Yesterday the review of the Parliamentary boundaries for the next general election kicked off – not that there is much to see yet. The English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Boundary Commissions announced the beginning of the review, the electorate figures which they’ll be working off, and the number of seats that each country and region will be divided up into.

The review will be based on the same new rules as the review that was abandoned during the last Parliament. The amendment passed by Labour and the Lib Dems didn’t reverse the changes that the government had made to the rules on boundary reviews, they just delayed the next review for five years. This means the new review starts up now and will report in 2018, ready to be implemented for the 2020 election. This is not a case of the aborted review from the last Parliament being implemented, it’s a brand new review based on updated electorate numbers. However in terms of the broad strokes the proposals will be quite similar.

The boundary review will reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600, and go from boundaries based on 2001 electorates to boundaries based on 2015 electorates. Comparing the current boundaries to proposed new ones there will be some very substantial changes – it’s inevitable when fifty seats are being chopped. Comparing the numbers to what would have happened under the aborted review in the last Parliament the changes will be more modest.

Scotland will see its current 59 seats fall to 53 (compared to 52 in the aborted review), Wales will see its seat numbers fall from 40 to 29 (compared to 30 in the aborted review), Northern Ireland will get 17 seats (compared to 18 currently, 16 in the aborted review). Across the English regions the South East and East will lose 1 seat each, the East Midlands will lose 2 seats, North East 4, Yorkshire 4, London 5, West Midlands 6 and the North West 7. In most cases these figures are the same as the aborted review – the differences are that the West Midlands will lose an extra seat (probably in the Metropolitan area), the Eastern region will lose one less seat (it looks to me like Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire will no longer require a cross-county seat and the loss there will no longer happen, so Nadine Dorries will be reprieved) and the North East will lose an extra seat.

My calculations last year were that if the 2015 election had been fought on the boundaries from the aborted review it would have given the Conservatives a majority of 44. The Tories would have won nine fewer seats, Labour 28 fewer, the SNP six fewer and the Lib Dems just four. The impact of this new boundary review will likely be broadly similar, but perhaps a little worse for Labour: the extra seat reductions in the North East and West Midlands are likely to be Labour, the relative gains in the East Midlands and Scotland will be Conservative and SNP.

Those won’t the only differences though – we’ve had five years of population drift and the change in registration since then, so many of the proposals the boundary commissions made in 2012 would no longer add up anyway. Unavoidably, the detailed proposals will be different from what we saw in 2012. These won’t be extra seats created or abolished, just boundaries drawn in different ways. To give a couple of examples –

Coventry currently has three seats, and at the aborted review it still had just the right population to retain three seats for itself. Its electorate has now fallen to the point where it’s impossible to draw three seats that hit quota, so while there will still be three seats covering Coventry, one will have to take in some wards from outside Coventry, I’d guess from Warwickshire.

University seats saw a particular drop in the number of registered electors from the move to individual registration, so Cambridge constituency as it was previously proposed will no longer be large enough. There will still almost certainly be a Cambridge seat, but it will now probably cover the whole of the Cambridge council area and have to include a ward from outside Cambridge to make up the numbers.

Other areas where the electorate has dropped notably since the aborted boundary review include Blackpool, Leeds, Oxford, Kensington, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Carlisle and Newcastle. In places like these proposals will probably be substantially different to the aborted review – boundaries will need to move outwards, or the Commissions will choose to arrange the boundaries in completely different ways. At the other end of the scale, the electorate is notably higher in places like East Devon, Bedfordshire, Thanet, Greenwich and Bermondsey, so movement there is likely to be in the opposite direction.

In some cases those small adjustments will have a domino effect and require big changes through a whole county to make sure everything is in quota (though it is has been suggested that the English boundary commission will be more willing to split wards, making their task easier and – hopefully – avoiding some of the dafter proposals we saw last time). Even where there are small changes they may have party partisan effects here and there, making seats that little bit better or worse for parties, tipping the occasional marginal into the other column.

We won’t have any further details until the Commissions release their initial proposals, expected to be in September. At that point we will be able to start working out notional figures and coming up with detailed estimates of what the partisan impact of the boundary changes will be.


There are two new polls on the EU referendum out tonight – YouGov for the Times and ComRes for the Mail. YouGov have topline figures of REMAIN 37%, LEAVE 38%, DK/WNV 25%; ComRes have topline figures of REMAIN 51%, LEAVE 39%, DK 10%. ComRes was asked Friday to Monday (so started before Cameron’s deal was finalised), YouGov’s poll was asked between Sunday and Tuesday, so was after Cameron’s renegotiation, but straddled Boris Johnson’s endorsement of the Leave campaign.

As we’ve come to expect there’s a sharp difference between the online YouGov poll and the telephone ComRes poll. Online polls on the referendum have tended to show a neck-and-neck race, telephone ones have tended to show a lead for Remain. The level of support for leaving is actually pretty much the same regardless of mode – the difference all seems to be in the proportion who say stay and the proportion who say don’t know (I speculated about that a little last month, here)

Anyway, while the different modes produce different shares, just as interesting is the direction of travel. YouGov’s previous poll was conducted just after the draft renegotiation had been published and showed a significant shift towards leave, giving them a nine point lead. My suspicion then was that it could just be a short-term reflection of the extremely bad press that the deal received in the papers, and that does appear to be the case – the race has tightened right back up again. A fortnight ago YouGov found 22% thought the draft renegotiation was a good deal, 46% a bad deal. That’s now closed to 26% good, and 35% bad. After a blip from the initial bad publicity over the draft deal, the effect according to YouGov seems broadly neutral.

