Boundary Update

I expect this will be the last one of these for a few years, as the Commons looks likely to vote to approve the Lords amendment abandoning the current boundary review and setting the next boundary review to begin in 2015, reporting in September-October 2018. Today should see an end to matters one way or the other – looking in detail at the amendments before the House today, the government has tabled a counter amendment that would reject the Lords amendment, and adopt the Boundary Commissions final recommendations without the need for further votes in the Commons and Lords.

415 Responses to “Boundary Update”

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  1. “the government has tabled a counter amendment that would reject the Lords amendment, and adopt the Boundary Commissions final recommendations without the need for further votes in the Commons and Lords.”

    They can do that???

  2. I mean…first!

  3. Anthony – assuming the Conservatives lose this vote today:

    I thought the Labour amendment just said that the Boundary Commissions are not to report until after 1 October 2018 – ie that there is no deadline at all – which could mean they don’t actually report in time for a 2020 GE.

    However you say they are to report in September to October 2018. Where is that stated as the Bill now currently stands? (ie if Conservative amendment loses).

  4. Pablo, yes – of course. The only reason the boundary recommendations need to be voted on before the Order in Council gets approved is because the legislation says they do, there’s nothing stopping the government amending the legislation.

    Obviously they can’t do it without the approval of Parliament…. but this would be the approval of Parliament (the Lords would also have to accept the counter-amendment, otherwise the Bill would bounce back the the Commons again)

  5. MikeL – the amendment passed in HoL Committee said until after 1 Oct 2018. However, they then amended the amendment at HoL 3rd reading to change it to between 1 Sept 2018 and 1 Oct 2018.

  6. Can the Tories win if Lab, LD and SNP vot against, especially if they’ve lost 5 of theirs?

    I assume Respect and Green will vote with Lab. Sinn Fein won’t be there. So the Tories can only get around 318 and the antis are already over that, surely?

    Unless some LDs abstain?

  7. SNP confirm they will vote against.
    Is it Lab(258)+ Lib(57)+SNP+Green+Galloway=323 if all of them turn up.

    And Tory+DUP=314.

    With Sinn Fein out,Tories need a few Lib Dems to absent themselves and the other parties to vote with them or abstain.

  8. @NickP

    “Unless some LDs abstain”

    They have a habit of doing that, by voting both ways, so they can say they voted againt something, when they didnt.

    However, I expect self-preservation to kick in here, and for them to positively vote against the boundary changes. It doesnt surprise me to hear there are 5 tory rebels too. COuld end up being more (in terms of abstentions)

  9. OK Anthony, many thanks.

  10. Guess we’ll be seeing how many turkeys vote for Xmas. What time’s the vote liable to take place? …

  11. I bet the Conservatives wish they had put it in the Bill back in 2011 that no further vote was required on the final BC recommendations.

    I wonder if we get another Coalition in 2015 whether a clause like that will be enacted to make it 100% watertight that the 2018 BC reports are implemented?

  12. @Mikel
    Presumably only another Tory/Lib Dem coalition? I cant see a Lib/Lab pact doing it.

  13. “Am hearing that a handful of Tory MPs will vote with Labour and the LibDems AGAINST boundary fairness…”

    I really am sick of the pathetic attempt (from all sides) to rig arguments by word usage. Cuts become reforms. Bah.

    To vote for or against “boundary fairness”…that is a new low in the shredding of the English language, surely?

  14. “I wonder if we get another Coalition in 2015 whether a clause like that will be enacted to make it 100% watertight that the 2018 BC reports are implemented?”

    In theory, yes, in practice, unlikely. That would require parliament fully delegating the power to redraw boundaries to the Boundary Commission with no comeback if they draw up something ridiculous. I suspect the scope for abuse would be too much for most MPs.

    A better option would be to adopt the 2013 recommendations immediately and consider the 2018 recommendations later.

    Or, better still, the Conservatives could refrain from breaking their side of the coalition agreement and crying foul when the Lib Dems to the same in return.

  15. Anthony – apologies for this question I should probably know but don’t.

    Assuming LD/Lab carry today’s vote will the review to report in 2018 be on 650 or 600 seats if no further legislation is passed?

