A final post on boundary changes (at least until the Scottish proposals next month). This comes from a discussion I had with Mark Pack. Normally the thing we look at with boundary changes is what the party-partisan effect is, how the new boundaries would change the sort of swing that Labour need to win a general election. However, currently Labour are a very, very long way from the sort of polling lead they’d need to win a majority, so a small change in that figure really doesn’t make a lot of difference. More interesting in the current political climate is the effect it would have on Labour internal battle and any potential deselections.

The rules for how Labour will deal with re-selections after boundary changes are yet to be confirmed, so these are based on the rules set out for 2011 in the Labour rule book, on the assumption that Labour’s NEC will use similar rules this time round. A Labour MP has a right to seek selection in any seat that contains 40% or more of the electors in their existing seat. If an MP’s seat is divided up so much that no single seat contains 40% of their old electors then they’ll have the right to seek nomination in a seat with less than 40% of their old voters. If they are the only sitting MP to seek selection in a seat, they are nominated through the normal trigger ballot process. If more than one sitting MP seeks the nomination in a new seat there is a members ballot to pick between them.

Applying those rules to the provisional boundaries we can see where there may be contests under those rules. Note that this list is exhaustive, it contains every case where Labour MPs could compete against each other under the selection rules… but in some cases it will be easily avoided through either agreement (there are enough seats to go round) or retirement (an MP will be well over 70 come the general election and possibly considering retirement anyway). Of the 231 Labour members of Parliament in England & Wales, 142 of them should not face any re-selection difficulties connected to boundary changes – they may well see changes to their seat, but there is a single notionally Labour seat to which they have the sole right to seek selection. What about the other 89?

Avoidable Challenges

There are six places where more than one MP would have a right to seek selection for a seat, but where there are enough Labour seats to go round, so if MPs co-operate and agree between themselves who will stand where, no head-to-head challenge is necessary and no one is left empty handed. These are:
Alfreton and Clay Cross. Nastasha Engel and Dennis Skinner both have the right to seek selection here, but Skinner also has the right to seek selection in Bolsover, so a challenge seems unlikely.
East London. Mike Gapes’ seat is sliced up into tiny pieces, and if the NEC follow past practice he should have the right to seek selection in any of the successor seats. He is the only sitting MP with a right to seek selection in the new, ultra-safe, Forest Gate & Loxford seat so I imagine he will go there. If not, he could challenge Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge or John Cryer (who could, in turn, seek selection in Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow)
Redcar. Andy McDonald and Anna Turley can both seek selection in Middlesbrough NE & Redcar, but McDonald is also eligible for the safe Middlesbrough W & Stockton E seat, so a challenge is avoidable.
Ashton Under Lyne. Jonathan Reynolds and Angela Rayner are both eligible, but Rayner is also eligible for the safer Failsworth & Droylsden.
Stockport. This is avoidable, but not without some pain for Ann Coffey. Andrew Gwynne & Ann Coffey are both eligible for the safe Stockport North & Denton seat. Ann Coffey is also eligible for the Stockport South & Cheadle seat, but that is far more marginal (that said, Coffey will be 73 at the next election, so may not stand).
Pontefract. Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett are both eligible to seek selection, but Yvette Cooper also has a free run at Normanton, Castleford and Outwood.

