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. Voice of Reason

    “All he has likely done is to strengthen Corbyn further in the eyes of the Labour membership and made himself, and (by association) any other Corbyn critics, look as self-indulgent as the old ‘loony left’ backbench critics.”

    Anecdote alert! As it happens we had a CLP meeting last night and even those not particularly wedded to the Corbyn programme and who were very much opposed to him in the early days (i.e. up to the General Election) were metaphorically throwing their arms up in horror at Umunna’s amendment. They had come to the realisation that maybe after all Corbyn isn’t so bad and what we need now is unity and to demonstrate that unity. What they didn’t want was another display of PLP infighting and disunity.

  2. On the subject of Chuka’s amandement yesterday I am in agreement with what seems like a consensus on here,

    As someone who has accepted that we are leaving but wishes to remain in the single market I still think the amendment was a stupid thing to do at the current time.

    I really don’t know what it was supposed to achieve, Unless it was a fishing expedition to gauge how much support there was in Parliament for a rebellion over Brexit – or some kind of centrist block that might break away from left and right to call the shots in the current seats arithmetic.

    It did give Corbyn the opportunity to show he can be a “strong and stable” leader (sorry guys couldn’t resist it) – something his new found authority over the PLP allows him to do.

  3. @Norbold

    Interesting anecdote and it doesn’t surprise me. Politics is tribal for those people willing to give up their time and attend meetings / campaign. After all, they are much more personally invested in the result than the majority of people who don’t care about politics 99% of the time. Anyone seen to be working against the common good of the party is often pilloried and Corbyn has demonstrated he could win and so has won a lot of people over just on that basis.

  4. Would not surprise me if Theresa May announced within the next 3 weeks that she was stepping down as Tory leader, but would stay as PM until a new leader was selected by the party.

    The calculation by the Tories must be that TM was not capable of winning an election and that as the DUP deal might not work out, that they need to hold another election by Spring 2018.

  5. Chuka Umunna is about as anti-Corbyn as Labour MPs get; forcing him to sack more of his Shadow Cabinet will seem like a win for him. As much as it should be, the Labour civil war isn’t over for those on the right of the party.

    I don’t think it was good politics, especially after Creasy’s masterful move, but I can see benefits from his perspective, which is to undermine Corbyn at all costs, while keeping his own name in the papers as an ardent pro-European.

  6. Do we know for a fact that Umunna offered to re-join the shadow cabinet, seen it stated on here but nothing concrete?

  7. R Huckle,
    “they need to hold another election by Spring 2018.”
    No point holding another election unless you can win it. Unless you want to lose, of course. But in that case, why change from an unpopular leader. The conservatives went into this one with a popular leader and lost, so what would be the rationale why they would win now?

    The last election did well for Corbyn. The situation right now is quite ….interesting. Would he want to be in power and have to deal with Brexit? Sniping at govrnment failure while having a realistic chance of changing legislation through parliament might be…interesting too. So, if it takes agreement to dissolve parliament, would labour agree? This last week has seen a dozen government defeats even though it was never brought to a vote.

    Boundaries: presumably the last recommendations are now out of date. From the fairness perspective they ought to be based upon number of voters in a constituency, not the number of registered voters. From the ‘losing my job’ perspective and the more equal balance of party gain/loss, seems unlikely new recommendations will go through.

  8. When is the march that McDonnell wanted 1m people to attend? I think it’s soon. It will be interesting to see how many actually do turn up, how much violence there is, and of course most crucially for all of us what the effect on VI is (if any).

  9. Voice of Reason – “I wonder if the government will try to introduce a more conciliatory proposal to review the boundaries based on 650 seats in order to keep the DUP on board and still get the boundaries updated?”

    it would still be very unlikely to happen in time for the next election – the 600 figure is set in statute, so it would take primary legislation to change the boundary commission rules, cancel the current review and commence a new one. That takes time, and by the time legislation (which would be controversial, because boundary changes have become so) had been passed it would probably be too late for the boundary commissions to get the job done in good time for the election. Primary legislation would also require votes and political capital, neither of which the government have much of to spare.

    The most likely way for them to happen is if the revised boundaries are more positive for the DUP, allowing them to back them after all. I haven’t looked at the Northern Ireland proposals, so I’ve no idea if there is a realistic chance of that, but it’s probably unlikely. Revised boundaries are more often tweaks than a complete overhaul.

