The boundary review

The English Boundary Commission gave its recommendations to MPs at noon today, with an embargo for midnight. Unsurprisingly they did not remain secret for long! I am busy crunching the numbers and will hopefully post something more substantial tonight with my first reactions. In the next few days I will hopefully be able to provide full notional figures for the provisional recommendations.

Some first observations are that the Boundary Commissions has gone to extreme lengths to avoid split wards. There are cases where the BC had a choice between splitting wards, or crossing local authority boundaries (or between splitting wards or coming up with strangely shaped or unnatural seats). Their earlier statements indicated that they would only split wards in extreme circumstances, but in practice they almost entirely avoided it (looking through the recommendations so far I haven’t found any). In some cases this has resulted in some rather odd seats (the oddest I have found so far is Mersey Banks, though there is also a seat in Lancashire taking wards from four different local authorities.

The other early observations are which MPs see their seats dissappear. A lot of early comment was around Vince Cable, whose seat is apparently merged with Zac Goldsmith in the new Richmond and Twickenham seat. A closer look suggests that most of his seat actually ends up in the new Teddington and Hanworth seat, which will notionally have a 11% Lib Dem majority… so Vince has a more vulnerable majority, but is not left seatless! George Osborne’s Tatton seat is no more… but forms the core of the new Northwich seat, which has a comfy 27% majority. Just because a seat’s name disappears or is merged with another, doesn’t mean they are left without a seat! Elsewhere of course, there are 50 MPs who really are losing their seats.

Meanwhile, out today there was also a new poll of the South West from Marketing Means – tables here.

89 Responses to “The boundary review”

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  1. The Northern Ireland Boundary Commission obviously forgot to allocate someone to update their website to release the details, and the Belfast Telegraph only has details of the English changes.

    Of course, those in the Province may well feel that arrangements to send a few MPs to London isn’t actually very important.

  2. @Lefty and WoD

    “I do it regularly over Lodge Lane.”

    The current Hallam boundaries are already pretty stupid. Any constituency that spans Rivelin Valley is lunacy, matched only by one that requires crossing the Mersey.

    As previously mentioned, we’re seeing a lot of stupid answers to a very stupid question.

  3. Isn’t it inevitable that rules made at the centre, which deliberately restrict the flexibility of those drawing up the boundaries, in order to prioritise a single factor, will produce solutions that don’t represent local communities?

  4. @Roger Mexico

    Yeah, I have seen it recently on here at least but else where on the internet sphere that a lot of people are observing the claims made concerning the population of the electorate are often in countries that have very powerful sub-governments or where local authorities are fairly devolved on many matters on education, public health, transport etc. which we do not find in the UK.

    For me it’s being dishonest to an understandably angry public that feel that politics is broken what with the expenses scandal, broken promises, ineffective government etc. which would quite rightly like to see “the boot of MP’s and the rooten system”. But cutting the number of MP’s can actually leave to further alienation, disillusionment and lack of trust in politics as these MP’s will become over-stretched with more electorates. We are a very unrepresentative country that does not enjoy the benefits of sub-governments, powerful local councils, mayors etc. that the rest of the world does.

    So personally, before the public commits itself in “booting out” these MP’s I would like them to actually challenge the government and say well if we want MP’s to represent electorates like the US, Canada, Australia and Italy can we please get given the same benefits they do on local, regional and national level. The answer, federalism. This alone would answer the Scottish and Welsh independence scenario, give us greater representation and help solve many regional concerns on how they are represented in Parliament. Add that more powers to local government, perhaps a sub-council of elected “community representatives” (i.e. 500 people elect someone to “advise” the local council – taken from an idea from Yes Prime Minister I must add) then I can understand reducing our MP’s but until then we are just going to marginalise and detach ourselves further from democracy.

    Personally, I would like to see NO Mp’s cut (in some case even increase it) while applying the suggestions above but I would be more willing to be okay and not feel cheated by the boundary changes if the coalition had introduce plans to increase our representation on regional and local levels.

  5. According to the Guardian, most of the griping is currently being done by Conservatives & LibDems. Labour are waiting until we’ve had time to evaluate the proposals, allegedly.

    Because I’ve said this, any minute now, a Labour MP will break ranks & start ranting about it…

  6. OldNat:

    you can’t guarantee a fair national outcome with single-member constituencies.

    That it happened at all in the past was just a lucky accident…

  7. @leftylampton

    Great – and very accurate- commentary/ observations on the various local specificities of the ‘political geo-demographics’ in this city.

    Nice one!