Not Enough Labour seats to go round

The following seven areas have enough seats to go round, but one or more of them is notionally Conservative, so there may be a contest for the winnable seat or someone may be left in a seat that is notionally Conservative:
South London. Siobhain McDonagh’s seat is sliced up. Two of the successor seats, Merton & Wimbledon Common (a potentially winnable marginal) and Sutton & Cheam (no hope) are notionally Conservative, so she will have the choice of fighting one of them, or challenging either Chuka Ummuna or Rosena Allin-Khan.
South-East London. Erith and Thamesmead is split up into Erith & Crayford (a Tory seat) and Woolwich. The only option for a Labour seat for Theresa Pearce is to challenge Matthew Pennycook for the Woolwich nomination. Pennycook has the option of seeking the Woolwich nomination, or going up again Vicky Foxcroft for the Greenwich & Deptford nomination.
Coventry. Geoffrey Robinson’s seat becomes comfortably Conservative on new boundaries, but he has the option of going up against Jim Cunningham for the Coventry South nomination. He’ll be 81 by the next election, so I assume he won’t.
Nottingham. Vernon Coaker’s Gedling seat disappears. Half goes into the Conservative Sherwood seat, so there is the potential of a battle against Chris Leslie for the nomination in the Labour Nottingham East and Carlton seat.
Cumbria. The Workington seat disappears. Part of it goes into the very Conservative Penrith & Solway seat, which is unlikely to be attractive to Sue Hayman, leaving her the option of fighting Jamie Reed for the Whitehaven & Workington seat.
Wrexham. Susan Elan Jones’s Clwyd South seat is dismembered. Part of it goes into the elaborately named De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn seat, but that is notionally Conservative. The other part goes into Wrexham Maelor, where she would have to compete against Ian Lucas for the nomination.
Newport. The Newport seats are combined into one. Jessica Morden would also have the right to seek nomination in Monmouthshire, but that’s solidly Tory leaving one Labour seat between her and Paul Flynn. Flynn will be 85 come the next election, so the issue may well be resolved by retirement.

Straight two way fights

There are seven Labour seats where there are two Labour MPs who are eligible for that seat, and that seat only – meaning a straight fight is unavoidable unless someone stands down:
Sunderland West – Bridget Phillipson vs Sharon Hodgson
Newcastle North West – Catherine McKinnell vs Chi Onwurah
Wednesfield & Willenhall – David Winnick vs Emma Reynolds (though Winnick will be 86)
Stoke South – Rob Flello vs Tristram Hunt
Dudley East & Tipton – Ian Austin vs Adrian Bailey (though Bailey will be 74)
Neath & Aberavon – Stephen Kinnock vs Christina Rees
Cardiff South & East – Jo Stevens vs Stephen Doughty

More complicated fights

There are eight areas where there are rather more complicated fights… but where ultimately there are more Labour MPs than there are seats, so something will have to give:

Birmingham. Roger Godsiff’s seat disppears. He will have the right to seek election in four other Birmingham seats, putting him up against Gisela Stuart, Jess Phillips, Richard Burden or Steve McCabe. He will be 73 come the election though, so may choose to stand down.
Islington & Hackney. The change that got the most attention when the proposals were announced. Essentially Meg Hillier, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Rushanara Ali have to somehow share out the Finsbury Park & Stoke Newington, Hackney West and Bethnal Green and Hackney Central seats. Someone is going to get stuffed.
Rochdale & Bury. Debbie Abrahams, Ivan Lewis, Liz McInnes and Simon Danzcuk are in play, with Rochdale, Prestwich and Middleton and Littleborough & Saddleworth. If Danzcuk remains suspended from the Labour party then the problem presumably resolves itself.
Liverpool. Steve Rotheram’s seat disappears and he would be eligible to challenge Louise Ellman, Peter Dowd or Stephen Twigg for selection in their seats. Rotheram himself is standing for Liverpool mayor, so it won’t be an issue for him. If he steps down though whoever is elected in the subsequent by-election would face the same issue.
Bradford & Leeds. Judith Cummins seat disppears. She is eligible to seek selection for Bradford West (against Naz Shah), in Spen (against Jo Cox’s successor) or in Pudsey, where Rachel Reeves will likely also be seeking the nomination (Leeds West vanishes, but Pudsey takes much of its territory and becomes a notionally Labour seat)
Sheffield. Newly elected Gill Furniss sees her seat dismembered – she is eligible to seek nomination in Sheffield North and Ecclesfield (against Angela Smith) or Sheffield East (against Clive Betts).
Pontypridd. Owen Smith’s seat is dismembered and he will have the right to seek nomination in either Chris Bryant’s Rhondda & Llantrisant or Ann Clwyd’s Cynon Valley and Pontypridd. Ann Clwyd will be 83 by the next election, so it may be resolved by retirement.
Islwyn. Chris Evans’ seat also vanished, and he will have the choice of competing against Nick Smith in Blaenau Gwent or Wayne Davies in Caerphilly.