  10. Danny
    “From the fairness perspective they ought to be based upon number of voters in a constituency, not the number of registered voters.”

    So you mean base it on the actual turnout in each constituency? That seems a novel solution.

  11. Jim jam

    Saw him on TV, he wasn’t particularly subtle though he might have thought he was

  12. Pete b

    I think Danny meant number of people eligible to vote rather than just those registered

  13. Anthony Wells – Do you have any details on the methodology used to generate the notional results?

    I’ve been working on my own version, taking the last local elections, scaled to the general election results for each old constituency then taking these notional ward results to form the new boundaries. I’m getting similar results to yours, but not identical.

    If only I could find a spreadsheet of the 2015 local election results I could finish the project…

  14. Personally, I prefer the census as I think under 18s and unregistered voters deserve the same proportionate representation as registered over 18s (within a 5 or 10% tolerance to enable sensible seats of course).

    Indeed if non-registration hence disengagement is an indicator or deprivation an MP may be expected to have more case work is such seats but we would rather treat the unregistered as second class citizens, imo.

  15. cambridgerachel

    How do we get that number?

  16. Census Barney,

    Think CR is right and Danny and I on the same page (or similar one at least)

  17. Except I would include under 18s as I state above but the very least is all eligible voters as Danny suggests.

  18. Jim Jam – The Census is at this point 6 years out of date; unless you link the boundary reviews to the Census years (or the year after), you’ll struggle to get them accurate by those measures.

  19. @Anthony Wells

    What are your views on limiting the number of lords? Do you think HoL reform may be demanded before the boundary commission will be accepted?

  20. @Anthony Wells

    Yes, makes sense given the government’s position. So in that case it seems likely that any changes to boundaries will have to wait until either:

    a) The Conservatives win a decent majority and push ahead with confirming the new 600 seat boundaries

    or

    b) Labour win a decent majority and introduce legislation to change the rules of the boundary review and start the review again.

    Of course, if we keep getting hung parliaments or very slim majorities, then the existing boundaries could be around for a long time.

  21. Seems a shame that correcting constituency population disparity should be held up for whatever reason.

  22. Census every 10 years so the boundary commission work would start immediately after publication (earlier if they can have population data bin advance of other work done by the census operation).

    So 3 GEs perhaps would be on an old census, better than using registered voters with the imperfections and omissions imo.

  23. The Boundary Review is all swings and roundabouts.

    If Labour went 25-30 seats in Scotland that would improve their vote efficiency. SNP rise damaged Labour conversion.

    The Conservatives used to suffer from the LIB Dems in South West now that as improved for them. However a Libdem revival could dent this. However looking at Libdem target seats only competitive in about 20 seats and would need big rise in VI to be competitive elsewhere. After 2017 lots of former LibDem seats from 2010 now have Labour in second and in some such as Truro/Southport/Watford Labour are strong second whether this leads to Labour gains next time?

  24. New ONS data confirm that the Government is sailing in increasingly choppy economic waters.

    GDP growth for Q1 confirmed at 0.2

    Household disposable income, adjusted for inflation, fell for the third quarter in a row between January and March, which was the worst run since the 1970s.

    The household saving ratio is at a new record low of 1.7%, as consumers respond.to rising prices and weak pay growth by run down their savings.

    The ONS said the drop in the savings ratio was partly down to tax payments, but added “the underlying trend is downwards, reflecting relatively strong consumption volumes, increasing consumer prices and subdued wage growth.”

    Services growth in April was in line with expectations.at 0.2%.

  25. The real point about Umanna’s amendment is that it betrayed a complete lack of understanding about the finely nuanced position that Starmer has been developing. Bridging the gap between out and out Europeans and concerned Brexiters requires careful language and gentle persuasion. Umanna has just shown himself to be bereft of basic political nous.

    Contrast with Creasy’s language on BBCQT last night, where she was at pains to say that Single Market and Customs Union should be part of the discussion, a very different point from simply arguing for staying in and much more in line with what Starmer has been trying to achieve.

