An update on the boundary review. Back in September I published notional figures for the proposed boundaries in England & Wales. I’ve now updated those to include Scotland as well (this is partly because the Scottish boundary Commission published later, but it also took much longer to do – the Scottish Commission are much happier to split wards between constituencies, which probably leads to constituencies that better follow communities… but it makes it trickier to work out notional figures.)

Notional figures for new boundaries for England, Wales and Scotland

The partisan effects in Scotland are no great surprise. The SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats in 2015, so it was inevitable that most of the losses will be SNP. That aside, on the new boundaries they will be even more dominant. Orkney & Shetland is a protected seat so the sole Liberal Democrat constituency is retained, but Labour and the Conservatives will both see their single Scottish constituency disappear on the new boundaries.

Edinburgh South, the lone Labour seat in Scotland, is split between the new Edinburgh East and Edinburgh South West & Central seats. Both will notionally have an SNP majority of over 4000 – Edinburgh East will be a SNP-Lab marginal, with a SNP majority of 7.9%, Edinburgh SW&C will be a three-way marginal with the SNP in first place, the Conservatives in second place and Labour close behind them.

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale, the lone Tory seat in Scotland, mostly goes into Clydesdale & Eskdale, with the rest of the seat split into several much smaller parts. The new Clydesdale & Eskdale seat will have a notional SNP majority of about 5000. On paper the best seat for the Tories will be the new Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk seat, with a notional SNP majority of only 1.3% (though that’s an increase from 2015).

Now we have notional figures for the whole of Great Britain we can work out national totals and what sort of swings would be needed for parties to win a general election on these boundaries.

The 2015 general election had results of CON 330, LAB 232, LDEM 8, SNP 56, Others 24.
On the proposed boundaries the 2015 general election would have been CON 319, LAB 203, LD 4, SNP 52, Others 22. The Conservatives lose 11 seats, Labour lose 29, the Lib Dems 4 and the SNP 4.
Note that on the boundaries proposed for the abandoned review in the last Parliament the results would have been Con 322, Lab 204, LD 4 and SNP 50 – so this new boundary review is actually marginally worse for the Tories than the one that was blocked before the election.

I should add my normal caveat that these notionals are an accounting exercise – projecting how people voted in each ward, moving them into their new seats and totting up the votes. It does not take into account that some people might have voted differently in 2015 if they’d lived in different seats, for that reason I suspect it may slightly underestimate the Liberal Democrats (and it’s possible that the Greens might actually have saved their seat).

We can also look at what difference the boundaries would make to the leads each party needs to win an election.

  • Currently the Conservatives need to have a lead of 5.7% to get an overall majority (hence the 6.5% lead they actually got translating into only a tiny majority). On the proposed boundaries the Tories would get an overall majority with a lead of only 1.9%.
  • In contrast Labour currently need a towering lead of 12.6% to win an overall majority, and the boundary changes would move that target even further away, requiring a lead of 13.5%. To even be the largest party Labour would need a lead over the Conservatives of 4.7% (up from 3.9% on the current boundaries).

(One might reasonably wonder why, if the review makes nearly all the seats the same size, it still leaves the Conservatives in a better position than Labour. This is because different seat sizes is only one part of how votes translate unevenly into seats. The crucial part in explaining the present Conservative advantage is the distribution of the vote and the impact of third parties. The collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the growth of the SNP and UKIP means the system now favours the Conservatives. The Lib Dems are primarily strong in areas that would otherwise be Tory… but now win very few seats, UKIP have largely taken votes from the Tories, but this has not translated into many seats. In contrast the SNP are now utterly dominant in an area that previously returned a large number of Labour MPs. What this means if that if there is a Lib Dem revival or a Labour revival in Scotland the skew towards the Conservatives will unwind.)

