The election of a majority Conservative government means that the Parliamentary boundary review will presumably go ahead on the rules passed under the last government, but delayed by the Liberal Democrats (the review that was started in the last Parliament was abandoned before it was completed after the law was changed). There is no need for the government to pass any laws to implement this, it will start up automatically early next year once electorate numbers are available, though Parliament will still have to vote to implement the Boundary Commissions’ recommendations, and with a small majority that is not necessarily a given – last time round there were a couple of Tory MPs who said they were going to vote against the new boundaries, and the government doesn’t have much of a majority to begin with.

Anyway, a couple of people have asked me how this election would have looked had the revised boundaries proposed in the last Parliament gone through. I’ve done a rough rejig of my provisional boundary calculations using the result of this election, and had the new boundaries gone through the Conservatives would have won 322 seats, nine fewer than they did but enough to give them a healthy majority of 44 in a Commons of 600 MPs. Labour would have won 204 MPs (28 fewer), the SNP 50 seats (and would have pushed Labour out of Scotland entirely) and the Lib Dems just 4.

Of course, this is not necessarily a good guide to what the new review this Parliament will produce – electorate numbers will have changed since 2010 and given some of the discussion after the abandoned review I suspect the English Commission may be a little more open to splitting wards so the proposed changes are less disruptive (something that requires only a change of mindset, not a change of rules!), but we shall see.

1,050 Responses to “What the election would have looked like on the new boundaries”

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  1. The most recent thinking behind the Lib Dem incumbency effect was motivated in part by the fact that in the 2013 Eastleigh by-election they held on against all the odds despite a perfect storm against them. Given that, it wasn’t an unreasonable theory at all.

  2. @ BristolianHoward

    The pre-Election polls were ‘blades of grass in the wind’. It will take a few elections, where they correctly predict the outcome, for them to be treated as anything other than slightly more systematic conjecture!

  3. A few reasons I can think of that may dissuade some Tory MP’s from pushing through the boundary changes are:

    1. Redrawing the boundaries would mean ALL the MP’s suddenly have to be reselected for constituencies which are now different to their current ones – some people will doubtless lose out in this process.

    2. Lessening the incumbency effect. By changing the shape and size of constituencies the MP’s will, at best, have only been MP for part of that constituency previously. Given that incumbency is expected to yield at least 1-2% vote share, and in some cases more, there may be some MP’s in marginal constituencies very wary about the changes.

    3. Reducing the relative strength of the Scottish voice in Westminster will be extremely unpopular in Scotland and seized on by the SNP as another reason to leave the union.

    4. The shape and size of constituencies in some specific local instances may be controversial or unwieldy, leading to complaints from the local MP.

    5. Reducing the number of seats increases the ratio of marginal constituencies, particularly with multiple parties standing in seats. Whilst it will spread the Tory vote share more effectively and make it easier for them to win more seats, it does also spread the Labour vote share more effectively, potentially making more Tory safe seats competitive – particularly where there are other parties like UKIP standing.

    However, in the end I think they will vote to put the change through because of the simple reason that they know it will infuriate Labour.

  4. @David

    ”What system of Proportional Representation still allows for constituency-based, or regional, representation? For example, a system where the UK is split up into 50 or so regions represented by a certain number of MPs, elected via PR in each region?”

    The Additonal Member system does something akin to that, as used for Scottish Parliamentary elections.

    I am a big fan of this system. If there is voting reform for the UK elections personally I would favour this one.

  5. When looking at the votes needed to get an MP elected for each party, there are two factors you need to consider.

    1) Scotland has smaller constituencies than England. Part of Labour’s built-in advantage arose from holding lots of Scottish seats on relatively small polling numbers. Since Thursday this advantage has been handed lock, stock and barrel to the SNP.