    On a broader note, I think the problem for McDonnell’s wing of the party (because that is who is really driving the internal party machinations on the left) is that doesn’t seem to be any potential successor to Corbyn. I really don’t think :Lewis has it, he certainly doesn’t have the potential broad appeal of Creasy or perhaps Nandy. It’s not a question of left-right, it’s a question of who has the political skill to take the party forward.

    I wish Creasy wouldn’t allow herself to be aligned with the “moderates” – which is a potential threat to a future leadership bid – because a lot of her poltiics seems to comes from radical cooperativism and collectivism.

  26. When Electoral Calculus analysed the results of the 2005 election (a long time ago, I know), they concluded that the single biggest factor driving disproportionality in votes received vs. seats won was differential turnout.

    Broadly, Labour could win their seats with fewer votes in their favour because turnout tended to be lower in Labour-inclined seats.

    There were other factors identified as well (seat size and vote distribution, as identified above) but turnout was the biggest one.

    It would be interesting to see if the EC analysis still holds. I suspect the picture may have changed somewhat – several seats in London reported over 40,000 votes for the Labour candidate, which I imagine (without checking) has not been the case for a very long time. But without looking at the figures it’s difficult to be certain.

  27. Scotland is the unpredictable element of the next election where so many seats change hands due to being 3 or 4 way. SNP could easily go back to 50 seats and it be back to 2015 or they could be back to 6 or 7 seats again with Labour taking the majority. The conservatives might struggle to hold what they have and be back to 2 or 3 seats or they could go up to 16 or 17.

  28. Robin

    What about Angela Rayner? She’s as common as muck which is what I like about her

  29. Further to the discussion about whether seats should be based on voter registration or census details. I believe that there has been talk of abandoning the census in its current form because of frivolous answers (e.g. Jedi Knight as religion) and growing non-compliance.

    Is there any evidence that the census is more accurate about numbers of eligible voters in a constituency than the voter registration?

  30. @ JIM JAM

    ‘Personally, I prefer the census as I think under 18s and unregistered voters deserve the same proportionate representation as registered over 18s (within a 5 or 10% tolerance to enable sensible seats of course).
    Indeed if non-registration hence disengagement is an indicator or deprivation an MP may be expected to have more case work is such seats but we would rather treat the unregistered as second class citizens, imo.’

    Absolutely… and I agree with your subsequent comments. It could be argued that using the electoral register as the basis is an example of voter suppression. (However, I remember arguing the same in 2011 on this site.. and received no small slap down. Not from you I hasten to add but as you can see, I was left totally bewildered such that I remember it still.)

  31. Matt 126 – 11.55

    See mine of 8.23. I agree that small swings could produce quite major variations in result north of the Border.

    If England is reverting to 2 party politics, as some here opine (possibly with good reason) then the opposite is happening, or has happened in Scotland, where ‘One Party Rule’, as some called it, has come to an end – for the time being at least.

    I don’t see the SNP gaining total supremacy again for the next ten years.

    Labour is still not in a fit state to do anything much – and should Corbyn be axed at any point, or be replaced with someone of a radically different set of ideas, (I know: I said Corbyn’s influence north of the Border wasn’t so great, but I put that badly, and was, in any case, probably wrong) then Labour could still find themselves outflanked by the SNP.

    The Tories to rule Scotland? Not whilst they are Unionist. There may be many, I believe, who would happily vote for a conservative (small c) manifesto, but who are inclined towards Scottish independence (the seats won by the Tories in the north east are far from secure). Others would happily vote Lib Dem once/if Independence comes.

    And what happens if the DUP find themselves used by the Tories and then dumped (on)?

    Complicated …

    :-)

  32. @CR

    Maybe in time, but I think it’s way too early for her.

  33. The DUP deal wasn’t mandated at 2 years just for Brexit, the Boundary reforms will be the Tories big prize for the next 12 months of suffering, not only is it expected to remove several key Labour seats (including Corbyn’s potentially) is will also speed up the Momentum deselection strategy which will eliminate incumbent advantage in those seats affected (as well as the anger and disillusionment caused by a popular local MP being forced out by a tiny number of Militants).

    May was mad to hold an election before the reforms were in place and the Tories would be even more insane to left the realignment slip through their fingers now.