    As @A Cairns illustrated earlier on no matter what some people may think are ‘rock solid’ Lib Dem wards in Sheffield, the coalition agreement has pretty much busted that flush- probably for a decade or more. Anyone who has not accepted that/ realised that by now really has not got their nose-to-the-ground in this city IMO

    The local elections in May 2011 showed this quite clearly: the wards making up the two proposed constituencies voted in this totality

    Sheffield SW
    Labour: 15259
    LD: 12951
    Conservatives: 5050
    Greens: 3928
    Right-leaning minor parties and indies: 973
    TUSC: 333

    Sheffield W and Penistone
    LD: 13212
    Labour: 13110
    Conservatives: 7667
    Greens: 4436
    Right-leaning minor parties and indies: 1705

    Until they extricate themselves from their Faustian bargain these numbers- in these particular wards- are only going to get worse year-by-tear IMO.

    Griping Lib Dems have only themselves- and their leadership- to blame.

  8. There were no reports showing on the Boundary Commission for England’s website just after midnight and now it’s fallen over, at least to me. There’s still no info on Northern Ireland.

    There’s not even a recognition that details have been released on the BBC website – I suppose they’re waiting for no 10 to tell them what to think. (The current main headline is ‘Acclaim for banking shake-up plan’ – Stalin should be so lucky – and the article is similarly unquestioning).

    The Guardian though does have information on its DataBlog though:

    which shows the new constituencies and the old ones they get their voters from. You can also down load this and play about with it, but it looks like otherwise you’ll be stuck with Guido’s leaks.

  9. oldnat: “Isn’t it inevitable that rules made at the centre, which deliberately restrict the flexibility of those drawing up the boundaries, in order to prioritise a single factor, will produce solutions that don’t represent local communities?”

    You’re absolutely right. Individual constituencies…no, make that individual wards…should be able to set their own individual rules. What could possibly go wrong with that?

    While we’re at it, they should also decide their own voting systems.

    A unified electoral system for any one legislature is an insane concept.

  10. Steve:

    “individuals constituencies…DO make their own rules”, at least in terms of turnout, malapportionment, efficiency and third-party effects – which is where the problems arise, manifesting themselves at the national level…

  11. ANDY C

    ” in countries that have very powerful sub-governments or where local authorities are fairly devolved on many matters on education, public health, transport etc. which we do not find in the UK.”

    Ahem, cough, cough :-)

  12. Steve

    Silly boy.

  13. Irish Times have evidently seen the proposed boundaries for Northern Ireland – h ttp://

    No major surprises evident from their write-up: Belfast South is split between new Belfast SE and SW constituencies. The knock-on effects result in changes to every seat.



  15. I hadn’t realised that the NI Assembly membership would be changed by messing around with their Westminster representation. In Scotland that was successfully overturned because the Scottish parties objected, but I see from the Irish Times report that the DUP and Sinn Fein seem to be happy with that, as it will squeeze out the minor parties.

  16. The 2010 result in Twickenham was very strongly Vince’s personal vote rather than a party one (the local Council changed from LibDem to Conservative while Vince’s vote/share increased – he was number one most popular MP at the time).

    The figures for notional results given assume he stands in both seats which would be tough even for a man of his talent.

    If he doesn’t stand in Richmond and Twickenham (where he lives and keeps his office) it is marginally Conservative rather than notionally LibDem. If he doesn’t stand in Teddington and Hanworth it becomes knife edge marginal.

    If he is sensible he will go to the Lords with a terrific reputation behind him.

  17. Anthony,

    Why are you refusing to report on the Angus Reid voting intention poll for the Scottish Sunday Express? It is one of the most sensational VI survey results ever to be published in the UK in the fast 50 years, and yet you completely, totally and utterly ignore it.

    Is it not within your remit to report, and preferably provide informed commentary on, important polling developments within UK politics? If accurate, this poll marks a watershed.

    Moreover, Angus Reid are a BPC member. You report a poll today from a fellow BPC member (Marketing Means), so why the glaring ommission of the Scottish poll. It simply does not make any sense.

    (For the avoidance of doubt: I would also be saying this is the poll had found the SLDs at 49% or the Scottish Tories at 49%.)

  18. Typo: “last 50 years”

  19. Morning all. Just woken up (or perhaps not) and need some help here. Have just read this

    Am I still away in the land of nod, dreaming about some far off land where the Daily Telegraph proclaims the head of the TUC as the man who can save Britain?

    OK – so it’s a comment piece from Mary Riddell, but fascinating none the less. The news that the IFS flatly contradicts government assertions over who will bear the brunt of the burden and snippets like the leniency shown to Tory Lords abusing expenses will increasing rancour with those who get no favours from the system. Being saved by the TUC – it’s quite a vision.