These are only provisional recommendations – the boundary commissions will revise them based on the consultation period, so much of the detail will be tweaked before the final recommendations. It’s also far from a certainty that they will actually be implemented when they are complete. Earlier this month Pat Glass MP had a Private Members Bill which if passed would tweak some of the rules of the review, requiring the Commissions to start the process again from scratch and therefore probably delaying it beyond the election. I doubt the Bill will go far – it is nigh on impossible to pass a Private Members Bill in the face of government opposition. However, second reading did highlight some opposition to the boundary changes. Firstly, the DUP spoke against the boundary changes – there had been some speculation around conference season that there had been some sort of deal and the DUP were onside. They are apparently not. Secondly two Conservative MPs (Peter Bone and Steve Double) voted in favour of the Bill. It doesn’t take many rebels to stop the boundary changes progressing…

295 Responses to “Boundary review update”

1 2 3 4 6

    See my post to S THOMAS.

  2. @S Thomas – I think it is fair to say that actual results have been slightly kinder to Corbyn than current polls, but I think AW posted on these a while ago, with the conclusion along the lines that while real results are not the worst Labour have had, they are still worse than any opposition that has gone on to win power. [Please someone correct me on this if I have mis-remembered].

    One further point that needs to be born in mind when discussing how dep in the mire Labour really finds itself is the point AW makes in this thread. Cons need a 5.7% lead currently to have a majority, compared to Labour’s 12.6%, with these figures set to change to 1.9% and 13.5% respectively. Labour will need to be 5% ahead just to be sure of claiming largest party status.

    When reviewing recent polling history this also needs to be factored in. Labour’s dire performance isn’t just about the raw VI numbers – it’s about how these feed into likely seat numbers, and Labour is being crushed on all counts.

    Arguing on the extent of Labour’s problems is a bit like watching a drowning man and debating whether the water is six feet or six fathoms over his head. Either way, it’s irrelevant – he’s going to drown.

  3. ICM in recent months has moved to Online polling , so care needs to be taken when making comparisons with its former telephone polls.ICM has had a tendency to understate Labour – even in 1997 it was the only pollster to give Labour a smaller lead than reflectef in the actual outcome. A few commentators also have suggested that they – together with other pollsters – may have overadjusted for their 2015 polling debacle.

  4. AW did caution against assuming that the boundary changes will actually take place. It was interesting that 2 Tory backbenchers supported the Private Member’s Bill to keep the number of MPs at 650. I will be surprised if a good few more fail to rebel when the key vote occurs in Autumn 2018.

  5. re -Richmond by-election.. The following comment has appeared on the Vote UK Forum
    ‘“The feedback I’m getting from old Conservative hands working for Zac Goldsmith is that he, and the Conservative Party, have jointly blown it in the particular circumstances of this by-election, and the Lib Dems look like they are heading for victory.”

    If correct , the Tory majority will drop to 10 and so further erode the prospects of boundary changes being approved.

  6. Good to have some more polling to talk about. Obviously the latest ICM poll is dreadful for Labour and good news for th Conservatives.

    Others have already commented on various aspects of the poll but to me the most important was that the polling was conducted between 2-4 days after the Autumn Statement. So while the BBC were giving great publicity to the IFS assessment of the Autumn Statement which was rather gloomy.

    ICM reflected on the same point as follows in their write up:-

    “Much has been made of the economic forecasts and doom laden reflections of living standards. The Institute for Fiscal Studies last week labelled the last ten years as the “Dreadful Decade” and the Office for Budget Responsibility projected living standards to be further squeezed next year.

    But how do we reconcile economic analysis like this with public perceptions, which largely fail to reflect these miserable scenarios? ICM has been tracking financial confidence since October 01 and in the last ten years (since Aug 06), and there have been positive net confidence scores on twelve of the twenty two occasions, including on every one of the last six. Currently, 53% of the public have confidence for their own future financial position and ability to keep up with the cost of living, while 43% do not. This is a sizable drop from August when the gap was +34 compared to the current +10 but still firmly in positive territory.

    We also asked if people retrospectively recognise the Dreadful Decade. For the most part, they don’t. One in three (31%) believe that their living standards have got better over the last ten years, while 29% say they’ve worsened. More (34%) don’t see any change over the period.

    The only thing that is clear is that a disconnect exists between economic indicators and public experiences. Whether that is driven by ever increasing levels of retail purchasing intentions, (generally) decent employment prospects (even with the 2008 financial crash factored in) or net debt repayment over the period it’s hard to say, but the British consumer appears much more resilient to economic vagaries than economists imply.”

