Earlier in the week the Boundary Commissions of England, Scotland and Wales (but not Northern Ireland) published their revised recommendations for the boundary review. This is the next stage of the review that started before the last election – the rules are that the Boundary Commissions need to report every five years, so the early election hasn’t had any impact on the timeable.

The process of a Boundary review is that the Commissions start by working out some provisional recommendations which go out to public consultation. The Commissions then publish revised recommendations taking into account all the comments they’ve received, and there is a period of consultation on those. Finally the Commissions put out final recommendations. We’re now at the revised stage, and the final report will be in September 2018.

At each stage I work out some notional figures* on how the previous election would have looked if fought on the new boundaries. The initial recommendations wouldn’t have made a huge difference to the result of the 2017 election (the Conservatives would still have been just short of an overall majority), but would have made it a little easier for the Conservatives to win. The new revised boundaries are a little more positive for the Conservatives – if the votes cast at the 2017 election had been counted on these new boundaries the Conservatives would have won 307 seats (ten less than currently), Labour would have won 234 seats (twenty-eight fewer than currently), the Liberal Democrats 8 (four less than currently) and the SNP 30 (five less than currently).

More importantly the new boundaries would make it a little easier for the Tories to win, a little harder for Labour to win – albeit, not by very much. The lead in vote share that the Conservatives need to win falls by just under 2 percentage points, the lead that Labour would need to achieve rises by less than a single point.

  • On the the new boundaries the Conservatives would need a lead of 1.6 percentage points to win an overall majority, compared to 2.8 on the initial proposals and 3.4 on current boundaries
  • On the new boundaries Labour would need to be 3.9 points ahead to become the largest party, compared 3.6 on the initial proposals and 0.8 on current boundaries
  • On the new boundaries Labour would need a lead of 8.2 points to win an overall majority, compared to 7.8 points on the initial proposals and 7.4 on current boundaries

The full notional results for each seat are set out here.

As ever, they need a few caveats. The first is that this is based purely on the reallocation of votes from current constituencies to new ones by a formula. It assumes the distribution of party strength within Parliamentary constituencies is in the same sort of proportion as local elections – if that isn’t the case, it will produce slightly odd results. Areas where local elections have a lot of independents are particularly ropey, so notional figures in places like rural Wales and Cornwall should be taken with a pinch of salt. The second caveat is that these figures are based on how the votes in the 2017 election would have translated into seats if counted on the new boundaries. They cannot predict if people might have voted differently on those new boundaries – for that reason, I think notional election results do often understate Lib Dem strength. A ward in a Con-Lab marginal might have voted very differently if it had been part of a Con-Lib marginal in 2017.

Readers will probably have noted that both before and after the review the Conservative party needs a smaller lead to win than the Labour party. This may well seem counter-intuitive: why would a review that is supposed to be about making boundaries fairer apparently skew it further in the direction of a party that already has an advantage? The reason is because partisan skews in the way votes translate into seats is due to several different reasons – differential turnout, malapportionment, vote distribution and the effect of third parties. Malapportionment (seats not having the same sized electorates) does actually favour Labour at the moment – their seats do tend to have a smaller electorate than Conservative held seats, so a review aimed at equalising electorates ends up favouring the Conservatives. However other factors, largely the distribution of the vote, favour the Conservatives, producing that overall skew. To give one easily illustrated example of how this works, think of ultra-safe seats. A party still only gets one MP regardless of whether it wins with 50% of the vote or 80%, those extra votes just go to waste. Labour currently has far more of these ultra-safe seats – the Conservatives won 55 more seats than Labour in 2017, but the Conservatives won only 88 seats with 60+% of the vote, compared to 115 for Labour. Labour has 37 seats where it won with over 70% of the vote, the Conservatives don’t have any at all.

That’s not to say there are not partisan interests at play here. As all regular readers will know, the Coalition government changed the rules in 2011 to make boundary reviews stricter (requiring a strict 5% threshold) and more frequent (every five years in theory) – both changes that will generally make things more favourable to the Conservatives. In practice, of course, it hasn’t made it more frequent at all – it injected extra partisanship into the boundary review and gave Labour and the Liberal Democrats the causus belli to block it. If the coalition government had left the old boundary rules in place then we’d be seeing a review about now.