The deep blue sea

Fourteen Labour MPs do not have a notionally Labour seat they would be eligible to seek selection in. In some cases this is just because of a slight change to an already ultra-marginal seat (e.g. Chris Matheson in Chester notionally loses his seat, but there’s really little change from 2015), in other cases it leaves them with a very difficult fight:

Andy Slaughter would face a Tory majority of 14% in the new Hammersmith & Fulham seat
Gareth Thomas would face a Tory majority of 11% in the new Harrow and Stanmore
Joan Ryan would face a small Tory majority of just 3% in the new Enfield seat
Ruth Cadbury faces a 10% Tory majority in Brentford & Chiswick
Tulip Siddiq faces a 9% Tory majority in Hampstead and Golders Green
Alex Cunningham is only eligible for the nomination in Stockton West, with a 7% Tory majority
Chris Matheson doesn’t actually face much change, but Chester would have a 1% Tory majority on paper
Jenny Chapman faces a notional Tory majority of 1% in Darlington
Madeleine Moon’s Bridgend is merged with the Vale of Glamorgan to create a notionally Tory seat, but with a majority of only 3%
Alan Whitehead’s Southampton Test would have a 4% Tory majority on paper (Southampton Itchen would flip to Labour… but Whitehead doesn’t have the right to go there under Labour rules)
Melanie Orr would be eligible to seek selection in either Grimsby North & Barton or Grimsby South and Cleethorpes. Both, however, would be Conservative.
Holly Walker-Lynch faces a similar situation, under Labour rules she can apply for Calder Valley or Halifax, but they are both notionally Tory.
Finally, in the sorriest situation of all are Margaret Greenwood and Alison McGovern. They are both only eligible to seek selection in the new Bebington & Heswall seat… and even if they do get it, it’s now notionally Tory.

So, by my reckoning there will probably be around 15 re-selection battles where a sitting Labour MP faces up against another sitting Labour MP on the provisional boundaries, though remember that these are subject to change (and it only takes a small adjustment by the boundary commission to shift the number of voters from an old seat above or below 40%). It’s also worth noting that you don’t need boundary changes for a deselection – there is a normal trigger ballot process than can be used to deselect an MP and some of the speculation about deselections – Peter Kyle for example – is not due to Labour seats being merged together.

553 Responses to “Boundary changes – the impact on Labour reselections…”

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  1. I suspect Mike Gapes might retire as well. Will be 67 in 2020 and has health problems. He reportedly indicated he might retire before the last election as well (see the Ilford South thread) . Forest Gate and Loxford ( if it does not change in consultation which is possible) would be my seat. Dame Margaret Hodge also seems a possible retirement being that she will be 75 in 2020. I personally expect a new Labour Mp if Forest Gate and Loxford does become a constituency

  2. Depressing set of interviews this morning. Not much sign of the unity everyone claims to be seeking. In particular, though, we have McDonnell displaying his version of “kinder gentler politics”, with his familiar inability to admit even the slightest error even when the whole world knows his language about McVey was beyond the pale.

    Every time he is caught saying something unconscionable, he tries to wriggle out of it by saying he was joking, or quoting someone else, or it was an honest expression of anger, or some other obvious falsehood. There are clear personality types who do this, who refuse to own their own actions.

    Never mind Corbyn. When it comes to the election the Tories will have a field day with McDonnell. It will be so so easy for them to hold him up as a man who should not be let anywhere near any sort of levers of power. Soubry’s calling him a “nasty piece of work” on QT is something that will resonate with most of the country. Instead of attacking Corbyn, who may be incompetent as a leader but does seem to believe his own rhetoric, McDonnell is who the PLP should have been seeking to undermine.

    What would the Momentum Tendency be saying if e.g. Tristram Hunt had called someone a “stain on humanity” and refused to apologise. They would be jumping up and down demanding his suspension from the party. What’s sauce for the goose…

  3. Splitting a post to try and rescue it from automod…

    Depressing set of interviews this morning. Not much sign of the unity everyone claims to be seeking. In particular, though, we have McDonnell displaying his version of a “kinder gentler politics”, with his familiar inability to admit even the slightest error even when the whole world knows his language about McVey was beyond the pale.

