Kray from at least the early 60s.

    Not your fault that you’re young!

  2. For the uneducated amongst us. Does this mean that the next election will be held with the same number of seats? Or is this unrelated to the reduction in the number of Parliamentary seats? Also, was this part of Nick Clegg’s pet project?

  3. @ Old Nat

    “Bob Boothby (Aberdeenshire MP) was “involved” with McMillan’s wife since the 30s, and also sexually with criminals such as Ronald Kray from at least the early 60s.

    Not your fault that you’re young!”

    I think you told me about this fellow before. Seems like a fairly interesting guy. Also sounds like he would shtup anything that walked if given the opportunity. Scandalous politicians can be highly entertaining. I remember reading about the Profumo Scandal like 12 years ago and I remember being intrigued by the photo of some young, good looking dude who was sitting in what looked to be a hot tub with a couple of young, scantily clad women. I think he was some Tory rising star (at least temporarily). But I forget who it was.

    I think Helen Gahagan Douglas once had an affair with LBJ.

  4. YouGov/Sun
    Con 31 Lab 44 LD 11 UKIP 9
    LD revival continues.

  5. Well, I was very nearly tempted to click on the banner at the top of this page to get some tickets for an evening with Dan Hannan but, thankfully, something got the better of me and I desisted! I note the event is taking place in Slough but I better not trot out the old John Betjeman poem, had I? lol

    As for the latest YouGov poll, yet another healthy double-digit lead for Labour and some tentative signs that it’s starting to slowly widen. Just a thought, but you don’t think that the recent furore over the 1% Benefits increase has actually played better for Labour than the Tories? If it has, what might that be saying about the current state of public opinion? Interesting.

  6. Am I getting this right that the 2017/8 review would be held under the new rules unless a further act of parliament is passed?

  7. @Thatoldbloke – “By 2015 it will be 23 years since the Conservatvies won a majority at a General Election.”
    In fact, it will be 28 years since they won a majority large enough to last a parliament. In 1992 they gradually lost their 11 seat majority through by elections, eventually needing Unionist support. They also won 10 seats or so in Scotland that time around – no chance of that now.

    You would also have to work on the assumption that Ed Miliband is less electable as a potential PM than Michael Foot and that David Cameron’s Popular support is greater than that of Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

    Neither of which are likely scenarios.

    It could be at least another decade before the Conservatives achieve a working majority

  8. @crossbat11

    As Dot Cotton might put it:

    ” …they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.”

  9. @RiN – “Just a question but before 1997 how many yeas was it since the last time labour had won a majority, more than 30 I think”

    That is a very pertinent question, and does give those (like me!) who tend towards viewing recent political history as a guide to future performance some pause for thought when we pontificate on the future prospects for the Tories.

    However, I do think there are differences in the analogy. The fact that the centre left was riven by splits, with the SDP arriving in the 1983 and 87 elections, is one significant factor, whereas the right has remained broadly intact throughout the period from 1987.

    Geographically, there is also a difference. Both main parties have their safe seats and their no hope areas, but the Tory no hope areas seem to be extremely well entrenched. Labour continued to pick up councils and council seats in many southern areas while they were losing GE’s, whereas Tories remain still almost completely absent from inner city, northern urban and Scottish councils. It remained conceivable in the mid 1990’s (and earlier) that Labour could win at least some parliamentary seats in the south of England, but you would really struggle to say the same today of Tory prospects in their barren areas.

    I also think that there never seemed to be the same level of anti Labour tactical voting as we witnessed against the Tories. Indeed, I can’t remember hearing the expression being used until people began talking about ‘getting the Tories out’. I have a suspicion that tactical voting will again feature quite strongly in the 2015 election, and I have little doubt that it will again be focused against Tory candidates.

    So while your point is highly valid, I think there are some significant differences between the 1966 – 1997 and 1987 – 2015 period for both the main parties. I still think that Tories have a real mountain to climb electorally speaking.

    Indeed, 2010 was the Tories 1997, and just look at the comparative performance. Blair waltzed in with a 170 seat majority, while Cameron fell 17 seats short. That probably sums the differences up about as well as any other argument I could make.