The review remains contentious and as things stand the government seems unlikely to get it through, and the next general election may very well take place on the same boundaries we’ve got now. There are probably two things that could change that.

The first is if the DUP support it. The provisional boundary recommendations for Northern Ireland were very good for Sinn Fein and very bad for the DUP, who were consequently extremely critical of them. If the revised recommendations are better then the DUP attitude might yet change. The best chance for that might well be if the Boundary Commission of Northern Ireland are persuaded by the submissions they’ve received to return to a plan that is based on splitting Belfast into four seats, rather than three seats in their initial proposals. That said, the DUP were also critical of the reduction from 18 to 17 seats, which will not change. It will still be worth keeping an eye on the revised Northern Ireland recommendations when they appear.

The other alternative would be to scrap the current review and seek a more consensual one. The newspapers earlier this year reported that the government were indeed considering going back to a 650 seat review, rather than the current 600 seat one. Given the rules are set out in law, this would require primary legislation to do so, and may be an opportunity to switch the rules to ones that can win cross-party appeal. In the last Parliament the Labour party backed a private members bill from Pat Glass that would have changed the rules that would have replaced the strict 5% quota with a 10% one made reviews every ten years rather than every five years. Labour also oppose the current review on the grounds that it is based on the 2015 electorate, before the boost in registration at the time of the EU referendum. Starting a new review based on 650 seats would likely involve starting work based on the current electorate, so there might be the possibility of a compromise on the quota and frequency of reviews and having a boundary review that both sides support. On the other hand, such a review would still almost certainly still favour the Conservatives, so Labour may find another reason to oppose. Either way, a review takes three years or so and it would take time to pass legislation changing the law from 600 seats to 650 seats, so the government would still need to move relatively quickly for it happen before the next election.

(*The method is very similar to the one used by Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of Plymouth University for the notional figures the media use. The Boundary Commissions generally use local council wards as the building blocks for seats. General election votes are not counted by ward however, so to work out notional election results I work out notional general election shares for each council ward in the country. To summarise it briefly, it works by taking the local election results in the wards that make up a constituency, comparing the total for each party to that party’s general election result in that seat, working out a ratio for local election vote to general election for each party in each seat, and then using that to create notional general election vote shares for each council ward in the council. Then I put the council wards into their proposed new seats, tally them up, and it provides notional figures.)

UPDATE – Small correction to the seat numbers – the Lib Dems are on 8, the SNP on 30 (not 7 and 31 as I’d previously put)

335 Responses to “Notional figures for the revised boundary recommendations”

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  1. University Letter

    Must be a quiet news day or half term if this is making the news. The BBC had to dig pretty deep to find outrage and fortunately came up with gold and were able to find Mucho Pomposo himself to pontificate from the top of his Ivory tower.
    Oh how he must long for handing democratic countries over to communist dictatorships. Pass the port.

  2. Hiterton

    In the French revolution the distinction between the private (bourgeois) and citizen is probably more important than the subject and citizen (in Britain it is less obvious, although it is present in the writings of the sentimentalists, and also in Adam Smith – how he became the symbol of free market is quite a contradiction). The Terror tried to resolve the conflict in 1793-94 with a miserable result (theoretically, in practice it saved the revolution). This is what makes reading Saint Just really interesting.

  3. S Thomas

    Your post reminds me of postings on Con Home. Singling out the BBC when Sky News and ITV are also running the story.

  4. …and the Times

  5. Just changing tack. My son has just started his History degree at Cardiff Uni. He has about three hours of lectures a week and a couple of seminars. This for £9000 tuition fees a year! His tiny bedroom in student accommodation costs £470 a week so the best part of £2000 a month. It’s an absolute rip off.

    There is plenty of fat here. Unis are getting away with it.

  6. and the Mail

  7. and The Telegraph

  8. Sorry Mrs P has corrected me. My son’s student accommodation is £4700 over 30 weeks. There are eight of them in their block so the Uni collect the best part of £40,000 per annum from them. There are a whole load of blocks so the Uni must be making a killing on this basic accommodation.

  9. Mike Pearce

    1st year UG have around 14 hours of class time in the first semester, rising to about 18 hours in the second semester.