    I am sure both Remainers and Brexiters will be watching future polls to see if this position changes. It will be interesting to see if other polls reflect the same position. At the moment no negatives for May as she and the team continues detailed planning for Brexit.

  7. TOH

    Interesting points from the ICM write up.

    Cons at 44% -who would have thought it ?

  8. If ICM has Labour on 28 I suspect the real figure is 30/31.

  9. Barbazenzero

    Can a contracting party to the EEA abrogate A28 free movement of workers on the ground of public policy?
    That is certainly what the english text suggests( updated 2016.)
    If so the uk could move into the EEA for a transition periodprior to full departure. As a contracting state is outside the customs union the uk would be free to negotiate trade agreements with anyone it chose.

  10. Colin

    Yes amazing isn’t it. Both of us no doubt remeber other posters telling us that there could never be another Conservative only government and that the Conservatives could never get over 40% again etc etc.


    Your correct ICM polls tend to put the Conservtives higher and Labour lower than others. As regards the new boundaries I will repeat what I said to you the other day. I will be amazed if the don’t get through. Previously there was more Conservative members who were unhappy, so if only two now voting to stop the changes then when the actual vote comes i think it will get through without too much trouble.

  11. sorry remain in EEA

  12. @Graham – if true, that is an interesting snippet from Richmond. I was in the past very skeptical about such online statements from doorstep campaigners, but a week or so before the 2015 GE a poster on here (@Heather, I recall, but I may be mistaken) said that her experience door stepping for Labour in the Leeds area was not good. She said that her belief was that they weren’t going to gain Pudsey (I think that was the seat – it was a very close marginal at least).

    At the time I thought this can’t be right, as all the polls suggested the seat were going to go red, but her sense was spot on, and it was the first suggestion, well before polling day, that something major was afoot.

    Lib Dems certainly seem to be pretty chipper about Richmond, but then they are a bit like Jehovah’s Witnesses – relentlessly smiling despite being ridiculed by everyone.

  13. tancred

    that is why i used the words”parties not averse”. still a bit ostrich like to say meaningless!

  14. TOH
    But two Tories actually went so far as to support a Labour MP’s Private Member’s Bill – which actually surprises me. On the substantive vote due in Autumn 2018 I would expect more rebels plus quite a few abstentions. When the boundary proposals were published in September a senior Tory suggested there was a 60% chance of them not happening.

  15. Graham

    why dont we bring back rotton boroughs as well.Surely it is in the interests of Democracy that constituencies reflect the population?We should all be ashamed that those great democrats the liberals stopped it the last time.

  16. Graham

    Unless Zac is going to retake the Tory whip in a year or so, their majority is going to reduce anyway.

    Considering the Tories aren’t fighting this election there is a chance he’s done some sort of deal which allows him to stamp his feet in public but will contest the seat as a Tory in 2020.

    If he retakes the whip before 2020 will that enable another by-election as he was elected as an independent? I know it’s fashionable to ask for a mandate when crossing the floor these days…

  17. GRAHAM

    Yes I have heard all that and I still expect them to go through. The Tories want to stay in power above all else. Anything they think will help that will eventually be supported by the MP’s. As somebody else said when we discussed this before any dissenters can be offered a cosy number in th Lords. Not something I approve of but a likely solution IMO, to any problems.

  18. @TOH – it is very interesting to see the apparent disconnect between confidence and historical data.

    I have a couple of thoughts.

    Firstly, the IFS is right about living standards over the last ten years, and people are wrong. While there are always some errors within economic data, the series looking at earnings and living standards is pretty comprehensive, with multiple different ways to collect and assess the data, and there is abundant evidence that, on average, household earnings have stagnated for most people. People just don’t have such good memories, and have adjusted their habits to suit new circumstances. It’s quite hard to spot incremental changes, so many people think the last ten years have been OK.

    Second, ICM has picked up a marked recent shift in current confidence. Their measure is shifting down sharply, and this fits well with other survey data asking people about how they view the next year. While ICM is still positive, if this rate of decline continues, it would be negative in a month or so. Overall, surveys tend to confirm consumers are now much more gloomy, matching the general tone of economic forecasters. I think the analysis of ICM is wrong on this.

