What do the boundary changes mean for each party?

As Vince Cable and Iain Duncan Smith face major changes, here is a breakdown of what the boundary pr

David Cameron faces a battle in Parliament after proposed boundary changes have gone much further than expected.

The boundary review has released its proposed changes to parliamentary constituencies in England to rationalise the size of the electorate in each (proposals for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are forthcoming). However, tight mathematical restraints (commissioners were charged with producing seats with electorates of 76,641, with only 5 per cent variation permitted) mean that the new seats pay little attention to county lines. For example, one seat would include voters from both Devon and Cornwall.

The proposals, aimed at reducing the overall number of MPs from 650 to 600 (within England from 533 to 502), will also pit members of the same party against each other. It is already being suggested that the changes might not go through before the next election, if at all -- although Downing Street spokespeople say that Cameron is determined to make the changes. Here is a summary of the impact the changes could have on each party, and which of their prominent MPs stand to suffer.

Conservatives

The Conservatives stand to gain the most from the changes, because it believes that Labour has an electoral advantage due to the smaller size of its constituencies. However, on initial reading, Tories fear that these changes hand them many more marginal seats. There is a change that this could work in their favour at the next election, but this is risky as it depends upon a swing to the Conservatives.

MPs facing changes:

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, faces major changes in the Chingford and Woodford Green seat. The seat will become Chingford and Edmonton, incorporating three strong Labour wards.

George Osborne's Tatton seat will be renamed Northwich, but the Chancellor is said to be relaxed, as his seat remains largely in tact.

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe constituency in Nottinghamshire would cease to exist in its current form. Its voters would split between four proposed seats.

Nadine Dorries, the MP for Mid Bedfordshire seat who has made headlines for her abortion campaigning, will lose her seat.

Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, will lose his seat in Faversham and Mid Kent.

Liberal Democrats

Along with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats also pledged to change boundaries in their manifesto. However, several high profile MPs face changes to their seats. If these changes are implemented before the next election, it will stretch their limited resources. However, they can take heart from the success of Sarah Teather, who held on in the new seat of Brent Central when her seat was merged with that of Labour MP, Dawn Butler.

MPs facing changes:

Large chunks of Vince Cable's Twickenham constituency will be joined with Richmond. This could set up a clash between the Business Secretary and Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond Park. Cable could alternatively stand in the new seat of Teddington and Hanworth, which encompasses much of his old seat.

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, faces a "significantly reconfigured" seat in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Tim Farron, the party president, will face a widely redrawn seat to be named Kendal and Penrith. This will pit him against the Tory MP Rory Stewart (currently MP for Penrith). Tories fear that Stewart might lose.

Labour

Labour has yet to give a formal response to the boundary review, but it is likely they will oppose the changes, having previously referred to it as gerrymandering. The party has previously highlighted the estimated 3.5 million people who are missing from electoral registers and therefore have not been taken into account. Many of them are in Labour voting areas.

MPs facing changes:

Labour faces a clash between two of its rising stars, Sadiq Khan (shadow justice secretary) and Chuka Umunna (shadow business minister). Their seats - Tooting and Streatham - are to be combined into one.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, will see his Morley and Outwood seat split almost exactly into two. He could be pitted against Hillary Benn, whose Leeds Central seat will be effectively abolished, with half of its voters absorbed into one of these two seats.

Former cabinet minster Tessa Jowell's Dulwich and West Norwood seat would disappear and be split into three.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.