    I don’t know much about UG, but at Masters level 12 hours class time + about 4 hours group work, and about 200 pages of reading a week is the maximum you can load on them without harming their learning (reducing class-time at secondary schools would actually benefit learning).

    It is not about whether the tuition fee is high or right, it’s purely the technology.

  10. ST:

    Vetting universities to make sure they stick to the Brexiteers` party line is not a subject you can play games about, nor make silly claims that it is only given airtime because of a news shortage.

    Meantime universities are resenting many things that have been imposed by this far-right government, and soon the dam of cooperation may break.

    Already, because of Brexit and the hostile treatment of EU citizens and students, there has been an exodus of top-class researchers and a shortfall in foreign students coming to study here.

    Hence last week my son was sent off to China to recruit students to plug the gaps.

    This instead of doing fire research to prevent disasters such as Grenfell.

    However he tells me that in an equivalent department in China to his in Scotland there are 100 professors on fire studies, and they simply cannot understand why the UK government has cut back so sharply on this necessary research.

    But obviously you can: the market will do the trick, and it was a good thing to privatise BRE.

  11. The work allocation models in the Russel-group universities work: 60/80% of teaching 40/20% of research (but around 90% of income comes from tuition fees in social science).

    You get 4 hours for every hour lecture, 2 hour for a seminar hour, there are allowances for managerial tasks and marking (leaving about 5 minutes at the minimum wage per script, so it really relies on occupational ethics) as well as a fairly generous one for supervision (of doctoral and masters students). It has to be at around 1,600-1,650 hours a year.

  12. @R HUCKLE
    “If the EU and EU country ministers all accepted UK withdrawing A.50 and not bothering with Brexit, who is going to get CJEU involved ?
    The CJEU does not get involved unless a successful application is made to them following the correct process.”

    That’s true, but we’ve seen the explosion of legal challenges to Brexit on constitutional grounds in this country by Remainers, some reasoned, most frivolous. Are the Leavers just going to shrug and go away, or are they not likely to be just as keen litigants?

    If a case reached the UK courts that turns on what Article 50 actually means, it’s hard to see how a referral to the CJEU wouldn’t be proper and necessary (it’s been widely commented that the reason the AG agreed that it should be common ground that Article 50 was irrevocable as the applicants argued in the Miller case was that he feared the delay of such a referral if he made the point one in dispute). And in any event I am not sure Remainers would want it to be kept at home, as I’m not sure a narrow Anglo-Saxon interpretation of what Article 50 says would be the most likely one to produce the outome they desire.

    Brexit has been bad enough for litigation, but unlike Brexit you’ve got up to 27 other routes of referral for vexatious litigants to try to (maybe that should be 26, as there was an Irish challenge on Article 50, although it didn’t get very far).

    Someone will make lots of money out of this before we’re done I reckon.

  13. The work allocation model at universities actually come from consultancies.

    1,600 hours a year at 100 quid an hour, of which variable cost is around 1/3 and margins are two thirds. Now, depending on the contract (the reputation of the university) an extra 15-45% is calculated as overhead. This roughly balanced out as such because of the distribution of lecturers, senior lecturers and readers, and professors.


    When I graduated the average starting salary was £10K, a starter home in Southampton (1 bed flat ) was £40K, I had £1K of debt

    Current graduate
    lets go with engineering £25K, starter home lets be generous £135K
    and £40K of debt.

    So total debt would be close to 7x compared with my 4x and hell my load was not RPI+3%

    Ok life is cool and all for youngster now a days but seriously isn’t this why I think you need 25% of house prices but if you do that you lose wealth for looking after the elderly.

    By the way my flat was in the centre of town, the one I found for my newly minted graduate was in Gosport

    Also Hammond said that borrowing 50B was out of the question


    as I said I think you should support Labour you are slowly moving toward all their policies it ony a matter of time that you be sing Oh Jeremy Corbyn ;-)

    What was interesting is that hammond did not think Javid said to spend 50B on housing. I’ll have to go and watch the interview tonight.


    The problem with Humanities as I remember sharing a house with a a couple from Business Studies and a Fine Arts under grads. was that they did less hours but they were supposed to do a lot of reading and a lot of essays and that was in my Poly. The Fine art did have to present several pieces and perform a set of critics although they were not in the classroom they ended up usign all the facilities if they were hard workers. I had 27 hours each year and a post exam project lasting a week so I think there may eb some fat but not as much as you think.