    Oh, and just to get this on the record so I can be laughed at later, May is gone soon after Parliament rises, David Davis will be the next leader, Hammond will be off to the back benches replaced by Gove, Boris will stay at the Foreign office and Jacob Rees Mogg will be elevated to Brexit Secretary & before the summer is out we will have an outline of the populist manifesto the Tories will be working to with May, Hammond, Cameron and Osborne (especially) Osborne thrown under a whole procession of buses.

  34. @PeteB

    I think the point that the people that put Jedi Knight are making is that their identified religion is no more ‘frivolous’ than any other.

  35. VOR
    That may be so, but as it is patently not true, it throws doubt on the accuracy of the rest of the return, and as I said non-compliance is growing. Proportion completed for 2001 was 94%. I can’t find a figure for 2011, but suspect it would be lower.

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/census_non_compliance_query

  36. It’s ironic that the national id card scheme that the Tories scrapped would have been very handy now for sorting out / policing:

    1/ constituency boundaries (based on registered id card holders)
    2/ voter fraud
    3/ access to services such as healthcare post leaving EU
    4/ access to benefits
    5/ citizen rights / immigration status / work permits

  37. I’ve still got my id card from just after the war. It’d be a bit too easy to forge nowadays though. It’s just a folded piece of cardboard with a few details inked in.

  38. @ Richard, last night, sorry I’m slow.

    “Any seat with a majority of 30% is in my view not democratic. Every voter should be able to go to the polls and have a chance to change the government with their vote.”

    Back to boundaries again. I agree that FPTP is very unsatisfactory in this respect. But let’s try to look at what happens if you could re-arrange the boundaries such that all seats were close to being marginal. Forgetting third parties for a moment, we have 650 (or whatever) marginal seats up for grabs between two parties. In that case a tiny swing could mean the difference between a landslide in one direction, or an equally big landslide the other way. So most of ther time you’d end up with the HoC filled with one side and few on the opposition benches. Also disasterous for democracy.

    So the FPTP system is propped up by the fact there’s an inbuilt inertia in, say, 150 seats on both sides, and if you gave the people in those safe constituencies a real choice, the HoC couldn’t function properly.

    Obviously I don’t support FPTP. PR or some top-up system is the only way to solve this conundrum, but that’s certainly not going to happen any time soon.

  39. @PeteB

    “That may be so, but as it is patently not true, it throws doubt on the accuracy of the rest of the return, and as I said non-compliance is growing. Proportion completed for 2001 was 94%. I can’t find a figure for 2011, but suspect it would be lower.
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/census_non_compliance_query

    Well, lets just say its a matter of debate as to whether you would prefer to use a 1977 film as your religious inspiration or a 1000+ year old book. New religions spring up all the time and some get formally ‘recognised’. Others don’t. I’ll let others debate the logic of what does and doesn’t constitute a religion, given the basis of a religion is ‘belief’ based rather than ‘evidential’ (scientific). Personally, as a great believer in religious tolerance, I wouldn’t wish to offend the deeply held views of any ardent Jedi’s.

    Re the census, if some sections of it aren’t being completed ‘sensibily’ then it probably suggests that many people are taking issues with the questions themselves and are, quite naturally, rebelling. If the questions are becoming less relevant to responders then it suggests that the census may need to change the questions it asks or alter the way it is collected.

  40. VOR
    I’m obviously not explaining my point very clearly. Given these problems with the census, why would it be a more reliable way of allocating seat boundaries than would the voter registration, which is done every year? Is there any evidence that one is more accurate than the other?

  41. @PeteB

    My understanding of the census process is that it is a more active and complete process to engage people for a response including door to canvassing etc.

    Voter registration tends to rely on the individual self-registering and misses out a great deal more people because of people’s unwillingness to vote / register to vote.

    Many people might be quite happy to not be on the electoral register but they are still citizens, taxpayers etc so they would be counted in the census.

    So the question is – should constituencies be based equally on the number of people in them (over 18)? or just on the of potential voters in them? The two numbers are not the same.

  42. My son believes that parts of the labour manifesto could not be delivered under EU law. Is that so? Which parts are they and do they relate to nationalisation? And if so, how come that we have nationalised EU companies playing such a part in our afffairs?

  43. ANTHONY

    Could I just clarify a couple of points please?