    Every time he is caught saying something unconscionable, he tries to wriggle out of it by saying he was joking, or quoting someone else, or it was an honest expression of anger, or some other excuse. There are clear personality types who do this, who refuse to own their own actions.

  4. Never mind Corbyn. When it comes to the election the Tories will have a field day with McDonnell. It will be so so easy for them to hold him up as a man who should not be let anywhere near any sort of levers of power. Soubry’s calling him a “nasty piece of work” on QT is something that will resonate with most of the country.

    What would the Momentum Tendency be saying if e.g. Tristram Hunt had called someone a “stain on humanity” and refused to apologise. They would be jumping up and down demanding his suspension from the party. What’s sauce for the goose…

  5. Anthony

    A lot of work went into this post. Thank you.

    I think there will be more compromises than you suggest, but we will see.

  6. @Laszlo

    I agree that there will likely be a lot of behind the scene negotiations on this. Also, there will be plenty of submissions to the Boundary Commission suggesting changes, some of which may partly be motivated by the consideration above.

    For instance, the Sheffield boundaries are a mess. Sheffield Hallam is in two halves, with nothing to do with each other (no obvious route from one end to the other without leaving the constituency). Revision of these boundaries could have an effect on e.g. Paul Blomfield’s seat.

  7. This is positive for labour, in that it looks like the new boundaries will created fewer opportunities for internicine battles than some would have thought.

    It all then hangs on whether wider deselection moves are pushed for by Corbyn supporters.

  8. Robin

    I thought this LP leadership election was about the unity of the LP … And certainly not about slandering your fellow party members (you know those 59% who voted for Corbyn).

    It is funny though that you chose Hunt as an example, as one of the satirical websites chose him as the one who would first apply for being a Tory candidate, and if it fails, then LibDem.

  9. Corbyn

    “We are going through, unfortunately, a boundary change, every constituency boundary is going to change. Therefore a new selection will have to take place in every single constituency. Where the sitting MP has a substantial geographic coverage in the new area, they will automatically be shortlisted.”

    That is a statement that there will be automatic reselection. Shortlisting is what happens when the sitting MP has not be readopted so that there is open nomination.
    Of course, it may just be Corbyn’s incompetence showing itself again, not understanding what he is saying.

  10. @Laszlo

    What slander? I certainly don’t think “Momentum Tendency” refers to 59% of the membership. But is does refer to those who are still posting comments like “Purge Them All” on other fora.

  11. Thank you Anthony, this must have taken quite some time to put together.

    @Robin. Yes Corbyn categorically stated that everyone faced reselection. Definitely a policy that will ensure the civil war’s continuance.

  12. Yes, thanks Anthony. Very thorough, and also very interesting. Does anyone know how long it will take for revisions to be processed and debated? Presumably it would be good to get it done before 2020.

    I’ve heard complaints that the Boundary commission hasn’t taken account of voter registrations for the referendum, but the register they use will still be much more up to date than the one on which the current boundaries were set which must have been at least 10 years ago.

  13. Corbyn confirmed that he planned to appoint a minister for peace and disarmament, who would focus on negotiating solutions to conflicts around the world.

    Is there no end to this political ineptitude? A minister for disarmament. That’ll win over Middle England and the Patriotic Working Classes.

  14. Thanks for this analysis. However, you made one mistake in Birmingham. Richard Burgon represents Leeds East. I think you meant Richard Burden (Northfield).

    [Thanks Robin – AW]

  15. Thank you for all the hard work but I am not sure that its relevant, the threat to most Labour MPs will be losing in a General Election. Current Polling, in a period where most voters are barely aware of Politics, is not much use. On the ground, where real votes are being cast, Labour support is slowly ebbing away while The Libdem recovery happens beneath the medias radar.
    If there is no “Snap Election” we will know more after next Mays Locals, my guess is that only Labour MPs in ultra-safe seats can be sure of survival in a General Election.

