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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The 11 things we know after the Brexit plan debate

Labour may just have fallen into a trap. 

On Wednesday, both Labour and Tory MPs filed out of the Commons together to back a motion calling on the Prime Minister to commit to publish the government’s Brexit plan before Article 50 is triggered in March 2017. 

The motion was proposed by Labour, but the government agreed to back it after inserting its own amendment calling on MPs to “respect the wishes of the United Kingdom” and adhere to the original timetable. 

With questions on everything from the customs union to the Northern Irish border, it is clear that the Brexit minister David Davis will have a busy Christmas. Meanwhile, his declared intention to stay schtum about the meat of Brexit negotiations for now means the nation has been hanging off every titbit of news, including a snapped memo reading “have cake and eat it”. 

So, with confusion abounding, here is what we know from the Brexit plan debate: 

1. The government will set out a Brexit plan before triggering Article 50

The Brexit minister David Davis said that Parliament will get to hear the government’s “strategic plans” ahead of triggering Article 50, but that this will not include anything that will “jeopardise our negotiating position”. 

While this is something of a victory for the Remain MPs and the Opposition, the devil is in the detail. For example, this could still mean anything from a white paper to a brief description released days before the March deadline.

2. Parliament will get a say on converting EU law into UK law

Davis repeated that the Great Repeal Bill, which scraps the European Communities Act 1972, will be presented to the Commons during the two-year period following Article 50.

He said: “After that there will be a series of consequential legislative measures, some primary, some secondary, and on every measure the House will have a vote and say.”

In other words, MPs will get to debate how existing EU law is converted to UK law. But, crucially, that isn’t the same as getting to debate the trade negotiations. And the crucial trade-off between access to the single market versus freedom of movement is likely to be decided there. 

3. Parliament is almost sure to get a final vote on the Brexit deal

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the final Brexit deal, which means the government accepts it also needs parliamentary approval. Davis said: “It is inconceivable to me that if the European Parliament has a vote, this House does not.”

Davis also pledged to keep MPs as well-informed as MEPs will be.

However, as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer pointed out to The New Statesman, this could still leave MPs facing the choice of passing a Brexit deal they disagree with or plunging into a post-EU abyss. 

4. The government still plans to trigger Article 50 in March

With German and French elections planned for 2017, Labour MP Geraint Davies asked if there was any point triggering Article 50 before the autumn. 

But Davis said there were 15 elections scheduled during the negotiation process, so such kind of delay was “simply not possible”. 

5. Themed debates are a clue to Brexit priorities

One way to get a measure of the government’s priorities is the themed debates it is holding on various areas covered by EU law, including two already held on workers’ rights and transport.  

Davis mentioned themed debates as a key way his department would be held to account. 

It's not exactly disclosure, but it is one step better than relying on a camera man papping advisers as they walk into No.10 with their notes on show. 

6. The immigration policy is likely to focus on unskilled migrants

At the Tory party conference, Theresa May hinted at a draconian immigration policy that had little time for “citizens of the world”, while Davis said the “clear message” from the Brexit vote was “control immigration”.

He struck a softer tone in the debate, saying: “Free movement of people cannot continue as it is now, but this will not mean pulling up the drawbridge.”

The government would try to win “the global battle for talent”, he added. If the government intends to stick to its migration target and, as this suggests, will keep the criteria for skilled immigrants flexible, the main target for a clampdown is clearly unskilled labour.  

7. The government is still trying to stay in the customs union

Pressed about the customs union by Anna Soubry, the outspoken Tory backbencher, Davis said the government is looking at “several options”. This includes Norway, which is in the single market but not the customs union, and Switzerland, which is in neither but has a customs agreement. 

(For what it's worth, the EU describes this as "a series of bilateral agreements where Switzerland has agreed to take on certain aspects of EU legislation in exchange for accessing the EU's single market". It also notes that Swiss exports to the EU are focused on a few sectors, like chemicals, machinery and, yes, watches.)

8. The government wants the status quo on security

Davis said that on security and law enforcement “our aim is to preserve the current relationship as best we can”. 

He said there is a “clear mutual interest in continued co-operation” and signalled a willingness for the UK to pitch in to ensure Europe is secure across borders. 

One of the big tests for this commitment will be if the government opts into Europol legislation which comes into force next year.

9. The Chancellor is wooing industries

Robin Walker, the under-secretary for Brexit, said Philip Hammond and Brexit ministers were meeting organisations in the City, and had also met representatives from the aerospace, energy, farming, chemicals, car manufacturing and tourism industries. 

However, Labour has already attacked the government for playing favourites with its secretive Nissan deal. Brexit ministers have a fine line to walk between diplomacy and what looks like a bribe. 

10. Devolved administrations are causing trouble

A meeting with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ended badly, with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon publicly declaring it “deeply frustrating”. The Scottish government has since ramped up its attempts to block Brexit in the courts. 

Walker took a more conciliatory tone, saying that the PM was “committed to full engagement with the devolved administrations” and said he undertook the task of “listening to the concerns” of their representatives. 

11. Remain MPs may have just voted for a trap

Those MPs backing Remain were divided on whether to back the debate with the government’s amendment, with the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas calling it “the Tories’ trap”.

She argued that it meant signing up to invoking Article 50 by March, and imposing a “tight timetable” and “arbitrary deadline”, all for a vaguely-worded Brexit plan. In the end, Lucas was one of the Remainers who voted against the motion, along with the SNP. 

George agrees – you can read his analysis of the Brexit trap here

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.