  20. Well Alec, I understand it is not a popular opinion but I thnk that the Unions are noble institutions that have been unfairly demonised for years.

    Abandoned by New Labour the Unions carried on fighting for workers’ rights even when the nonsense about flexibility was being spouted and pensions were being dismantled.

    The Unions do what they say they will do…and what’s more they are nearly always right.

    Compare the ruthless legislation to control what workers and unions can go do (and the threat to make strikes illegal if not enough voters actually vote…effectively making an abstention into a “no” vote…compare all these illiberal measures to the angst and delay about controlling the much more powerful and dangerous banks.

  21. Oh great, so we’ve still got the bloody stupid Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency (only now they call it Middlesbrough South and Guisborough). That has to be the most nonsensical constituency ever and even a requirement to balance electorates doesn’t warrant a shape that stupid.

  22. Guardian has provided english notionals here:

    Con 297
    Lab 191
    LD 43

    Very favourable to the tories (if they are accurate) although could be worse for the LDs but it probably underestimates Labour potential in London.

  23. The Guardian’s analysis seems pretty sensible on Birmingham, John Hemming being the big loser…

    Lab 6. (-1)
    Con 1
    LD 0. (-1)

  24. The Yorkshire ones look pretty awry.

    For example Selby and Castleford shows a Con win. Well, the Cas parts of the seat are impregnable Labour, and the parts of Selby incorporated are roughly Con and Lab level pegging.

    Also, Halifax is shown as Lab, when the ward transferred to it is solidly Con. This would make it a Con gain on a tiny majority I reckon.

    The analysis takes no account of the variation in the composition of wards.

  25. The thing is voters vote according to their situation, although Tories like to pile up majorities and Labour ten to put in a “minimum” effort.

    Make a constituency anyhting like a marginal and Labour will be out to vote. They also like to vote against the Government went the Government is Tory (much more than they like to vote for Labour in Government).

    Come the next election we will see something different.

  26. For an LD strategist looking at notional 2010 results with new boundaries (they have already lost 10 seats on their then 24% vote share: those with small majorities over Labour can now be written off), surely the only way for the party to survive in England is either to vote down the proposals, or failing that hope that the Conservatives become desperately unpopular and LDs gain some credit for bringing the government down.

    Or is there another way for them to salvage some of their seats where Tories are currently in second place?

  27. @ Billy Bob

    Ld Strategist? Does such a thing exist?

  28. Looking at my own patch (South London specifically Lambeth and Southwark) there are quite major changes with the revival of the Brixton seat which will be good, the stretching of Vauxhall to take in Wandworth wards and the new Waterloo and Clapham Common seats which will be marginal LD/Lab

    The thought occurs to me that many of the existing MPs will be inclined to retire rather than go through the hassle of seeking a new berth.

    Hoey, Harman, Hughes and Jowell are all over 60 and have given at least 20ish years of service each so would presumably qualify for a nice retirement in the Lords. But there will be a rush for all these seats being virtually next to the House of Commons – probably all of Lambeth cabinet, Southwark cabinet, GLA candidates and assorted other hangers on and random outsiders will be going for it I would have though

  29. Iceman

    That was cruel

  30. I would be surprised if LD members are not seeing the potential effect of the proposed constituency changes as yet another awful error by their leader.

    The boundary review should have been linked to a Yes vote for AV. This would have ensured support for AV from DC and the Cons.

  31. @Iceman

    Reducing English seats from 533 to 502 is a less than 6% reduction, however, even on a 23% vote share the number of LD seats would fall fron 43 to 33… a 23% reduction. How would they be doing even if they recover somewhat from their current polling position?

  32. @ Phil’s Dad
    “If [Cable] he is sensible he will go to the Lords with a terrific reputation behind him.”

    Yeh, well it’s certainly behind him! I think tuition fees, the Telegraph Tottie, etc did for Vince. Besides, when he came into power he boasted about the quangos he had shut: i.e., how many people he had rendered jobless. Now the job cull has extended to the H. of C. Typically, Vince & the others have a let out: they can spend their declining years blustering in the Lords.

  33. Simon,

    I disagree that Clapham Common will be marginal Lab/LD. This seat will take in strong Tory wards from the current Battersea seat as well as the super safe Wandsworth Common from the current Tooting seat. Such a seat would have been Tory by over 5,000 in last year’s election.