  16. The Birmingham changes are quite radically different as well as the break-up of Birmingham Hall Green.

    The question is who would want to fight Birmingham Selly Oak and Halesowen? Its marginally Tory but winnable.

    I can’t see Steve McCabe being shifted from Birmingham Brandwood given it contains his powerhouse wards Billesley and Brandwood along with a ward he used to represent before the last boundary changes in Springfield.

    Both Jess Phillips and Gisela Stuart maintain a large proportion of their existing constituencies (3 wards apiece) in Birmingham Yardley and Birmingham Edgbaston.

    Richard Burden (not Richard Burgon as stated in the article – an understandable typo) looks most vulnerable to a Roger Godsiff challenge for Birmingham Northfield if it were to occur.

    The other problem is that because Birmingham wards are being thrown up into the air, it will have new MP constituencies based on old ward structures. Go figure.

  17. I’ll be sorry to see the disappearance of Vernon Coaker’s old seat. It always led me to imagine a certain solidarity among the Commons’s auto-spelling-correction victims at Witherington, Gelding and Meridian.

  18. Under the new Labour Party rules Corbyn is the choice of the majority of the dwindling number of Labour supporters.
    There are however millions of Labour voters who voted to Leave the EU and many others who do not believe in Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament, are not anti Israel, pro Hamas, the IRA, other anti British organisations or in favour of unlimited and uncontrolled immigration which are the stated policies of their leader.
    The fact that the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party who were elected by the voters will not support his views and that he cannot persuade enough of them to serve in his Shadow Cabinet is a stark warning to Labour activists, that they may be damaging Labour fatally.
    As a Democrat I fear for our country and our democracy, as it is bad to have an ineffective opposition.
    The Shadow Chancellor has said that Labour will use the house of Lords to thwart the elected government, which may force the government to reduce the house of Lords to mirror the house of Commons by abolishing several hundred in the same way as Tony Blair did when he was in power.
    This would be a good thing to save the vast waste of money and together with the reduction of the number to MP’s will be a welcome change.

  19. AW

    Thanks for this, any chance of a similar analysis for the Conservatives? Seeing who is in danger might give a good indication as to whether the boundaries will pass or be defeated by the forces of self interest.

    Paul Barker

    I suppose it does highlight the scramble for “ultra safe seats”. If Labour is defeated by anything like we are seeing in the polls, then scrambling for notional Labour seats will be in vain (apart from at least putting up a fight to at least be a candidate in a “winnable” seat if they want to play the long game).

    What do you consider an “ultra safe seat”?

  20. “Reduce the House of Lords” used to mean ‘get rid of the landed gentry who have power because their great-grandfathers won at Waterloo’
    Now it means getting rid of party placemen (and women) and might well prove a popular policy.
    Personally I would like to see HoL competely replaced by a Senate elected by PR, so that the HoC could have its members elected simply to represent their constituents and hold the Executive (from that Senate?) in check. Chiefly so that that check could not be undermined by the promise of Ministerial office. Back to the old system of a HoC MP appointed a minister meaning a by-election.
    Major changes to the present system, but not before time.

  21. @Alan

    I agree that a similar analysis of Tory seats would be interesting, and I second the call for AW to do even more (much appreciated) work on our behalf :)

    I’m not sure about the likelihood of retirements smoothing the process. My recollection is that MPs get some sort of pay-off if they stand again and lose, but not if they simply stand aside. So monetary considerations may come into the picture.

  22. Dave
    Sounds like a good plan. I always thought there was a better argument to keep hereditary peers than to let the PM of the day appoint his cronies, because hereditaries could afford to take a long view and not be overly concerned about the next election.

    If we can’t have them though, it must surely only be a matter of another hundred years or so before we get an elected HoL.

  23. Robin,

    Based on his QT performance, I think that McDonnell’s problem is that he’s too flappable. He had a huge opportunity to seem statesmanlike in comparison to Anna Soubry and (to a lesser extent) Alistair Campbell, but ended up losing his cool and lowering himself to their level. They baited him and he took the bait – not impressive for a propsective chancellor.