    1.If parliament passes Boundary Changes in October2018, obviously they apply to a GE in 2019 or 2020 or 2021 or 2022. Next Boundary Review starts January 2021 and parliament would vote on it in October2023. I expect present BR to be rejected in October2018 and next GE based current constituencies. If next GE is in 2020, fine but if GE is in 2019, surely government would wish next one to start in January 2020 and if next GE is in 2021, surely government would wish next one to start in January 2022?

    I think government may still desire equalisation of seat size but maintain 650 seats as austerity coming to a gradual end.

    2. Is expected date of next GE under 5 year parliament rule, first Thursday of May or second Thursday of June 2022 please?

    Thanking you

  44. @CHARLES

    It’s complicated and a matter of debate but there are some key problems with nationalisation whilst being part of the EU. Most important of these is the restrictions on monopolies, liberalisation of markets to allow competition and restrictions on ‘state aid’.

    Here’s a leftwing take on it from after Corbyn was elected suggesting ways in which a leftwing govt. might be able to get around some of these issues whilst in the EU :

    http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2015/10/02/sorry-nigel-nationalisation-is-not-against-eu-law/

    Also here’s an article from the BBC that illustrates some of the difficulties when governments try to intercede by providing state aid:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35933904

    One of the benefits for the left of leaving the EU is that they wouldn’t have to worry about much of that, they could simply pass an act of parliament to nationalise an entire industry and ignore EU competition rules.

  45. Peterelectionfollower – the start of the next review is set in law as 2021 and the date for delivery as before Oct 2023, so if the government wants to change the dates (as they may very well want to), they’d need to change the law (and they could indeed change 600 to 650 at the same time).

    And FTPA sets the election as the first Thursday in May, five years after the calendar year when there was last an election, so May 2022.

  46. R Huckle

    @”Agree that JC and JM probably favour Brexit now, because they see the EU as interfering in countries choosing to nationalise companies.”

    Interfering in everything.

    I think JC/JM would not be concerned at No Deal. They are waiting for a Brexit cliff edge over which the Tories crash & burn.

    Following this JC/JM march into power on a wave of recrimination & desperate belief that a Command Economy in Fortress Britain implemented by Labour will solve every economic & social problem.

  47. Colin – the SYRIZA strategy?

  48. Thank you Anthony

  49. FOREVER UNPOLLED
    The DUP deal wasn’t mandated at 2 years just for Brexit…

    Given that the projections for NI on the proposed are projected to change the seat totals to:

    Party, 2017, 2019
    DUP, 10, 7
    SF, 7, 9
    IND, 1, 1

    Why do you think the DUP will vote to remove three of their seats and to be smaller than SF?

    See http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/boundaries2018.html

  50. ANTHONY WELLS

    [A new 650-member set of boundaries] would still be very unlikely to happen in time for the next election – the 600 figure is set in statute, so it would take primary legislation to change the boundary commission rules, cancel the current review and commence a new one. That takes time, and by the time legislation (which would be controversial, because boundary changes have become so) had been passed it would probably be too late for the boundary commissions to get the job done in good time for the election. Primary legislation would also require votes and political capital, neither of which the government have much of to spare.

    Well five years was enough for the Coalition to get controversial primary legislation through (reducing the numbers to 600), have the four BCs go through the full process and bring the proposals to Parliament (where it got rejected). So it’s not impossible from a timing point of view – one thing we learnt from the 2011 review was that the BCs could put on a fair turn of speed if given enough resources and a less elaborate appeals structure.

    The problems that the current government have is that it doesn’t know it has five years and it certainly doesn’t have the support to do anything radical. It was unlikely to get the 2018 changes through even before the recent election (in part due to Cameron’s ineptness) and it certainly can’t now. But it’s possible that a ‘back to 2010’ solution might be generally acceptable, with 650 (or thereabouts) MPs and a laxer approach to constituency equalisation.

    There probably needs to be some sort of review by 2025 anyway, under the old 15 year rules, so putting something together like that would catch up with population changes without the controversies that the last set of changes gave rise to. More extensive and controversial alterations (such as a move to a census-based approach as in Ireland) could be discussed on a non-Party basis (Speaker’s Conference ?) though I suspect there would not be much consensus.

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