Boundary update

This is largely for the sake of completeness, since as things stand I doubt the boundary changes will take place, nevertheless I thought I should really update the notional figures for the provisional boundary review.

Calculating how the votes cast at the 2017 election would have translated into seats using the proposed boundaries the Conservatives would have won 298 seats (19 less than currently), Labour would have won 244 (18 less than currently), the Lib Dems would have won 8 (4 less than currently), the SNP 30 (five less than currently), Plaid 2 (2 less than currently). As you can see, the Conservatives and Labour would lose about the same number of seats, but the Conservatives would have been nearer to an overall majority and once you’ve taken away Sinn Fein MPs, may have been able to avoid doing a deal with the DUP.

Regular readers will recall that before the election it looked as if the boundary reviews would have favoured the Tories more – I suspect this change is largely because the 2017 election happened to produce a lot of very marginal seats, and that small boundary changes have flipped some of these in Labour’s favour. If you look at how it affects the swings the two parties would need to win a majority it’s clear that the boundary changes would still help the Tories:

  • On the the new boundaries the Conservatives would need a lead of 2.8 to get an overall majority, compared to 3.4 currently
  • On the new boundaries Labour would need to be 3.6 points ahead to become the largest party, compared to 0.8 currently
  • On the new boundaries Labour would need a lead of 7.8 points to get an overall majority, compared to 7.4 currently

Some of you may be wondering why, if the boundary changes are about evening out the size of constituencies the result is still a system that seems to favour the Conservatives over Labour. This is not a sign of something being afoot – the four boundary commissions are genuinely independent – rather it’s because differently sized constituencies (“malapportionment”) is only one of several factors that can produce a skew in the electoral system, and the current Conservative advantage comes not from seat size, but from the impact of third parties and the Tory vote being more efficiently distributed. For example, when it comes to translating votes into seats huge majorities in safe seats are “wasted” votes. At the 2017 election there were 89 Conservative seats where they got over 60% of the vote, but 115 Labour seats where they got over 60% (and 37 seats where Labour got over 70%). None of this is set in stone of course – up until 2015 the system tended to favour Labour – if a party outperforms in marginal seats it can do better than uniform swing suggests, if it gains votes in safe or unwinnable seats then it would do worse.

The new boundaries are rather irrelevant if they never come into force – when the Boundary Commissions report in Autumn 2018 there then needs to be a vote in both the Commons and the Lords to implement their recommendations. That would have been challenge enough with a majority given that there is every chance of a few Conservative rebels. Without a majority it’s going to be very difficult indeed, especially since the DUP have so far opposed the changes (at the provisional stage the changes were thought to hurt the DUP and benefit Sinn Fein).

Nevertheless, for anyone who wants them notional figures for the 2017 on the provisional boundary recommendations are here.

269 Responses to “Boundary update”

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  1. BZ, SAM

    It is my view that we will stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union for quite a while after we leave the EU , i.e. after 2019. So I think it quite likely that the whole issue of what T May thinks on the matter may prove irrelevant, as it may take many years after 2019 to negotiate the ultimate trading arrangements.


    I agree that’s the most likely scenario.

    I can imagine May being defenstrated by her colleagues but not their getting the DUP to support them in leaving the DUP to carry the can in NI for a hard Irish border being imposed.

    Should the public mood on leaving the EU change rapidly then presumably the Con leavers will change their minds rather quickly for fear of Corbyn changing even quicker.

    Whether we leave the EU or not we will have to wait and see, but I do wonder to what extent the Cons realise that in buying the DUP they have also bought a drag anchor on their ambitions.

  3. Genuinely interesting polls now.

    Opinium have May’s personal approval rating at -20%, while Corbyn is +4%. Things still keep moving Labour’s way, but that +4% shows Labour still have a leadership issue to a degree. Corbyn still isn’t popular with many people, but is at least benefiting hugely from May’s (self induced) unpopularity.

    There remains a question of whether Labour would have done/do better with a different leader. That is a really difficult question, as although we can theoretically say that if they had a leader without quite so many weak points, we also have to admit that any other leader from the conventional political mould wouldn’t have done what Corbyn has done.

    Fascinating also to see the internal rifts within Con ranls over even the simple stuff – like public sector spending levels.

    All of a sudden, the ideological certainties of shrinking the state under the guise of repairing the deficit doesn’t seem such a good idea. It’s as if they never really wanted this in the first place.

