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13 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and George Osborne at risk in boundary review

Jeremy Corbyn, Tristram Hunt, David Davis and George Osborne are all in the firing line. 

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Corbyn and George Osborne are the biggest names at risk in the proposals produced by the Boundary Commission.

The proposed boundaries, which will make constituencies equal in terms of the number of voters in each constituency, tear the Labour leader’s seat asunder into the new seats of Finsbury Park & Stoke Newington, notionally held by Diane Abbott, and Islington, held by Emily Thornberry.

Although party rules mean that a Labour MP has a territorial claim on their constituency if the new seat retains at least four-tenths of the old, Corbyn’s seat, the smallest in the UK, was always at risk. In practice, a seat for the Labour leader should easily be found, with the leader’s aides saying that the best outcome would be for “us all to move east”, with Abbott taking up Hackney Central, to which she also has a claim, Meg Hillier – who has a claim to both Hackney Central and Hackney West & Bethnal Green taking the seat of Hackney West & Bethnal Green, and Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bow and Bethnal Green, moving to take the seat of Poplar and Limehouse, whose current MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, is widely expected to stand down at the next election.

As for Osborne, he faces a tricky selection battle against Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, with his Tatton Park seat scrapped by boundary changes. His former counterpart, John McDonnell, however, has been bolstered by the injection of Labour wards from the neighbouring seat.

Cabinet ministers without a home include David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, whose seat is folded into Andrew Percy, a sitting Conservative, and Alan Johnson’s, while Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for International Development, must seek a new seat after her Witham constituency was abolished.

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The Conservatives have a policy of “no MP left behind”, with CCHQ pledging to ensure that all sitting MPs have a seat when the dust settles. In practice, Patel is likely to receive Eric Pickles’ seat, with Pickles expected to stand down at the next election.

Corbyn’s critics in the Labour party have no such guarantees and face an uphill battle to remain in Parliament. Although Liz Kendall, who ran for the Labour leadership last year, has escaped wholesale change to her Leicester West constituency, taking on the only Labour-friendly ward of Blaby, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt, Chris Leslie, Jonny Reynolds, Chi Onwurah, Rachel Reeves and Alison McGovern are all under threat, either as a result of losing their territorial claim or due to an influx of Tory voters.  Creagh’s majority is halved, while McGovern’s Wirral South seat is merged with the neighbouring Wirral West seat to form Bebington and Heswall, which starts out as a notionally Conservative-held seat.

Corbyn’s ally, Cat Smith, faces an uphill battle to hold her seat, now notionally a Tory-held marginal.

Yvette Cooper may have to undergo a full-blown selection for the new seat of Normanton, Castleford and Outwood, while, in Wales, Owen Smith’s seat of Pontypridd is at risk.  

Caroline Lucas’s seat of Brighton Pavillion is likewise abolished, though she has a fighting chance of coming through the middle in a three-way fight in the neighbouring seat.

The Liberal Democrats are the biggest losers, with Tim Farron’s seat adding new Conservative areas, Nick Clegg’s seat abolished and Tom Brake’s switching to a notional Conservative hold. However, the redrawn seat of Cambridge is a safe Liberal Democrat seat on paper. 

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