    I would have gone somewhere cheap up North (Well actually I did ) because the real dead money is rent, not much for beers, anyway hope he enjoys it


  15. @R Huckle

    I have only been looking at legal opinion that concludes Brexit is not capable of being withdrawn. I have no doubt that there are legal opinions that say that Brexit can be withdrawn.

    Some time ago it occurred to me that a country, any one of the 27/8, could have lots more leverage if it was capable of invoking Article 50 over something the EU was doing with which it disagreed. If the EU called the bluff that country could simply withdraw A 50. Here is a blog post that concludes Brexit cannot be withdrawn.

    I do take your point about the EU agreeing the matter of withdrawal. But if a legal simpleton like me can see the disadvantages that might exist in that event and there is a legal principle involved (as there is) then someone in the EU will want the opinion of the ECJ.


  16. Britain Elects? @britainelects 4h4 hours ago
    Westminster voting intention:

    LAB: 42% (+1)
    CON: 42% (+1)
    LDEM: 7% (-)
    UKIP: 3% (-1)
    GRN: 2% (-)

    via @ICMResearch

  17. P


    Yes you are right. It seems the Humanities students are in reality part funding those courses that are more lecturer supported though.

  19. When you use a moderated word and only a ‘P’ is printed !

    No clue what word it was. Perhaps i had used up my daily quota of the word Br*xit !

  20. @Princess Rachel

    Rachel, I do not know which countries, if any, in the EU might decide that theoretical point by conducting a referendum. The idea is fun though and I hope you think so too. There is much gloom around Brexit and sometimes the bizarre possibilities are interesting. For example, the UK negotiating position, if it can be called that, is to refuse to negotiate (much) until the EU is willing to move to stage 2 of the talks, discussing the FTA. At this point, the UK finds itself unable to negotiate a FTA because it is temporarily or permanently unable to decide what FTA it wishes to have. The solution is to ask the EU to make proposals.

    I thought I knew the Labour position – and it was more or less the same as the Cons. I wonder if it has moved. The Labour position reminds me a bit of the Cheshire Cat while the Cons position reminds me of Schrodinger’s cat

  21. LASZLO

    Thanks for the calculations. I have to say though that given the paucity of hours my son has with lecturers I still seriously question why he and all other History students are being billed £9k a year.

  22. Princess Rachel

    Try “Remainiacs”

    [Try not using *any* disparaging words to describe groups. Remainers and Leavers are suitably neutral terms (and as a general point, if I put a word on moderation it means I’d like people not to use it. Replacing letters in the word with @ signs and suchlike to deliberately get around moderation is the very opposite of attempting to moderate your own contributions, and tends to lead to me putting all your comments on moderation if I spot people doing it when I’m in a bad mood. Which I’m not today – AW]

  23. @ PTRP – We’ve been here before. I want “centre” policies not Corbyn policies.

    More on student situation in a post to come but CARFREW and yourself offer no solution to average house prices being roughly 10x average annual salaries.

    I’ve made it clear I was unhappy to see the housing bubble reflated and believe one error is the current measure of inflation targeted by central banks. Asset prices should IMHO be included or at least taken into consideration.

    RACHEL, MILLIE and others have chipped in with solutions and great to see others see the benefit of inflation. To get from 10x to 2x as CARFREW hopes for is going to either take a very long time or be very ugly. You can currently get up to 6x on a mortgage which is scary and shows how difficult it will be for BoE to ‘normalise’ rates. I’d have tapered QE a long time ago to allow the yield curve to normalise. The yield on 50y index linked gilts is -1.5% – yes, -ve a full 1.5%!! It is no wonder people are buying houses as a pension fund. Buy-to-let has an implicit index-linking and running yields of +4%ish.

    Please start offering solutions rather than throwing stones.

  24. Mike Pearce

    What I tried to say that there is a disconnect between the tutors, university management and students.

    The tuition fee has nothing to do with this, and should be addressed.