    2) There is a built-in winner’s advantage in votes per seat. Unless you have a very localised support base (SNP, PC, NI) then getting a smallish vote under FPTP (say, less than 20%) means you will get very, very few members elected in proportion to your vote share. As your vote share climbs, increasingly large numbers of seats will tumble into your basket, until you reach the magic numbers of 50% plus (SNP again) when your votes per seat number will fall like a stone.

    The idea that boundary changes are a purely partisan exercise is really just propaganda. Out of date boundaries tend to disadvantage the Tories, but there’s no reason why reducing the number of MPs should have a partisan effect.

  6. @Gary O

    “However, in the end I think they will vote to put the change through because of the simple reason that they know it will infuriate Labour.”

    And for the even simpler reason that their whips tell them to.

  7. David

    :-) Yes I think we can take that for granted for at least 250 Tory MP’s anyway.

  8. When the boundaries bill was on its way through the HOC the opposition then raised – legitimately -the problem of decline in registered voters and asked the commission be empowered to deal with that issue simultaneously. The then deputy PM insisted Labour had had thirteen years to sort this out and the coalition would give it its fill attention once the boundary reforms themselves were enacted. They were enacted. Nothing since has been done about the scandal of under-registration. I am pretty sure the new government will de as disinclined to do anything as the last. Humbug is a special sweet of politics but we are not forced to swallow it if it’s offered to us.

    The Union from its birth amidst graft and bribery and peculation at least recognised the notion that the constituent nations – and even regions like Cornwall – might be over-represented in the HOC because population alone was not the only measure of the new national political interest. Weird indeed that eighteenth century aristocrats had a less self serving view than our twenty-first century lords and masters

    EVEL in fact will on enshrine a further exclusion of minority voices in England and together with the politicization of the boundaries it combines to manufacture a systemic disadvantage to poorer and more mobile population groups.

    All this only goes to serve a single party interest. One nation – I don’t think so.

  9. Lots of people on the left are going on about PR.

    If we had PR, we would now have a Conservative/UKIP coalition.

  10. I see the Blessed Nicola took her brood to be photographed by the Forth Rail Bridge today. I wonder if she appreciates the irony.

    The original design of the Forth Bridge, by an Edinburgh-based civil engineer was discarded when said engineer’s master-work, the Tay Bridge collapsed because it had not been properly designed to take the forces that the world could throw at it. The emblematic Scottish structure that so photogenically appeared on the news programmes today was designed by English engineers who properly understood the loads that a great edifice needs to bear.

    Better together eh?

  11. Hawthorn

    PR isn’t just about now, it’s also about the future. If as I hope (and have long hoped) the UK adopts a federal structure, PR would help to prevent one-party states within the Union by more accurately reflecting votes cast for each party. It will also reduce “safe” seats.

  12. There is absolutely no chance of PR. Lords reform is more likely and I’m sceptical the Tories will want to touch that.

  13. Someone earlier posted a link to a map which shows 2nd places but it not contain Northern Ireland. This map does.

    Interesting results for 2nd places:

    LAB 253
    UKIP 120
    LD 63
    PC 6
    Green 4
    SNP 3

    Just shows how much the Lib Dems have been hit. In addition to getting just 8 MPs, they only got 63 second places. Anyone know how many 2nd places they got in 2010?

  14. ‘Lots of people on the left are going on about PR.

    If we had PR, we would now have a Conservative/UKIP coalition.”

    That’s the thing about democracy: you don’t get to veto it because you don’t like the result.

  15. Just sat down with a glass of red wine and watched question time on catch up. Great watch.

    Part of the problem for labour and the left was encapsulated in one young student girl type who was screaming the defeat was all down to Murdoch, Thatcher, Tory tricks etc. For me, this is the big danger and problem on the left. Francis Maude made a great point, it’s incredibly patronising to the electorate to suggest they have all been duped by the nasty Tories. Labour need to be grown up enough to look at themselves if they want to move on. I suspect when I am an old man, there will still be students on the left blaming Thatcher & Murdoch for everything.

  16. @David

    Proportional representational with a full constituency link is dead easy. Someone (sorry can’t remember who) pointed out the obvious solution on here during the campaign, albeit, I think, their tongue somewhere in the region of their cheek.