    I can’t see George Osborne, Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, or Ken Clarke being so easily trapped. Whatever else you can say about them, they were all far above-average when it came to political cunning.

  24. @BP

    Yes, he’s very much a “speak now, engage brain later (if at all)” politician. But all that means is that what he says exposes the real him. And it isn’t a pleasant sight.

  25. Alan/Robin –

    The Conservative party’s rules are far less structured. Currently any MP can apply for any seat that contains *any* of their existing seat. If more than one go for the same seat, there is a contest between just the two of them. If any MP is left without a seat they can go to any seat in their sub-region (and go to the final round), any seat in their region (where they go to the longlist), or any seat in the country (where they get a guaranteed interview). If those are still the rules we’ll just have to see how it plays out, it’s far too lose to predict.

    There were some proposed new rules earlier this year which are far more like the Labour rules:
    Under those, MPs would be reselected if their seat makes up 2/3rd of the new seat, of if it makes up more than 50% and no other MP’s seat makes up more than a quarter.
    If one Tory MP has more than 50% and another Tory MP has more than 25% then there is a selection between just those two.
    If no Tory MP has more than 40% (of if the MP is retiring) then any Tory MP with any share of the seat can go into a selection between just those MPs applying.
    If those rules do get confirmed, then it will be worth doing the same exercise for Tory seats.

  26. When referring to Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, it is perhaps wise to re-phrase “someone is going to get stuffed”.

  27. @AW

    Thanks for that. Now that the recommendations are out, I suspect that there will be some calculations done at Tory HQ to identify the impact of the rule changes, and they will adopt the rules that make a rebellion less likely.

  28. Robin

    Sorry, as the first part of your comment didn’t come through automod, I could read only the second part, so my reply was kind of (nota bene) unjust.

    Apologies for that.

  29. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/23/trump-is-headed-for-a-win-says-professor-whos-predicted-30-years-of-presidential-outcomes-correctly/

    Off topic for the boundary changes, but I thought that this piece was sufficiently interesting to post it.

    The article is the opinion of a professor in the US who has correctly predicted the outcome of the US presidential elections for the past 32 years.
    It outlines his methodology, which is not based on polling but other current factors .

    The point of polling is of course to correctly predict the intention or opinions of a group of people, but it is not the only way to do this.

    Even if you don’t like the prediction (and many won’t) it’s worth a read.

  30. Thoughtful
    Interesting. He hedges his bets though. e.g.
    “Donald Trump has made this the most difficult election to assess since 1984. We have never before seen a candidate like Donald Trump, and Donald Trump may well break patterns of history that have held since 1860.” and
    “So this would also suggest, you know, the possibility this election could go either way.”

  31. I find it funny (well, kind of) that the Labour First, Progress MPs are actually copying (down to every letter) the Trotskyist tactic of 1925-27 (yes, this statement is correct) and they accuse the other side with “revolutionary socialism” (sic), and Trotsyist entryism. That tactic didn’t end well.

    I really feel sorry for the LP, and apart from the corrective measures which I don’t indulge, I really don’t see a way out for them.

    So unless something happens, Labour will stay in the polls where it is.

  32. Surely, it’s not the MPs who decide which constituency they can choose.

    It’s the constituency party members who decide which candidate best represents their views.

    That’s my understanding of democracy….

  33. Thoughtful

    The “has predicted the last 7 elections” isn’t actually that impressive.

    If a thousand monkeys flipped coins for the last 7 elections, you’d expect 8 of them to get the same result.

    It doesn’t make that set of monkeys any more likely to get the next election right more than any other monkey and his coin.

    Just like the one monkey out of the infinite set of monkeys who did produce the entire works of Shakespeare wasn’t special, his next line is just as likely to be “fkljfjdakfdsklj” as any other monkey.

    I suspect there are a lot more than 1000 people who predicted the results of the last 7 elections, so finding people who got them all right will be relatively easy. It’s a known problem called survivor bias.