    It’s actually business, pure and simple

  25. @SAM

    Both parties have amjor problems siince part of their base supported Leave. Labour’s problem is that although the majority of their supporters voted remain they occupy less than half of the seatsand so the leverage of the leqvers is much greater

    The tories position is even worse since I have come to the conclusion that May is either completely off her rocker or really believes it is her duty to sacrifice herself for her party. The problem is that she has no real friend in the party (this was before brexit) and no real philosophy as to where she perceives things going for policies outside brexit. She seem to be stuck in a sort of groundhog day.

    I watched the last episode of Vietnam last night. I was a rather interesting end. Of a situation created by a policy that no one had the guts to say it was stupid. I fear we are facing a situation like vietnam now whereby we have to do it because we promised to do it and indeed the reason for doing it is now not important but the promise is

    Truely twilight zone stuff.

  26. PR
    As well as Gunpowder the BBC is also running a popular history, semi-dramatised series on the ‘first British secret service’ which pretty much covers the same subject matter as Gunpowder. Your bf might have a point, although I think it’s is the other way around, in that the audience is being shown examples of plucky, clever, ruthless Brits managing vey well on their own, thank you very much!

  27. Sorry for more the calculations (it is important, because the same thing applies for the NHS).

    A class of 90 masters students – about 2 million quid in revenue.

    They each have 160 hours of lectures (in classes of 90l.
    They each have 80 hours of seminars (in classes of 24)
    They each have supervision of about 5 hours
    And let’s say about 90 hours in total for other things.

    It is highly profitable (you won’t have it in history, law, etc (so these have to be subsidised – you have it in management msc). But the per hour is actually pretty low.

  28. Post secondary thoughts, tried to avoid excessive jargon and apologies in advance for use of crude comparisons to make the points.

    1/ The market is broken as demand for degrees far outstrips supply of graduate jobs. Hiking tuition fees saw a brief drop in admissions but we’re back in the high 40%s for ‘Uni’ courses
    2/ We have a lack of ‘substitutes’. The ‘degree’ is hence able to achieve a premium price that is does not deserve. Some ‘luxury good’ branding value from both buyers (students) and sellers (degree farms).
    3/ The ‘single price’ of 9k per year creates a false illusion of common value in the buyer (student). An Aston Martin is worth more than a Skoda Citigo but a degree with low job opportunities from a low rating Uni is perceived by the student to be equivalent to a high opportunity degree course at a top Uni. Further down the chain the buyer of graduates (employers) know a Skoda is not an Aston Martin. All the info on job opportunities, starting salaries and Uni rankings is freely available – buyer (student) beware as they say!
    4/ The whole SLC model is wrong. It hopes to ‘profit’ from those most able to repay so that it can write-off those that are least likely to repay – that creates moral hazard with students incentivised to take easy courses with low opportunities and then disincentivised to earn beyond the loan payment threshold.
    5/ Cutting fees to zero would create increased demand in a system that can’t provide enough supply as it is and cost taxpayers around 11bn/year. If you want a gap year then you ask your parents, save up or work as you travel. If you want a 3y gap year degree course then why are young people borrowing 50k for that surely knowing a lot of the courses are unlikely to get them a decent job at the end of it?

    IMHO we need the following:
    1/ Tackle both demand and supply side
    2/ Offer more substitutes. Increase tax incentives for apprenticeships. T-levels speeding up and employers to respect their value. Polys back focussing on vocational courses, etc.
    3/ Basic economics and ‘Return on Investment’ compulsory education make sure the buyer (student) understands the product they are buying and its future value!
    4/ Total change in SLC policy. Interest rate cut to CPI. Incentivises to take-up of courses most able to repay – bursaries for STEMM plus teachers, nurses, etc. I’d add in a societal effort to level the playing field and copy the Welsh model on means testing of maintenance grants
    5/ Do not cut fees! I understand some Unis subsidies ‘good’ courses with ‘bad’ courses and that is not ideal but if students understood the future job opportunities then Unis wouldn’t be able to sell Skodas as Aston Martins!!

    Bit more than 2c – feel quite strongly about this issue! Happy to provide links to support above but every time I’ve added those in the past the auto-mod kicks in.

  29. Mike Pearce,

    When a Councillor on the Investment group our Pension fund had part of it’s money in property one element was Student accomodation. Much of it is owned not by the Uni but a property company that has an asset and a steady income flow.