  16. If a new boundary review starts in 2015, will it be for 600 seats or 650?

  17. @NickP – ” …boundary fairness”

    The problem is the reduction in the number of MPs. The initial Coalition Agreement was published on 12th May, with the final document published on 20th May 2010. The Institute for Government have published a report (“Never Again?”) on the policy car-crash which resulted.

  18. Jim Jam – 600 seats (though if there is a Labour government after the next election I’d be surprised if they did not amend the boundary review law again)

  19. Anthony

    Apart from anything else, withdrawing the Bill or using the Parliament Act will surely delay many of the other provisions to much for them to be useful. The Electoral Commission was already getting antsy about there not being enough time to get things up and rolling before April.

    Incidentally do you know what the situation is going to be on keeping the annual canvass? Last November’s report on the degradation of the register in Northern Ireland without one was fairly alarming. Of course the introduction of individual registration was pretty disastrous there anyway in terms of numbers registered – another worry if the Bill is passed, especially as I always get the impression that EONI have their act together a bit better than average.

  20. Thanks Anthony, thought so but was not sure.

    Cast our minds forward to a Lab/LD coalition post 2015 reversing back to 650 seats but also introducing Lords Reform.
    The tenous (some might say spurious but not I) LD linkage of the issue that less MPs only OK if Lords reform enacted due to pay-roll %age increasing would not apply.

    I see Lord Rehnhart ( I think) on DP now using the Labour argument about only 80% ER registration, perhaps geitting the defence in early?

  21. I would have thought that, as looks likely, the Boundary Review and reduction in MPs, is kiboshed in this Parliament, and therefore not implemented in time for the next General Election, it represents a monumental botch up by the Conservatives, doesn’t it? This must have been their biggest political prize potentially, worth as it was 20 seats or more for them, and to have got into a position where their Coalition partners vote it away is an achievement of quite extraordinary political incompetence.

    I wonder if Cameron feels that shafting Clegg’s flagship Lords Reforms, and doing the dirty on him in the AV Referendum, was worth tossing away his best chance of forming a majority Government in the next Parliament? I think he’s played a strong hand very badly and I wouldn’t begrudge Clegg a wolfish little smile later tonight if the Commons vote goes against Cameron. What goes round comes round and all that.

  22. Roger – I can’t see it happening either, but technically they could.

    Can’t remember what the latest is on the canvass – looking at the current Bill it appears to continue the duty of having an annual canvass, but gives the minister the power to drop the duty in the future after a vote of approval by the Commons and Lords.

  23. I would assume that most of the non-DUP NI MPs will vote against – SDLP almost invariably vote with Labour in any case, they even sit with them in the HoC. Of course whether they turn up is a different matter.

    Wales is losing 10 of its 40 seats in the Review so I can’t see PC supporting it either.

    It’s worth pointing out how much the Lib Dems need the boundaries not to change. They are explicitly relying on local advantage to get them through the next election. If your constituency alters substantially you lose all that.

  24. @Crossbat,

    I think the blame isn’t with Cameron or the Tory leadership. Rather with some of their more obstinate and narrow minded backbenchers.

    The party didn’t change their policy. They simply suffered a rebellion against it.

    I suspect Cameron now wishes he’d been less ambitious. The outcome has tipped the balance further to Labour than it was already leaning, and has robbed the country of the usual rebalancing that a “normal” boundary review would have given us.

    In the end it won’t matter unless 2015 is a close run thing, which I suspect it might although the aggregate opinion here seems to be that there will be a Labour majority of between 150 and 400 seats…. ..

  25. crossbat

    I think some Tory backbenchers are going to be hopping bad…it will vary with whom they are most annoyed but it doesn’t lead to future harmony amongst those bankbenchers.

  26. Good Afternoon All.

    The twenty seats lost by the lack of Boundary changes might well make a difference in a tight election.

    I think Labour’s argument that the equal size seats is bad for them, as working class voters are less likely to vote.

    On AV: Blair made his only mistake, imo- in not insisting on AV in 1997, against the wishes of Brown, Straw and Prescott.

  27. “Blair made his only mistake”


  28. AV is hardly any different from FPTP, and would make a difference in result in only a few marginal seats.

    It was a complete red herring, and barely more proportional than the existing system.

  29. *Less proportional in most elections actually eg. Any Thatcher election, 1997, 2001, 2005.