ComRes’s last poll found a similar trend to YouGov – it was conducted after the draft deal had been published, and found a sharp shift towards Leave, with the remain lead dropping by ten points, from eighteen to eight. Today’s poll finds that negative reaction to the draft deal fading a bit now the final deal is done, with the remain lead creeping back up to twelve points. The net effect is still negative, but not by nearly as much as the early polls suggested. ComRes’s specific question on the renegotiation provides a more positive verdict than YouGov’s – among the three-quarters of the sample asked after the deal was struck 46% say it was a success, 39% a failure.

Note that this poll also represents the first outing for some methodology changes from YouGov. Most significantly, they’ve started sampling and weighting by the attention respondents say they pay to politics, have added educational qualifications as a sampling/weighting variable and have shifted up the top age bracket from 60 and over to 65 and over. Also, at the risk of getting very technical, past vote and grouped region are now interlocked (to explain – in the past YouGov weighted everyone’s past vote to match the overall shares of the vote in Great Britain, now they are weighting respondents in London’s past vote to match the shares of the vote in London, respondents in the Midlands’ past vote to match the shares in the Midlands and so on). There isn’t actually much impact on today’s results; the old sampling and weighting would also have shown the race tightening to neck-and-neck. The main difference is that a lot of questions have a higher number of don’t knows, reflecting the higher proportion of respondents who don’t follow politics closely.

Full tables for ComRes are here, for YouGov here.


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The next part of YouGov’s poll of Labour party members for Ian Warren is out here, dealing with the party leadership. Approval of Jeremy Corbyn among Labour party members remains solid – 72% of party members approve of him, 17% disapprove. So while there is a rump of unhappy party members, there’s a solid majority with a positive opinion (figures are similar for John McDonnell – 57% of members approve, 19% disapprove). 63% of party members want to see Corbyn remain party leader and contest the general election.

At the time of Corbyn’s election polls suggested that his supporters were far more concerned about his beliefs than whether he would lead Labour to electoral success. This poll seems to confirm that’s still the case. At this stage support for Corbyn among Labour party members doesn’t really seem conditional upon how well the party does electorally. Less than half (47%) of members think the Labour party will win the next election under Corbyn, yet his support remains high. In the event that Labour do badly in the Scottish, Welsh, London and local elections 53% of Labour party members think he should still remain leader and contest the next election (the survey leaves it open to respondents to imagine what performing “badly” might mean… a bad performance in Scotland seems almost assured, but London polls so far have Sadiq ahead for the mayoralty).

If Corbyn was challenged, the data still suggests he’d hold onto the leadership. The poll had a “who would be your first preference as leader” question with a very long list of candidates in which Corbyn got less than a majority of support, but on a mock ballot paper against Hillary Benn, Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy, Angela Eagle and Tom Watson he wins comfortably on the first round (62% support, with Benn in second place on 15%). If Corbyn goes and McDonnell stands in his place he would be ahead on the first round, but only by 29% to Benn’s 20%, so perhaps he wouldn’t win overall.

Full tabs are here.


ICM have released their weekly tracker on the EU referendum. The poll was conducted between Friday evening and today, so it was after Cameron’s EU deal was announced but was almost entirely before Boris Johnson endorsed the leave campaign (only eleven responses are “post-Boris”). Topline voting intentions are REMAIN 42%, LEAVE 40% – so wholly in line with ICM’s polling before the deal. Tabs are here.

Today also saw some new YouGov polling of Labour party members, conducted for Ian Warren. The fun stuff from this is probably the data on the leadership (out tomorrow on Ian’s site) but the initial slice of data covers the policy views of Labour party members, and compares them to Labour party voters and to the general public.

The Labour party membership is increasingly in line with the views of their leader. 68% of Labour members opose renewal of Trident, 64% think trade unions should have more influence, 58% say they wouldn’t vote for any Labour leader if they had supported airstrikes against Syria. Recent recruits are even more Corbynite – over 80% of those who’ve joined in the last year are anti-Trident, over 70% think unions should have more influence and would only support a leader who opposed airstrikes in Syria.

A leftwards consolidation of the Labour party membership however risks opening up a significant gulf between the views of members and voters. The most obvious example of that here is immigration. On salience, health and the economy are seen as two of the three biggest issues facing the country by Labour members, Labour voters and the general public. But on immigration 60% of the general public think it is a major issue, 46% of Labour voters do, just 17% of Labour members do; 78% of Labour party members think immigration is good for the economy, only 41% of Labour voters do, only 29% of the general public.

Finally, on the EU referendum Labour party members are overwhelmingly in favour of REMAIN – 81% say they’ll vote to stay, 11% to leave, 8% don’t know.


There are two new polls on the EU referendum today. While the YouGov and ComRes polls conducted after the draft renegotiation showed a sharp movement towards LEAVE, these two paint a far steadier picture (though given one is online and one was conducted by phone, their overall figures contrast with each other!). ICM’s last poll had shown LEAVE nudging ahead, today’s new online figures are back to REMAIN 43%, LEAVE 39% (tabs here). Ipsos MORI’s latest telephone figures are REMAIN 54%, LEAVE 36% – virtually unchanged from their previous poll (tabs here).

MORI also released their monthly voting intention figures, which stand at CON 39%, LAB 33%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 12%, GRN 3%