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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An Irish Sea border – and 3 other tricky options for Northern Ireland after Brexit

There is no easy option for Northern Ireland after Brexit. 

Deciding on post-Brexit border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is becoming an issue for which the phrase "the devil is in the detail" could have been coined. Finding a satisfactory solution that delivers a border flexible enough not to damage international trade and commerce and doesn’t undermine the spirit, or the letter, of the Good Friday Agreement settlement is foxing Whitehall’s brightest.

The dial seemed to have settled on David Davis’s suggestion that there could be a "digital border" with security cameras and pre-registered cargo as a preferred alternative to a "hard border" replete with checkpoints and watchtowers.

However the Brexit secretary’s suggestion has been scotched by the new Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, who says electronic solutions are "not going to work". Today’s Times quotes him saying that "any barrier or border on the island of Ireland in my view risks undermining a very hard-won peace process" and that there is a need to ensure the "free movement of people and goods and services and livelihoods".

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has made dealing with the Irish border question one of his top three priorities before discussions on trade deals can begin. British ministers are going to have to make-up their minds which one of four unpalatable options they are going to choose:

1. Hard border

The first is to ignore Dublin (and just about everybody in Northern Ireland for that matter) and institute a hard border along the 310-mile demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Given it takes in fields, rivers and forests it’s pretty unenforceable without a Trump-style wall. More practically, it would devastate trade and free movement. Metaphorically, it would be a powerful symbol of division and entirely contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. The Police Federation in Northern Ireland has also warned it would make police officers "sitting ducks for terrorists". Moreover, the Irish government will never agree to this course. With the EU in their corner, there is effectively zero chance of this happening.

2. Northern EU-land

The second option is to actually keep Northern Ireland inside the EU: offering it so-called "special status". This would avoid the difficulty of enforcing the border and even accord with the wishes of 56 per cent of the Northern Irish electorate who voted to Remain in the EU. Crucially, it would see Northern Ireland able to retain the £600m a year it currently receives from the EU. This is pushed by Sinn Fein and does have a powerful logic, but it would be a massive embarrassment for the British Government and lead to Scotland (and possibly London?) demanding similar treatment.

3. Natural assets

The third option is that suggested by the Irish government in the Times story today, namely a soft border with customs and passport controls at embarkation points on the island of Ireland, using the Irish Sea as a hard border (or certainly a wet one). This option is in play, if for no other reason than the Irish government is suggesting it. Again, unionists will be unhappy as it requires Britain to treat the island of Ireland as a single entity with border and possibly customs checks at ports and airports. There is a neat administrate logic to it, but it means people travelling from Northern Ireland to "mainland" Britain would need to show their passports, which will enrage unionists as it effectively makes them foreigners.

4. Irish reunification

Unpalatable as that would be for unionists, the fourth option is simply to recognise that Northern Ireland is now utterly anomalous and start a proper conversation about Irish reunification as a means to address the border issue once and for all. This would see both governments acting as persuaders to try and build consent and accelerate trends to reunify the island constitutionally. This would involve twin referendums in both Northern Ireland and the Republic (a measure allowed for in the Good Friday Agreement). Given Philip Hammond is warning that transitional arrangements could last three years, this might occur after Brexit in 2019, perhaps as late as the early 2020s, with interim arrangements in the meantime. Demographic trends pointing to a Catholic-nationalist majority in Northern Ireland would, in all likelihood require a referendum by then anyway. The opportunity here is to make necessity the mother of invention, using Brexit to bring Northern Ireland’s constitutional status to a head and deal decisively with the matter once and for all.

In short, ministers have no easy options, however time is now a factor and they will soon have to draw the line on, well, drawing the line.

Kevin Meagher is a former special adviser at the Northern Ireland Office and author of "A United Ireland: Why unification is inevitable and how it will come about"

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut and a former special adviser at the Northern Ireland office.