  30. @Neil A

    I don’t think we would have had a review during this parliament under the previous rules (every 8-12 years). The Fifth Review came into effect at the 2010 GE.

    Chamber looks a bit empty at this stage of the debate, perhaps it will start to fill up after Andrew Lansley has stopped speaking… he has just answered an assertion from Mark Reckless about Nick Clegg being bound to the Coalition Agreement “by international law”. LOL.

  31. Proportionality is a red herring in an AV election. The purpose of AV is quite different. It’s all about giving people the right to vote for who they like without fear of a wasted vote, as especially doing away with the need to vote for your second least favourite candidate in order to stop the least favourite getting in. It also means that small parties and independents stand a fair chance against the big ones by removing the penalty of forfeiting your say in who runs the country if you’re not keen on either of the big two. PR does that too, but AV does it better (and STV is the best of both).

    Still, someone should remind Cameron that no-one argued that AV is PR. That way, we might get the message across that there is no public mandate against PR, however much the No2AV people want us to believe otherwise.

  32. Billy Bob – the 8-12 year timescale is based upon the date of submission of the previous report. The final part of the 5th review, the NI boundary commission’s report, was submitted in 2007, so under the previous legislation the 6th review would have been due to report between 2015 and 2019

  33. Oh, Anthony, completely off-topic I know, but any chance of doing some sort of analysis for the Israel general election? I’d be interested for your take on how the pollsters got Yesh Atid wrong.

    Good Afternoon.

    Agreed: AV not proportional at all. Part of the idea of AV in 1997 thinking was that a Centre-Left alliance of Lab and LD could have been formed.

    PAUL C.
    On reflection: one other mistake, he could have dismissed Gordon B, after his 2004 speech (‘Best when we are Labour’).

  35. @Billy Bob & AW,

    Ah, I didn’t realise that. Thanks for correcting my misapprehension. I feel much more relaxed about the failure of the bill now. A case of “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.

    As for AV, it always seemed to me the worst of all worlds for a partisan Tory. Preserving most of Labour’s inbuilt advantages whilst presenting a formal mechanism for anti-Tory tactical voting. I still voted for it though, despite my preference for STV or even AV Plus.

  36. @AW

    That makes sense, given the sightly irregular durations, and intervals between previous reviews. I think there have been other changes to stipulated intervals over the years.

    SNP bod has just stated in the HoC that they will be voting *against*.

  37. Billy Bob – there have been many shifts around in the timing.

    Anyone looking for politicians playing politics with boundaries shouldn’t look at the procedures and rules of the actual review, they should look at the messing about that has been done to hurry reviews up (by the Conservatives) or push them back and delay them (by Labour).

  38. NICKP

    To vote for or against “boundary fairness”…that is a new low in the shredding of the English language, surely?


    Good shout. Though “we’re all in this together” will go down in history…

  39. dup and snp seem to be against the Tories and reduction in numbers of MPs.

    That must be it, surely?

  40. A Swedish friend who I was explaining our electoral system to was very puzzled. Over there if you get 10% of the votes then you get 10% of the representation and he was really struggling with the logic of any other system. So do I.

  41. Paul C/Chris L
    “Blair made his only mistake”


    I’m reminded of Thatcher’s response when asked if she ever made mistakes, “Oh yes!” she responded with a flash, “I sometimes expected more of my colleagues than they were able to deliver.”

    A psychiatrist would have a field day…

  42. @Shevii,

    I suppose which example you choose is influenced by which system you support.

    Pro PR – mention Sweden.

    Anti PR – mention Italy

    etc.. (although Italy have swung the other way in response to years of turbulence)

    Personally I think that politically we are far more Swedish than Italian, and would cope just fine with PR. The current coalition, for all its faults, is doing a fair job of demonstrating that. I think that is one of the few consolations in it for the LibDems, and is the core reason for their sticking with it.

  43. @Neil A

    “In the end it won’t matter unless 2015 is a close run thing…”

    You’re right and, historically, not many GE’s since the war, certainly from a vote share point of view, have ended up being close run things. Accordingly, the uneven constituency sizes have rarely influenced the eventual outcome in terms of which party formed the Government. True, Labour’s majorities were probably inflated in 1997, 2001 and 2005 and the Tories might have been denied an overall majority in 2010 but I can’t think of an election, apart from 1951 and February 1974, where the party with the smaller number of votes gained more seats and formed a Government. Accordingly, there has been no grand democratic larceny taking place up to now. “We wuz robbed” is not a plaintive cry that any party could reasonably exclaim in many if any past elections

    Of course, all this is couched in the provisos associated with the FPTP electoral system, and if you were anything other than a Tory or Labour politician, you’d argue that the whole thing was an outrageous swindle anyway!