    Thirdly, and in a somewhat contrary manner, I think there is a strange split between consumers past and current confidence, and what they think about the future. We’ve just had some very bullish retail spending figures, and consumer debt is rising faster than at any time since 2006. Clearly, while consumers confidence levels regarding the next twelve months may be falling back and turning negative, they are currently still thinking things are OK.

    This brings us back to the apparent disconnect between consumers and analysts. Perhaps consumers are believing the gloomy reports, and starting to think things will get tough, even if they aren’t feeling it themselves at present.

    I think we are at a genuinely difficult point in the economic cycle. Most sensible people (well – you and me) agree that Brexit will have some negative effects, short term at least, and consumers can’t continue indefinitely loading up with debt. They apparently believe the tales of doom for the future, but seem to feel OK now, but my worry is that when debt fueled spending comes to an end, there tends o be a double hit to the economy.

    After happy consumers load up with debt, if their mood turns darker, not only do they reduce spending, but they also then try to reduce debts, sucking more money out of the economy. With inflation building, and debt rocketing, we’ve got a tricky mix to deal with, if consumer confidence really does follow through on the forward looking surveys.

  19. “Besides, many people only vote tactically for the Lib-Dems and the polls don’t show this.”

    Yes, Dodgy must wake up every morning and thank the great polling guru in the sky that thank heavens LibDems did so much better in the GE than prior polling suggested, owing to tactical voting etc.

    Think how bad it could have been otherwise. They could have been reduced to single figures or summat…

  20. Lol I didn’t mean dodgy, I meant Clegg. Autocorrect has a sense of humour…

  21. S Thomas

    There are many people who find the idea of boundary changes acceptable who have no wish to see the number of MPs reduced to 600! That is the key point here.

  22. Graham
    Indeed. I seem to remember that a Labour slogan in 1964 was ’13 years of Tory misrule’!

  23. @ToH

    Don’t forget the impact of house price rises on a sector of the population

    And as boomers have been insulated from a lot of downsides and austerity, and are about the only group to see incomes rise, they’ll be quite happy overall, and there are quite a few boomers…

  24. I should say the POSITIVE impact of house prices on some…

  25. carfrew

    I think you were right tthe first time.

  26. @S Thomas

    “why dont we bring back rotton boroughs as well.Surely it is in the interests of Democracy that constituencies reflect the population?”


    But by making it about registered voters not the whole population it doesnt necessarily reflect the whole population.

    And it needlessly penalises peeps who choose not to vote, to the benefit of Tories…

    Also the focus is on compensating for the inefficient distribution of the Tory vote neglecting how it impacts negatively on smaller parties.

  27. @S Thomas

    Well, to be accurate, autocorrect may have been right. Wish I could prove it was autocorrect ‘cos some might not believe me. But it really was!…

  28. S THOMAS
    Can a contracting party to the EEA abrogate A28 free movement of workers on the ground of public policy?

    Great question but not easy to answer. A28 specifically excludes free movement re employment in the public service and specifically only mentions “workers” but not their families. It also refers to specific provisions on movement in Annex V. All the texts are available here, but Annex V is 3 pages consisting mainly of cross references to other texts, some of which are referred to as safeguard mechanisms.

    I have no interest or skills in trawling through those, so I’ll close with the response I gave to THE OTHER HOWARD yesterday: My understanding differs only slightly from yours, in that the free movement of workers is potentially less rigorous.

    PS: There was a nice quote from Con MP Anna Soubry in Holyrood Magazine’s UK Government to face legal challenge over withdrawal from single market re EEA A127:
    There are no inevitable outcomes. There is no mandate for one particular Brexit option. The only question on the ballot paper was whether to leave, which we will, but how we execute our extraction must be debated.

  29. “Labour were going to be hammered according to the national polls . . .”

    No they weren’t, according to the national polls in the lead up to the May 2016 elections they were a couple of points behind Tories on average, at worst.

    A far cry from the current 10-16 points they are consistently polling behind them now.