    As a fellow south Londoner, my constituency Battersea becomes much better for Labour thanks to the Vauxhall wards being added and would have been Labour by just over 5,000 in 2010. Tooting becomes paired with Streatham and becomes much safer for Labour than the present seat. The new Brixton is safely Labour with a majority of 13,000. Mitcham (sans Morden) now takes in some of Wimbledon town centre but remains a strong Labour seat. Waterloo (Bishop’s ward) becomes part of Simon Hughes’ empire and the result there hardly changes. Dulwich is paired with Sydenham and becomes more marginal but would still have been in the Labour column with the LDs remaining in second place.

    Elsewhere in London, the new Hampstead & Kilburn seat becomes much safer for Labour thanks to the addition of Gospel Oak, Highgate and especially Kentish Town which is a very weak area for the Tories. Glenda Jackson would have held on by several thousand last year. Regetnt’s Park and Camden is a fairly secure Labour seat as is City of London and Islington South. Paddington is listed as Conservative on the Guardian site but I’m to sure how they came up with that. The 4 wards from Kensington North are the strongest ones for Labour and the seat also includes the 3 strongest Labour wards from Westminster while three other wards have a sizeable Labour vote. This would have been a LAB hold by nearly 3,000 last year.

  34. Some of the East Midlands proposals are truly awful. Coalville and Keyworth???? How the commissioners came up with that I don’t know, two distant, random areas with nothing in common now or in the past. Truly bizarre. The rejigged Broxtowe with the “let’s swim across the River Trent” addition of Gotham is ludicrous as well. They’d be better putting that in with Nottm South & West Bridgford (where it should be), with Dunkirk and Lenton going the other way. Both would still be within range and make a hell of a lot more sense.
    The South Yorkshire proposals look bonkers to me as well, a LibDem activist has a proposal up on the Vote2007 site that is infinitely better with no split wards.
    Looking at those Guardian notionals, although the calculations are too simplistic, some of them will have some Conservatives seething i.e. still 2 Labour seats in Luton, Exeter still Labour, still a Labour seat in Southampton, still a Labour seat in Plymouth to name a few. I don’t think Nottm South/West Bridgfrord is as good for Ken Clarke as they think either (though it would be better with the amendments I suggested above)

  35. Exeter in particular has no changes at all. Ben Bradshaw must be relieved. I notice there is a new Oxford seat while is essentially the current Oxford East with one of the central Oxford wards (Carfax) going to Abingdon and Oxford North. This unified Oxford would be a Lab/LD battle with Labour prevailing by several thousand last year.

  36. @ Billy Bob

    ‘Or is there another way for them to salvage some of their seats where Tories are currently in second place?’

    In these seats it still makes sense for Labour supporters to vote LD to keep the Tories out. We also may get some moderate Tories voting for us now that we have shown that we’re a serious party of government, rather than an irrelevant dustbin for protest votes and/or the middle class wing of the Labour Party.

    There’s lots of doom and gloom around about the impact of the boundary changes on the Lib Dems, but people shouldn’t underestimate the ability of Lib Dem MPs to respond to unfavourable boundary changes. Many political commentators had written off Sarah Teather’s chances in Brent Central in 2010. The boundary changes looked terrible for her, but she came through in the end.

    Some of the posters on this site are far too eager to write off the Lib Dems. Perhaps some of them are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that the Lib Dems are now in government implementing many of their manifesto policies… (and exercising a moderating influence that drives Tory backbenchers and the Daily Mail into paroxysms of fury) :)
    These are tough times for the Lib Dems but things are by no means all bad.

  37. *cough*

    *whispers*… proportional representation, anyone?

    *cough* *cough* *cough*

    Seriously, a lot of the more ridiculous results of this process to tailor constituencies to, well, whatever seems to be “a la mode”, could be avoided if the House of Commons was voted by, say, half the seats based on a constituency vote and “first past the post” and the other half by “regional” votes, based on the principle of proportional representation. Okay, that would mean that the MPs would be “further away from the constituents”, but let’s face it: with the parliament in Westminster, it’s not like a MP of the House of Commons is always around in his/her constituency in, say, the Scottish Highlands or central Wales or somewhere on the countryside even in rural England these days anyway… (Well… except for the MPs of Sinn Fein – I wonder if they enter the Palace of Westminster at all, hence, they are potentially in their constituency all the time…)

  38. “I notice there is a new Oxford seat while is essentially the current Oxford East with one of the central Oxford wards (Carfax) going to Abingdon and Oxford North.”

    The names are strange. Oxford East loses the city centre but is renamed Oxford….

    The existence of a seat called Abingdon (S of Oxford) and Oxford North is bizarre at first sight. It would make more sense to keep it as Oxford West and Abingdon.

    My suspicion is these could settle as two safe-ish seats.

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