    To connect it to polling, If you had enough “pollsters” who didn’t ask anyone any questions but just published a random number as a “prediction” before each election, one of them will get it right, it doesn’t mean that particular pollsters method was correct.

    It’s hard to know if the pollster who was closest to the actual result had a better methodology or was right due to a coincidence of unmeasured factors.

    The headline is also pretty much the standard clickbait formula.

  34. @Alan

    That would be no better than the odds of pure chance, whereas this man who presumably as a university professor has a respectable academic background has devised a methodology which he claims works.

    The interest here is the methodology he has devised, in addition he has written a book about it which he is undoubtedly anxious to plug.

  35. Laszlo

    Are their parallels in Soviet history of the party leader wanting to use party democracy to select national delegates to the Supreme Soviet, in order to bypass the dictatorship of the national leader in nominating such apparatchiks?

    I ask in relation to this spat at the NEC between Dugdale and Corbyn –


  36. Thoughtful,

    But how many of us here, without our own methodology or much academic experience could have done the same thing?

    Of the last 7 UK elections I suspect most of us would have done fairly well.


  37. @Peter Cairns

    Without using a methodology then who do you predict the US presidential elections?

    I doubt many people would have predicted Major Vs Kinnock, the coalition, nor the Cameron Vs Milliband which the polling was way out of kilter.

  38. IT will be interesting if Anthony does the same excercise for Scotland as with all but three of the seats in Scotland and no other party having more than one, all the possible contests between incumbents will by within the SNP.

    It looks very like my own constituency will be top and bottom sliced into Caithness and Argyll with the middle where I am joining Inverness.

    Could be a straight contest between;

    Drew Hendry and Ian Blackford!


  39. Thoughtful

    Which was my point, sometimes things that can look impressive can actually be expected even if left to pure chance.

    Looking at what he has done, I suspect he has created well over a thousand (and quite easily millions) of possible combinations of “keys” as he considered a lot more keys before selecting this particular set as they fitted his data.

    It’s a real risk when generating so many models that you find one that perfectly fits the data but doesn’t generalise well outside the data. With so few data points, fitting a model with 13 degrees of freedom seems ridiculously prone to overfitting.

    It’s all very slick and his “best out of x” rule will resonate with a lot of laymen as will the “keys to the White House” theme and undoubtedly he’ll sell a lot of books (which is his main aim, hence the clickbait style lead in, I’ve seen the same headline generated in google searches I’ve made in the past, so likely he is getting it pushed up google page rank in the hope of making sales.)

    Decision trees can be very good at fitting data, but they are very prone to overfitting small data sets. I suspect he created many trees that all perfectly fit his data and then selected by hand the one which fitted the last 7 elections as well. I also suspect he picked the one that had Trump as the winner so her could generate a few headlines by being the guy who “predicted the upset” and picking the favourite would be met with a “yeah, so what?”

    Given a few million shots at it, it’s not surprising he got a perfect answer.

    I’d treat this with a great big dollop of skepticism.

  40. Dave: “Personally I would like to see HoL competely replaced by a Senate elected by PR,”

    I agree, and I suspect polling would show this to be a popular move.

    The simplest way would be by party list, with E, W, S & NI as the constituencies. I think 450 members would be about right, and I’d have no problem with W, S & NI being moderately over-weighted – say, 325 for England, 65 for Scotland, 40 for Wales and 20 for NI.

    An alternative would be to divide England into regions, but I think setting it up on a country basis would be a better preparation for an ultimate federal assembly. A natural evolution would be for the HoC to become an English national assembly.

    And, of course, the Senate could be located somewhere more central like Leicester, or even rotate between the national assemblies.

    Simple party lists would be fine, but I quite like the old idea of reserving a proportion of seats for the ‘best losers’ in the national elections.

    All pie in the sky, of course, until we get a genuinely reform-minded administration.

  41. Good Afternoon all, from the new seat, in 2020, of Bournemouth South. (Three Tory MP’s seem to be in contention for two seats in my area of Bournemouth and Christchurch). Maybe Chris Chope will retire.

    AW: thank you very much for such an illuminating piece.