  10. SoCal Liberal – the answer to your question is yes.

  11. Alec.
    “@Thatoldbloke – “By 2015 it will be 23 years since the Conservatvies won a majority at a General Election.”

    In fact, it will be 28 years since they won a majority large enough to last a parliament. In 1992 they gradually lost their 11 seat majority through by elections, eventually needing Unionist support. They also won 10 seats or so in Scotland that time around – no chance of that now.”

    Very good points. The back end of the 80s marked a generational shift in attitudes towards the Tory party. Not only have they not been able to win a good GE majority since then, but their poll VI has hardly ever bobbed aove 40% since then.

    I don’t see any sign whatsoever that the Tories have cottoned on to just what a long-term pickle they are in. Cameron thought that the problem was de-toxifying the brand. But the problem clearly goes much deeper than that, otherwise he would surely have won a thumping majority in 2010. And perhaps more pertinently, he would have been able to command consistently better VI.

    Think about it this way. Since Black Wednesday, the only two times the Tory VI has been above 40% were in the depths of the biggest economic catastrophe for 75 years, and in the roseat glow of the start of the Coalition. And in that 20 years, they have only breached 45% in the odd poll, as Brown was at his nadir.

    That should be terrifying for the Tories. They are going to need 40+% to win a majority in an era of an undivided centre-left. But, barring the best circumstances imaginable, they have been utterly unable command that support that for a generation.

  12. It’s also interesting to look at the long-term trends in Tory VI. Under Howard, they were stuck for a Parliament at low to mid 30s.

    Cameron came in as a bit of a breath of fresh air, but the VI only stepped up to high 30s. Tory VI got a second boost due to his air of authority when Brown floundered in the Election That Never Was, and the onset of the 08 recession. That took it to low 40s – briefly touching 45.

    And since mid 08, with no external boosts, there has been an almost linear decay in Tory VI, barring the Rose Garden honeymoon blip.

    Summer 08 45-47
    Summer 09 38-42
    Summer 10 40-43
    Summer 11 35-37
    Summer 12 32-35

    So the Tory doldrums are emphatically NOT just mid-term blues. The decline in support was well established prior to the GE. And, more worryingly, support levels seem simply to have reverted back to their generational baseline after the fading of a couple of exceptional boosts.

  13. Slack historical research from me. Should have noted that under Howard, IDS, Hague and Major, they were stuck for 13 years in the range 25-35 VI.

  14. I’m not sure what the theme/issue is with the ‘Tories have been out for a generation’ discussion. Is it purely a stat thing or psychological or simply saying that their party doesn’t have enough core voters these days?

    Effectively they are in power. OK this is with help from the Lib Dems but the 37% is as good as any party gets these days and, I would argue, that in general they are pursuing the policies they want to.

    When Labour was out of power so long there was the psychology of will they ever get back into power and also because it was a generational thing many voters had never known a Labour government. I would say that both the Tories and Tory press used this as a scare tactic of ‘do you want to end up back in the 1970’s’ with bodies piling up etc etc.

    On the assumption that Labour wins next time I think the big problem for the Tories is how quickly the UKIP split gets resolved (which may be less to do with UKIP and more to do with Tory credibility). Also it will depend on how short term history judges this current government. If the economy turned round after 2015 it might judge them badly, if we carry on bumping along at the bottom with no rise in living standards then it won’t be so bad.

    Currently the Tories are still an option for government with the voting public and will remain so as long as they are one of the top two choices.

  15. Shevii

    A couple of observations.

    A party that only picks up 37% of the vote has not got a prayer of winning a majority (or even being the largest party) in the absence if a strong LD party.

    37% was the Tory performance in just about the most propitious circumstances imaginable.

    I’m not saying that they will never again win a good majority of course. But I am saying that they have some serious work to do. And there is no evidence in the polls that they have made themselves an attractive choice (as opposed to being made briefly attractive by external circumstances).