    So it might be that most of the £4,700 goes to private investors it might even end up via a pension in the pocket of TWoO!


  30. PTRP

    Yes, I agree the Leave support is a big consideration for both parties.

    I think Mrs May is doing her best in difficult circumstances. There is no agreed position in Cabinet, it may be that the FTA has not been discussed at Cabinet level for fear the whole thing will fall apart.

    There is some really incisive analysis here from this Irish academic



    “@ PTRP – We’ve been here before. I want “centre” policies not Corbyn policies.
    More on student situation in a post to come but CARFREW and yourself offer no solution to average house prices being roughly 10x average annual salaries.”


    What? There’s a well tested route to lower house prices: lots more state house building, plus use QE in a way that doesn’t inflate the market. This in turn would lessen another reason house prices go up: banks investing in property rather than business.

  32. @AW

    Do we really have to have n3ol1b modded though? It’s a very accurate term and if you try and use something else you wind up being waylaid over Definitions because of the different kinds of liberalism.

    I understand you might think that some might consider it prejorative, but then so to some are Socialism, Labour, Tory, Nationalism, Brussels, pseudo-quasi-Blairite etc.


    “Carfrew it just so happens that the end of major house building coincided with the liberalisation of credit. Which was more responsible for the house prices rises that followed?”


    Well yes, more houses will tend to pull house prices down, more money chasing those houses will tend to pull prices up again.

    However, you tend to need to liberalise the credit more when house prices are rising. If house prices are low there’s less need

    That said, some liberalisation allowed more people to buy their homes, thus creating more demand. This would have been a good time to up the house building to keep prices in check.

    The problem was compounded by the dereliction in the North, putting pressure on housing in areas of greater employment elsewhere etc.

  34. “To get from 10x to 2x as CARFREW hopes for is going to either take a very long time or be very ugly.”


    Well it’s been a bit ugly for some going from 2x to 10x!!


    Hidden away in these figures is one remarkable constituency.

    The Notional Result for ‘Ceredigion a Gogledd Sir Benfro’ (not surprisingly located in Wales), is:-

    Plaid Cymru 14329, Labour 13666, Tory 13323, Lib Dem 12555, UKIP 879, Green 586, and ‘Others’ 452.

    Plaid Cymru won Ceredigion in 2017, with a majority of 104, and a mere 29% of the popular vote.

    The raw data used to arrive at this ‘Notional Result’ however, is wholly unreliable. The existing ‘Ceredigion’ constituency has long since been a Plaid Cymru – Lib Dem marginal, with Labour and the Tories nowhere.

    So tactical voting by Labour and Tories, has been rampant.

    People in rural Wales have been used to voting tactically for decades, and the Welsh Assembly ‘d’hondt electoral system has also trained them to vote tactically to get what they want.

    Sometimes very sophisticated decisions have to be taken but people seem well able to take them. It’s not uncommon, for example,for people to vote Lib Dem or Plaid Cymru in Welsh Assembly Constituencies and UKIP in the same election, on the List Ballot Paper.

    Some people also vote Tory and Labour simultaneously.

    I myself, am a Tory voter but could envisage voting for any one of four of the five main parties depending on where I happen to be located in Wales. at the time and what the election was for,

    There are far more Labour and Tory sympathisers in Ceredigion than first appears.

    Ceredigion also has an ‘Independent’ controlled Council and Neil Hamilton, UKIP Leader in Wales, as one of its’ Welsh Assembly Members!!

    The bit of ‘Sir Benfro’ which is now being put in it, however, is part of the Tory seat, in which Labour, nevertheless, has a sizeable share of the vote. So tactical voting there has been the other way round.

    Even on the basis of the Notional figures this seat is remarkable insofar at is a close four way marginal. But what it will look like when all this tactical voting unwinds or reallocates itself is anyone’s guess.

    Unless the Lib Dems can stage a significant revival their own vote they might be severely squeezed in favour of the Tories and Labour. So either of them, could win it from Plaid Cymru.

    One thing to be said about the new constituency however, is that it is a very coherent one, consisting of half the Cambrian Coast extending not too far, inland. On other hand it straddles one entire Welsh Unitary local authority and part of another.

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