    You elect the MPs on FPTP as you do now, but weight their voting power in the commons to be the total number of votes their party got divided by that party’s number of MPs.

    So Carswell casts his 3.8 million votes or so on the motion, Lucas her 1.5 million-ish, your bog standard Conservative MP is worth a bit over 34K, and each terrifying Scot Nat about 25K.

    You could even have them hold up cards with the number of votes printed on them whenever there was a division, for that authentic mid/late 20th century politics feel.


  17. RAF

    I am on balance (probably) in favour of PR, but mainly because it would allow more honesty in positioning by parties. Peter Bone and his ilk could join UKIP, the Blairites could join up with the Lib Dems, and the Campaign Group could head off to TUSC. It would help avoid the partial internalisation of opposition that can happen under FPTP.

    Gary O

    Lords replacement is a higher priority than electoral reform of the Commons in my opinion. A higher chamber would probably be elected under PR, as most new legislatures seem to be.

  18. Neil A
    The idea that boundary changes are a purely partisan exercise is really just propaganda. Out of date boundaries tend to disadvantage the Tories, but there’s no reason why reducing the number of MPs should have a partisan effect.

    Boundary changes are an ongoing process that is gradually equalising constituency size. The disparities now are really not that great at all – provided that we use the metric of electorate rather than electors. Using electors as the metric (as the Tories want to do) is potentially partisan as it would mean a constituency will not be set by number of eligible voters in the area, but by those that actually voted there last time.

  19. David

    That is my point. I honestly think that a lot of people support PR because they imagine it could dilute opinions to the point where you never get a government you really despised.

    Well, look at Bibi in Israel, who is loathed by many Israelis.

  20. Votes would have likely has been different had PR been adopted. Tories and Labour both lower in some areas but higher in others.

  21. One thought did cross my mind today.

    Quite a lot of Eastern Europeans who like living here and have settled down have already applied for British passports. I would expect that to increase now the referendum is in the offing.

    They would have votes in the referendum and the next General Election, no matter what happens.

    According to Wikipedia, there are 2.25m EU born people resident in the UK.

  22. BM11

    I agree with you. More people would have voted UKIP for starters.

  23. Hi, guys: me again. Sorry this is so hit-and-run but I have a question I need answering: namely, what was the GB vote share in t’election. Not UK-wide, GB only. Everybody’s busy blogging about the poll errors, but without knowing the GB vote share I can’t confirm/deny. Even Hix has tweeted the UK-wide results (not the GB results). @AnthonyWells had a go at answering this yesterday/day before but it was before all results were declared, so it’s a bit out.

  24. BM11″Votes would have likely has been different had PR been adopted. Tories and Labour both lower in some areas but higher in others.”

    Could you explain the rationale behind Tory or Lab votes being higher in some constituencies under PR? I don’t follow.

  25. Neil A

    “Scotland has smaller constituencies than England”

    it certainly has two – O&S and Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

    Up until 2005, the average Scottish constituency electorate was smaller than in England, but the reduction in the number of Scottish constituencies then means that mainland electoral rolls are now similar to England.

  26. Chrissy

    Bloody rubbish performance by the SNP! They only came 2nd in three seats.

  27. Boundary changes are fine.

    Reducing head count, however, results in a less proportional system. I would be in favour, if we were to keep fptp, to double the number of MPs but halve their salaries.

  28. Rich the thing you have to remember with the Labour party is that nothing is ever their fault, they are always simply always the unlucky victim of circumstances outside of their control.

    Labour ousted in 2010, oh its the bankers fault.
    SNP landslide in 2011, oh its the coalitions fault
    SNP landslide in 2015, oh it’s Cameron’s fault
    Con majority in 2015, oh its Murdoch’s fault.

    If they are to win floating voters like myself over, it’s time for some recognition of their past mistakes.