    I happen to share your view that 2015 might be quite close in terms of the popular vote share and I can see this benefiting Labour quite significantly in terms of seat allocations in the Commons, assuming the election is fought on existing boundaries. Let’s hope turnout and greater levels of voter registration mitigate against the iniquity of it all.

  44. The problem with Italy isn’t so much its PR system, it’s the silly rule that you need majorities in both the upper and the lower houses whilst electing the two using substantially different rules that can lead to differing control in different houses. There’s also a massive problem with corruption and, until recently, far too much government control over the media, but both of those problems are nothing to do with electoral systems.

    Italy’s also got this system of pre-declared coalitions, which is bloody confusing but sort of makes sense.

    Not that I expect this to change anyone’s mind. The Daily Mail is quite content to believe that all the woes of Greece are caused by PR in spite of the fact that until 2011 they had single-party governance for decades.

  45. Been reading Lansdale over at the Beeb

    Some handy points…

    First, Nick “Clergy” quote from the past…

    “It is right that constituencies are more fairly sized, so that the weight of a person’s vote does not depend on where they live. It is right that we reverse the unintended trend that has seen this House grow in size and cap its membership at a more reasonable number…There can be no justification for maintaining the current inequality between constituencies and voters across the country.”


    Second, dunno if it’s been mentioned here, maybe it has, but that Tories may have scuppered Lords reform to save their safe majorities from the boundary review…

    And 3rd, that he thinks it isn’t over…

    ” So the Tories might lose the vote today but I doubt that they will give up the battle. Between now and the election, Number 10 will be looking for something that the Lib Dems want more than anything else in the world and see if they can trade it for boundary change. This ain’t over yet.”

  46. SHEVII

    I think that FPTP has two big advantages that should not be overlooked
    – that there is one named MP that represents everyone in a constiuency once elected, cant see how PR can give this.

    – that effeictively the 3 big parties are colaitions, but present themselves either left or right of the range of views within each party to the electorate for them to chose in their manifestos.

    The coalitions are formed before the election – not afterwards.

    I always think a government elected by only 36% of the votes is better than one that no one voted for – which is what PR gives, in my opinion.

    Also, like alot of things in this country, FPTP looks bad in theory, but works well in practice. In my opinion, General Elections in my life time have always given the best answer to reflect the national mood. Even 2010 did – but the mood was for Labour to go away and get their act together with a new leader, and a mandate only for a minority Tory government, as Cameron did not completely manage to win back trust – hence why the Lib Dems will be punished at the next election for creating a Tory led colaition.

  47. ON the off-chance that the Tories do find some way of getting through as per Carfrew, when is the last date all stages would have to be passed in parliament to enable implimenmtation for 2015.

    Surely has to be this year as are 18 months needed for candidate selection etc.

  48. carfrew

    ” So the Tories might lose the vote today but I doubt that they will give up the battle. Between now and the election, Number 10 will be looking for something that the Lib Dems want more than anything else in the world and see if they can trade it for boundary change. This ain’t over yet.”

    I wonder what they could find, maybe reform of the lords or reform of the voting system? oh dear they buggered that up!!!! as a former libdem all I can say is “fcuk the backstabing bastards ” which is a feeling I suspect that many libdem sympathizers have.

  49. @Carfrew

    Re Lansdale’s comment “Number 10 will be looking for something that the Lib Dems want more than anything else in the world and see if they can trade it for boundary change”

    Well, there’s PR reform? Or Lords reform? Perhaps a u-turn on the NHS? An economic plan-B?

    I just wonder what the things that the Lib Dems would accept that are also palatable to the 1922 Committee…

  50. Carfrew – I think Lansdale is wrong, if this Bill gets Royal Assent the review is dead, the Boundary Commissions will cease work upon it and it would require primary legislation to get the process to start up again.

    Obviously it is theoretically possible, Parliament is sovereign after all, but for all intents and purposes it’ll be dead and buried.

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