    I wonder if the “Heart in right place even if I don’t always agree with them” YG question gives us a clue. Labour regularly and significantly out scores the Tories on this one. That suggests that people are predisposed to “like” Labour. And when they also agree with their policies, the result is 50%+ VI which we have seen regularly over the past 25 years.[1]

    The Tories, on the other hand, are perhaps seen (as Kellner) puts it, as hard-hearted bastards. So even when they are seen to be right on the issues, there is a drag on their VI because some people will count the nastiness over the competence. And when they are seen to be WRONG on the issues or incompetent, there is a really very low baseline to their support (as we saw from 92-05).

    [1] of course that raises the issue of whether Labour are performing particularly well at present. Perhaps they are seen as being “heart in right place” and not incompetent, but not pro-actively doing things to garner very large VI.

  16. It would be interesting to ask the question

    “Looks after people like me”

    This was asked in the US exit polls and Obama won this in the swing states even if he lost other questions for example ‘better for the economy’

    I believe that this is the Tory’s problem and why de-toxifying the brand was the right way to go – and why the % benefit cap + the ‘millionaires tax increase’ is a problem poll-wise.

    In Thatcher’s time it seemed that Thatcher was able to ‘look after ordinary people’ through council house sell-offs, privatisation etc. I once heard someone, who had just bought their council house, say that ‘now they were a home owner they would have to vote Tory’

    But, the brand became toxic in part because of the demonising of different sections of society i.e. Miners, Liverpudlians, unions, single mothers etc. Eventually they offended enough people.

    Detoxifying the brand was the right way to go but didn’t go far or fast enough. I think the ‘Strivers’ talk was an attempt to get the lower middle and working class voters but that has gone horribly wrong as now the Tories are associated with calling people ‘Scroungers’ exactly the type of thing that toxified the brand in the first place.

    The Tory language probably is costing them more than the actual policy. Who ever decided to go back to the 80s techniques have made a big mistake.
    But given demonising benefit claimants doesn’t appear to have worked, I predict the next unimaginative target will be the unions :-)

  17. New thread, by the way.

  18. Carfrew

    I really don’t care who wins the next election because as I’ve previously stated their is so little to choose between them, neither is to the left or right both stick steadfastly to the middle ground rather than blue or red beige seem’s to be the colour of UK politic’s.
    What I object to is the sheer number of MP’s or should I say Politician’s in general be it Westminster, House of Lords, regional or local government.
    Vast hordes of mediocre politicians who think they have a god given right to interfere in peoples lives at every level, often with no real mandate from the people some being elected with a very small percentage of the possible vote or as in the case of the House of Lords no vote at all..
    I’m not suggesting there should be no political parties, after all the country has to be run, but in the last 40yrs their numbers have grown with different layers of government with a ever growing cost to the tax payer.
    So when a opportunity comes to reduce their numbers which is rejected because of political point scoring and self interest I do find that frustrating although not surprising.

  19. Electoral reform – given AV was voted down, its now a non runner for a very long time. A PR system would get an even smaller chance of being accepted by a referendum and would not command the parliamentary support to see it proposed in the first place. The only realistic fairer system that might actually be adopted would be a second ballot system, where the top two face off a week later if no-one got 50% on the first ballot, but whether the British public would put up with two elections near to each other is another question, its hard enough to get them to vote once…

  20. Interesting, thought through article.

    The Sunday Telegraph article was rather weak and partisan. In his sums, Watts assummed all tory MP’s, Unionists and SNP without exception would vote for this bill, which would give 317 against combined Lab and Libdems on 312. He also assumes that Cameron might “attract” 3 Welsh Nationalists – who, of course, are really keen to lose one of their seats sand see Wales lose 1/4 of its current parliamentary representation due to the boundary review. Watts seems also to have forgotten the existence of the SDLP who take the Labour whip (3), Respect and Green who will vote also vote against government. He hopes that several libdems will simply abstain but to have forgotten that several tories have already indicated their opposition. That the SNP and some unionists are at best lukewarm about supporting DC is overlooked. Seemed to be wishful thinking by Sunday Times. DC could force a vote but the arithmetics do not stack up.

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