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.
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.
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 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.