    Also it’s interesting that the same people blaming the Murdoch press are the same people who the day before were proudly declaring that the news media was increasingly irrelevant and had no sway, it’ was apparently Social Media, that had that mantle now.

  29. @maninthemiddle,

    Spot on. The aggressive girl on QT last night I am sure would be very active on social media, which is probably a platform that favours Labour, so it’s all swings and roundabouts. The difference is that the material I see on social media is way nastier than anything in the standard press. Go figure.

  30. BBC reporting that David Cameron will announce the following ministerial appointments:

    Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities (continuing) – Nicky Morgan
    Justice Secretary – Michael Gove
    Leader of the House of Commons – Chris Grayling
    Govt. Chief Whip – Mark Harper

    I’m sure the appointment of Gove to Justice will cause legal types to explode – they were up in arms when Grayling became the first non-lawyer to take the post, now it looks like there will be a second.

  31. The fact that Labour amassed more votes for every MP elected actually tells us a couple of things.

    Labours vote share is less efficient than it used to be – which makes sense as it had a lot of wasted votes, mainly in Scotland, for very little benefit.

    It also tells us that it did well in exactly the places it didn’t need to do well (e.g. the North East) and failed to do well in the places that it needed to, such as the Midlands.

    I know all this seems obvious given the results but it perhaps tells us something about the success of the Lab core vote strategy – it worked and yet it didn’t because the core vote live in the wrong places to efficiently affect the result (and there aren’t enough core voters given many have abandoned the ship to vote UKIP).

  32. MiM

    Is THAT what you need to win your vote? For a party to apologise to you? And, since I’m guessing you’re talking specifically about the deficit, for it to apologise for mistakes it didn’t make?

  33. @LeftLampton

    Indeed, the Tories really have to be commended for selling to the public the utter myth that Labour’s overspending caused the recession. Probably the most successful propaganda exercise in modern British political history. Utter rubbish if you look at the facts, of course, like borrowing being higher in 1994 than post-recession 2008, but since when does any electorate in the world look at the actual facts?

  34. *rather, the deficit as a proportion of GDP being lower in 1997 than pre-recession 2008

  35. Lefty

    Yes I want to see a party actually own up to its mistakes tell me what it got wrong and what it would do differently.

    Just uttering the words “we’re going to learn lessons from this ” or “we’re going to listen to voters” doesn’t cut it.

    Or when a voter says something they are concerned about, and they then reply “actually what i think voters are concerned about is *insert something completely wrong that fits in with the policy im about to talk about”

    as for the deficit, it shot up well before the crash in 2008. Even then when the crash did happen, why hadn’t Labour put any savings aside over the decade of growth for a rainy day, oh that’s right they didnt need to as they had abolished boom and bust!

  36. David

    You picked only elections where Labour won, plus inconclusive 2010

    eg 1983: Tories 9.4 seats per %, labour 7.5 seats per %

    FTPT favours the victor, as I said above…

    This effect is much greater than constituency size, although because of demographic change and poor voter registration, Labour does get an advantage over time, as seen in the near-equal numbers in 2010 when labour got less seats

  37. David you sound like Neil Kinnock on election night.

    It’s not Labour’s fault that the public don’t like their policies, it’s the publics fault for being dumb and not understanding Labour’s sheer brilliance.

  38. Surely voter registration is down to the individual. Many probably don’t register because they still haven’t paid their community charge.

    I agree that it should be encouraged, why don’t local activists do something about it, now that the election is over. Go knocking on a few doors armed with a few forms.

    At the end of the day, unless voting is made compulsory, many are simply not interested. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!

    Why are we discussing PR again when there is absolutely zero chance of it being introduced or even voted on?

    re: the boundary commission. As equal size constituency’s & a reduction to 600 seats was in the Tory manifesto, and as a result of that manifesto a majority was won in a recent GE, I fully expect it to proceed.

    What are some suggesting? That manifesto promises should be broken?