    On the economic picture: really worrying stats over personal savings rates and consumer det levels. One of the factors that led me to vote remain was the fact that this wasn’t a good time to leave, in economic terms. I think we are seeing that now. We are in a very fragile economic state, with consumers really showing multiple strains now – and we haven’t even really started to feel the real Brexit impacts.

  4. BZ

    I think that the DUP will not want a hard border so agreed on that. But in 5 years the DUP’s influence will probably be gone, since it is rare they hold the balance of power. And I doubt if the new trade arrangements will be finalized by then. What I do think is that staying in the Single Market could be something Labour/Lib Dems/SNP support, and that they might make that the new settlement. The Norway option.

  5. Tomorrows newspaper frontpages won’t help the Tories recover in the polls. They are being made to look like a divided Government. There are arguments about spending and student tuitions fees, as well as on Brexit strategy.

    It would not surprise me if Theresa May decided to resign before the Summer recess and single the start of a Tory leadership contest. It is then possible that we might see Boris Johnson become PM and he might well have a totally different approach with Brexit. There might be a transitional period of staying in single market/customs area and subject to ECJ, until a revised position is agreed at a later date. That might take a minimum of 2 or 3 years after March 2019.

  6. A Westminster mole of mine informs me that in private the Westminster Conservatives are at each other’s throats.


    You may be correct, but once the Cons are in government they’re pretty good at hanging on to power. I agree that the Norway option would probably be best and the one most likely to be able to endure the return of Farage & Co.

    I think that Lab will be very cautious in waiting for the Cons to be seen to be failing in the EU negotiations before taking any action themselves.

    If the Cons fail then certainly all of the opposition parties including the DUP could take over and agree on the Norway option as the only practical one which would honour the referendum result to the letter by virtue of having left the EU but not trash the economy or the island of Ireland.

  8. How long does moderation typically take ?

  9. If there is any backsliding on Brexit, UKIP will become a force again. They probably won’t get any Westminster seats, but we have seen that they can potentially score c. 4m votes, mainly at the Tories’ expense.

  10. Pete B
    Well, the corollary of a split ‘right’ vote is a period of Labour in power, basically until the kipper vote goes to the polling booth in the sky. Or do you think it will play out differently? I’m not sure I’m convinced by your scenario.

    ” staying in the Single Market could be something Labour/Lib Dems/SNP support, and that they might make that the new settlement. The Norway option.”

    I think what is being missed here is the fact that the EU if one belongs to it is “the State”. It’s rather odd to see the Corbyn-McDonnell/Umunna divide, as some have, as one between far left and middle left.
    Staying in the Single Market would be a treaty commitment tying migration/free movement of labour into EU governed terms and control, McDonnel’sand Starmer’s rather fuzxzily stated position of retaining a UK governed rights of control over,, and thus access of UK industry to, migration – from all ove rthe world – isn’t leftist, it’s an essential element of access to and participation in a free market..

  12. @Hawthorn

    Yes and I am also hearing a number of stories that start ‘Well, it turns out that (senior Tory X) can’t stand (senior Tory Y)’ as I get another tale of rivalries I never guessed existed being aired and people I thought relatively innocuous turning out to be the focus of surprising loathing. ‘Ferrets in a sack’ is the phrase being used a lot.

    God knows how anyone leads the party at the though.

  13. Deciding to have similar immigration arrangements as now (with one or 2 tweaks) in order go gain access to the single market is still the UK setting immigration policy and it not being determined at Supra-national (EU) level.

    This is in essence Labours’ policy and is consistent with the country leaving the EU, the manifesto commitment and the party’s QS amendment. The Umunna amendment is too narrow and enables only one way of maintaining SM access, i.e membership.

  14. Bang on JJ, as I have tried to explain to my daughter, both of us LP members.

  15. Zugzwang.

    Basically, next move loses – and it’s the Tories turn. The reason Chuka’s amendment was so naive was it was an attempt to move out of turn at a time when every move is a losing one.

    Let the Government move, and lose.

    “Never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake.”

  16. Is a likely brexit scenario that we leave the EU but remain in the single market for an interim period.

    Before leave single market/ customs there is a General Election. A party wins promising referendum on extended or permanent customs/ single market membership. The outcome of that referendum dictates whether we stay after the interim period.


    @”it’s an essential element of access to and participation in a free market..”

    It isn’t a “free market”. It is surrounded by tariff & non- tariff barriers to non members.

    That is why it is called The Internal Market.

    And it’s “Single Market” objectives are as yet incomplete -notably for Services:-

  18. COLIN
    By the free market, I meant the international labour market, incl. the world market.

  19. new thread

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