  30. S THOMAS

    One thought on A28 would be to nationalise the workforce and to make all but the self-employed employees of the state, contracted out to private employers where possible and paid nett of tax etc.

  31. BT SAYS
    ‘“Labour were going to be hammered according to the national polls . . .”

    ‘No they weren’t, according to the national polls in the lead up to the May 2016 elections they were a couple of points behind Tories on average, at worst.

    A far cry from the current 10-16 points they are consistently polling behind them now.’

    That is fair enough, but at local by elections – last week at Pendle for example – Labour is still managing quite a few swings in its favour compared with May 2016 – and indeed from the elections held between 2013 and 2015!

  32. How many more unexpected complications to the Brexit process are there likely to be?

  33. Alec – “They apparently believe the tales of doom for the future, but seem to feel OK now, but my worry is that when debt fueled spending comes to an end, there tends o be a double hit to the economy. ”

    Why are you assuming that spending is “debt-fueled”?

    The govt produces something called the “English Housing Survey” at the start of each year. Here is the last one which covers 2014-2015:

    The thing that should jump out at you is that households who own their homes outright are now 33% of all households in England. An all time high.

    In the United States those who own outright are about 20% and in Germany it’s about 19.5%.

    Of those who own outright 4.6 million had at least one person in the household over 65. 3 million households who own outright are under 65 and working. And we’re only talking about England here. If we assume two people per household, that is about 15 million people altogether who own outright.

    What happened is that when the 2008 recession hit, interest were cut. The govt hoped people would go out and spend, but a section of households decided instead to use the unexpected windfall to pay their mortgages down. This delayed the recovery – but by 2014 when we had a crossover and those who own outright became the biggest group and the economy started to motor.

    That’s because these people are in an incredibly safe place both physically and psychologically. And those who are still working now have an enormous disposable income, and it is this group that is keeping Brexit Britain going.

    Of those who still have mortgages, there is another tranche who have very low mortgages and close to paying the debt off. And those who have taken out mortgages since 2008 have been subject to affordability rules, and none have interest only mortgages, so their debt sinks month by month.

    All that is left to tackle are those in rented places. The govt bearing down hard on buy-to-let landlords to stop them competing with first-time buyers, and is trying to ease the life of renters by banning letting fees etc to allow them to save a deposit.

    We’ve never been in such a strong situation.

    I think lots of economic models have assumed that mortgaged households are the biggest group – and that has definitely been the case in the last 35 years. But in 2014 that changed, the dynamics are now quite different.

    As the number of people who own outright continue to grow, we have a stabalising group that is impervious to external threats. Interest rate rises, brexit, world war three, none of these things will put them off their shopping, because they’re in a safe place.

  34. @Candy

    What proportion of those who own outright are boomers?

  35. @Carfrew

    61% have at least one person in the household who are ovcer 65. Those are the boomers – 4.6 million households.

    39% of those who own outright are under 65 – three million households. And 31% of those who own outright are working.

    It’s the group that are working that is the new development. They’re the reason those who own outright are now the biggest group. They’ve basically used the years from 2008-2014 to overpay their mortgages instead of spending, and how their disposable incomes are huge and they can reward themselves by finally splurging.

    IMO this is the reason for the unexpected performance of the economy.

  36. BT

    sorry was referring to the national polls before the local gov elections.The 2015 election is but a distant memory…

  37. That should say “now their disposable incomes are huge”.

    How many more unexpected complications to the Brexit process are there likely to be?

    On HMG performance so far, I’d guess at least in the teens. They haven’t even started on the hard stuff like the Belfast Agreement yet which involves other countries.

  39. Barazenzero

    A28 also allows a contracting state to abrogate free movement of workers on the grounds of public policy .
    public policy has a definition which i gave in an earlier post.

  40. S THOMAS

    I can’t spot a post of yours which links to a definition. Please re-post the link or reference the thread and page of the relevant post.

    A28#3 begins: It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health

    It’s the word “justified” which bothers me, but I didn’t find a direct reference to it in Annex 5. It’s possible that you are right but the $64,000 question is: To whom must it be justified?

    BTW, please use BZ if you don’t have access to copy & paste.