  39. Chuka Umunna has laid out his thoughts on what went wrong for Lab and given an indication of what we could expect from his leadership. No doubt that he is going to run now.

  40. mim I have a pretty good idea nothing labour could ever do would satisfy you.

  41. OK I will put my Electoral Reform Society hat on!
    Single transferable vote has been the system in Ireland for many years and in N Ireland for Stormont since 1983. I think it has had a big moderating effect on N Irish politics as people made it clear that they would not prioritise uncompromising candidates (and so Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams suddenly started compromising…)

    STV works best in multimember seats with 5 to 8 members. Personally I think losing the Local constituency link is outweighed by the fact that most people would have an MP of their party.

    It is ideal for local elections, where you want to rewrad councillors who work hard for constituents. But at national level it can make politicians too locally focussed, so if I had my way there would be STV for one house and Additional member for the other. what I dont like is list systems as we have for Euro elections where the party hierarchy decide the order of the list and thus who gets elected. This just gives you lobby fodder… And if you have list systems with too low a threshold you get extreme parties wagging the dog as in Israel

  42. Are you Andy May by any chance?

  43. Surprised Cameron has gone for Grove considering he was sent to Chief Whip to take him out of the limelight.
    If there was PR some Tory voters in a few of the Labour/LD fights and Labour/SNP fights would have just voted Tory rather than a tactical vote. Dito in Tory/LD fight for Labour voters.. Not many but they would have been some. Also opposition voters in safe seats don’t always turn out but with PR they may increasing votes.

  44. It is a sad fact that impoverished people are less likely to register to vote than well-off people…

    Solving the problems of impoverishment might perhaps be a better approach that telling themselves to pull themselves together and get themselves registered….

    And it would certainly be very unfair if the MP’s with the neediest constituents also had more of them (but not all registered), which is what the Tories would like…

  45. I see a small handful of young left idiots have vandalised war memorials to the dead in London because they didn’t like the election result. Why don’t these young people engage in something positive if they don’t like the result. Again, all part of that narrative that it’s somebody else’s fault all the time. I wonder if they completely miss the irony of demonstrating against what is the outcome of a democratic process.

  46. Paul M

    Not true at all, in my time I’ve voted UKIP (like many former labour supporters) voted Tory yes, voted Liberal, voted independent and I’m open to hearing from Labour. I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything Alan Johnson says, he understands real people, alas he doesn’t seem to be running.

    Instead of sticking with its misguided core 35% strategy where you dismiss anyone to the right of Marx as not left wing enough, why not actually try to win over voters from other parties, especially those that tell you they are open to hearing from you?

  47. @maninthemiddle

    No, Labour are far from ‘sheer brilliance’. My dislike for them simply isn’t for reasons that are objectively false.

    @Andrew111 fair point.

  48. Mainstream LAB leadership candidates looking very weak to me…

    Burnham – well placed pre-election but his left-wing Tories are NHS killers message doesn’t look to be the best way to win an election

    Cooper – part of party elite under both Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. Uninspirational personality and no backstory, even if she’s a very capable politician

    Umunna – another metropolitan elite candidate. Reckon his leadership would play out much like Miliband’s

    Hunt – ergo Umunna. Pretty poor record as Shadow Education Secretary. Let the Tories completely neutralise, if not win, on the issue after Nicky Morgan took over from Michael Gove.

    Kendall – Who? Talked up but has done little of note in her parliamentary career to date. Not even shadowing a department leader. What would she offer?

    Jarvis – Could be the man that could win back middle England. People like a war hero and has been impressive in Parliament so far. But is being a war hero a reason to make a shadow junior minister with four years parliamentary experience, however impressive, your leader? Would be indicative of panic

  49. Highest vote share by a single party in a Scottish post WWII Westminster election –

    1st SNP in 2015 – 49.97%

    2nd Lab in 1966 – 49.91%


    13= Unionist Party in 1955 – 41.53% (it needed their allies in the National Liberals to provide the extra 8.56% to claim more than 50%) and Labour in 1979.

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