    With regard to the LP: I know one person who contributes to UKPR who is in deep grief, having left the LP after 45 years membership.

    In the 1930’s the Labour Party split, with a weak Tory and Lib Govt
    in very dangerous times.

  42. They’re both similar ages and originally from Edinburgh. I’d go for Blackford because he has more significant business experience based on those biographies.

  43. Re MPs relocating

    I’m always reminded of the Tory Ian Sproat (who beat Donald Dewar in 1970, and was re-elected (though never with my Mum’s vote!) 3 times there before moving “to contest Roxburgh and Berwickshire believing that this was a ‘safer’ seat. However, Aberdeen South was held by the Conservatives, while Roxburgh and Berwickshire fell to the Liberal”s [Wiki]

    It’s unusual for a Tory candidate to successfully please so many people in the North-East and the Borders simultaneously! :-)

  44. OldNat

    “Are their parallels in Soviet history of the party leader wanting to use party democracy to select national delegates to the Supreme Soviet, ”

    Getty claimed a number of times that the origins (not the cause) of the great purge was that the centre (Stalin) wanted to bypass the local, regional and country-level bureaucracy, and wanted to give more power to the membership (or for that matter, for non party members, as they were allowed to attend the meetings in which the corrupt, drunkard, etc. bureaucrats were criticised -‘not quite the Momentum :-)) in electing the cadre at all levels, hence replacing the appointed bureaucracy (they needed people who could read and write, and had local networks) with elected members, executives. Getty analysed a number of minutes of such meetings, and how they were conducted (town hall meetings really).

    Anyway, the democratisation attempt (if it was that) failed when four major regional leaders warned Stalin that he should stop this “giving a say to the members”. Eventually (in 1937) they were executed. The democratisation attempt (if it was such) ended up with even more bureaucracy, because that was the easiest, quickest way to deal with the bureaucracy (I know that it is contradictory). JVS returned to the idea (actually floated first by Lenin when he proposed a vast expansion of the Worker-Poor Peasant Controlling Committee on the basis of election to outnumber the “delegates of the Soviet bureaucracy”) once more in 1947, but that was even a non-starter, so it didn’t happen.

  45. Laszlo

    Thank you!

    While I did study Russian history, it was in my Junior Honours year – when I was much more interested in my girlfriend than my studies!

    “Eventually (in 1937) they were executed.”

    I’m no great fan of Dugdale (especially after her interview with Gordon Brewer today) – but execution seems a bit extreme!

  46. OldNat

    I’m against capital punishment. One of the reasons (although not the main) is the madness of 1936-38 in the Soviet Union.

    One of the leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party (in Moscow) accused four of his opponents that they were Trotskyists, so they were arrested, and three didn’t survive the time until the authorities actually investigated the claim. Accusing leader with his followers were arrested with the accusation of Trotskyism – of the 11 three survived and were rehabilitated. The oddity is that one of the three surviving, rehabilitated members was actually Trotskyist.

    In the 1920-30s The Red Flag published the names of the police moles in the communist movements in Central Europe. The tragedy is that most of the listed people were innocent in this accusation. The confusion for historians when drawing the conclusions is that many were correctly identified.

  47. @Somerjohn

    There are some very valid objections to an elected HoL, especially when what its primary function is taken into account.

    The second chamber is supposed to evaluate , and modify government business, impartially, and with the well being of the people in mind. Election of this house would inevitably bring a new set of political rubber stampers to power, with the mandate of yes to everything, or no to everything as in the US.

    What we really need is a second house full of appointed experts in as many fields as it is possible to get, to be able to scrutinise government business with an inside & in depth knowledge. We need them to be free of the spectre of elections and party whips, so they can do the right thing without fear or favour.

  48. Thoughtful

    The problem is then getting enough of these experts to leave the field they are in to scrutinise legislation full time.

    I suspect you might need to pay them a lot more than you do MPs to get enough talent to fill the Lords.

  49. Laszlo

    “I’m against capital punishment.”

    I’d assumed that. Most reasonable, decent people are.

    Correction – ALL reasonable, decent people are!

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