  41. @Candy – it’s a neat theory, but not really backed up by the data.

    This month, PwC have reported unsecured consumer debt has outstripped the previous 2008 record and is now at £270bn, and up 10% year on year, while the household savings ratio (excl. pensions) is negative. The OBR expects this to worsen, and their current forecasts suggests households will continue to spend more than they earn well into the next decade.

    A Money Charity Report also suggests total household debt (including mortgages) now stands at an all time record of £1.5tr, and combining this with the OBR figures, clearly the expectation is that this figure will rise substantially.

    If strong spending is accompanied by rising household debt and actual falls in household savings, it’s fairly safe to assume that much of the spending is ‘debt fueled’.

  42. @Alec

    The population is much bigger than it was in 2008, which means the unsecured debt per household is lower than in 2008.

    As for your money charity report – where is it getting it’s figures from? “Estimates” designed to persuade people to donate to that charity?

    The buy-to-let sector has a lot of debt, most landlords typically own at least 5 properties which are all on interest only mortgages, and the govt is trying to force them to deleverage.

    But as you are well aware, btl landlords arn’t the drivers of consumer spending, and pretending that their debt actually belongs to owner-occupier households and will force households to cut spending is very very dubious…

  43. Alec

    Interesting thoughts on the apparent disconnect.

    I agree that the IFS is certainly correct for the period from I think, about 2008, so nearly 10 years. You may be correct that people have unconsciously adjusted to changing circumstances without noticing. I guess these days if you have a reasonable job which appears stable and you can get by OK then you feel OK about things.

    Yes, I noticed that confidence had declined sharply although still +10. Clearly it may decline further but at the moment that decline is certainly not doing the Government any harm.
    I suspect that consumers do think next year will be worse and as a result may be buying things now rather than next year, especially as they have been told inflation will increase.

    Finally yes, the next two years do look like being tricky, something we both accept. As I say the interesting thing as we go forward is will this reflect in the polls and if so how.


    Your point about housing is well made. As you know I’ve always accepted that my generation and the Boomers had real advantages over the following generation.

  44. S Thomas

    So was I referring to the polls before this year’s local elections, i.e. I knew that was what you were referring to also.


    Local elections on a national scale do give some, albeit limited, indicators of electabilities of parties at ensuing General Elections.

    Local by-elections, on the other hand, tell us pretty close to nothing as an indicator of General Elections. They are far too based on local factors, and sometimes – like Parliamentary by-elections, though not as much as these of course – with more resources than can possibly be done on a national scale at a General Election.

  45. Candy

    Your 2.45 is an interesting argument and I will give it some though. Certainly I do know quite a few people who paid down their mortgages in that period.

  46. Candy.

    Thank you for your 2.45 post. That is the sort of contribution that makes sites like this worth visiting.

  47. BT SAYS

    I appreciate your point re – local by elections being influenced by local issues. Nevertheless, I would still expect to see some evidence of a pattern of stronger Tory performance – yet outside Scotland there is very little.

  48. On the markets the trend for the Footsie 100 and 250 continues slowly downward. On the money markets the Pound is up against the $, Euro and Yen after a little setback yesteday. Money market has been generally OK for the £ since the Autumn Statement.

  49. @ Candy

    Still desperately paying down the mortgage in the hope of beating the interest rate rise, and nowhere near having oodles of spare cash.

    However, provided the triple lock is kept for pensions and my wife continues to work until she is 65 and doesn’t get kicked out by the Brexiteers I suppose we might be able to afford a foreign holiday every now and again once I reach retirement age, which will be 70, I expect……

    Nice theory though, and it must be my fauilt that I’m just slightly too young to be classified by you as a ‘boomer’


  50. @John B

    You won’t have oodles of cash till you’ve paid it off (while you are overpaying you have less cash to spend).

    My older sister is 43 and she and her husband have paid theirs off. They’re now having a very good time of it and can afford all sorts of stuff for their little boy.

    I’m overpaying mine, and have a bit to go. You’d be surprised how many people out there are overpaying their mortgages, and once they achieve it, they feel very, very good. Very happy and start spending with abandon.

1 2 3 4 6