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What would boundary changes really mean for the Conservatives?

The actual difference as far as political advantage goes is less than 0.5 per cent.

Will boundary changes do what Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Owen Smith and Theresa May couldn't do and get shot of Jeremy Corbyn?

The Boundary Commission has released its revised proposals for the new 600-seater House of Commons, and Corbyn's Islington North seat is among the casualties – torn asunder between Diane Abbott's Hackney North, which is reconstituted as Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington, and Emily Thornberry's Islington South which is now just Islington.

Other big names at risk include David Davis, whose seat's disintegration could make the nearby Labour constituencies a little less safe but may leave him without a berth, and Boris Johnson, who gains an extra tranche of Labour voters.

The importance of boundary changes is often hugely overstated – the Conservative preoccupation with them is a vestige of a failed pre-Cameron era of politics in which they couldn't win over affluent ethnic minorities and social liberals so just engaged in strange fantasies about removing them from electoral consideration.

The actual difference as far as political advantage goes is less than 0.5 per cent – Labour need a 0.5 per cent bigger swing to win the next election, the Conservatives need a 0.5 per cent smaller one. Boundary changes tend to advantage the Conservatives because of the long-term population shrinkage in the north and its increase in the south, though after the demographic realignment that occurred in June, that isn't the unalloyed boost for the Tories that it once was. 

The bigger change is that in a 600-member Commons you have fewer heterogeneous seats, which means that it is easier for both parties to win decent majorities. (Don't forget, no one has managed that since Tony Blair way back in 2005.)

But these things matter in close elections, particularly as the Conservatives seem to have entered a post-Cameron era of failed politics in which they can't appeal to well-paid minorities or social liberals. These changes would be enough to give the Conservatives a very small parliamentary majority – my very, very, very rough estimate this morning is 302 seats out of 600.

There is some jostling around today about who loses out and who gets to keep their seat. But ultimately the number that tells you this reform is dead in the water is 15 – that's how many Conservative MPs would find themselves without a seat in the new Commons.

Before the snap election, the whips found it easier to buy co-operation from Tory MPs who would lose out because of the perception that those MPs could be shuffled into Labour seats that would easily turn blue once voters got a chance to express their feelings about Corbyn.  It goes without saying that that particular line of argument doesn't go down as well with Conservative backbenchers as it once did. And as for the alternate option of a well-paid parachute, AKA a seat in the House of Lords, plans to shrink the size of that chamber, as revealed by Lucy Fisher in today's Times, means that option isn't as attractive or as easily available as it once was anyway.

In any case, although we have to wait until January to see the final proposals from Northern Ireland, there is no way to shrink its parliamentary allocation without disadvantaging the DUP, so that's nothing doing. As the other opposition parties are all set to vote against, it's hard to see how a parliamentary majority can be found to approve these boundary changes.

What happens then? Well, the government can either start the whole process again from scratch, with a fresh Act of Parliament for a 650-seat House of Commons, which ought to get through the House comfortably but might struggle to complete its passage in time for the next election even if parliament goes the full five years. Or if the existing review is voted down and no alternative is put through in time for it to be implemented, the next election will take place on current boundaries, all of them based on a review that took place way back in 2005, that will be 17 years old by 2022.

Who does that advantage? Well, the short answer is "nobody". It increases the difficulty of winning a stable parliamentary majority for anyone – and makes hung parliaments, coalitions, and deeply unrepresentative results more likely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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What the university staff strike reveals about our broken higher education system

The marketisation of our universities is facing its biggest opposition yet.

The biggest industrial strike ever by academic staff in Britain's universities has begun.

National newspapers are running panicked headlines about what may happen if the strike lasts: “University strike puts final exams in danger”, warns The Times. “University strikes could hit exams and graduation ceremonies”, says the Guardian. But as well as affecting the education of students who are heavily in debt, the strikes will hit academics with very different levels of job security, and university establishments at a time when higher education is on the political agenda. 

The University and College Union voted for strike action last month over a failure to reach an agreement with Universities UK (UUK), the body which represents of the Vice Chancellors of every university in the country, over changes to academics' pension plans.

The pension scheme at the heart of the conflict, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, currently has over 400,000 participants. UUK have stated that the pension scheme currently has a £6.1bn deficit and that the cost of future benefits has increased by one third since 2014. They are proposing a switch from a direct benefit pension scheme (fixed, guaranteed pension payments) to a direct contribution scheme (reliant on stock markets) to maintain the scheme's sustainability.

However, many academics argue the deficit is overstated, and is instead a cynical attempt to reduce the universities' pension liabilties. 

Older and more senior academics who have already spent several decades paying into the system will be less affected by the changes, as contributions will be protected under the old scheme until 2019. 

UCU however allege that this change will result in an average yearly £10,000 loss in staff members' pensions. Academics at 61 universities, including the likes of Oxbridge, UCL, Imperial College London, Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh will be striking for 14 days. 

The strikes begin on Thursday, and yet no-one seems to know what will happen. FAQs provided by universities to students all appear to have a similar theme: Academic disruption will be minimised, but if you have a complaint, please email us. 

16 percent of academic staff at these universities will be on strike (because most academics aren't a part of a union) but lectures and seminars have still been cancelled. It is still unclear for students whether they will be examined on subjects that they will miss. 

But for the most part, students appear to support the academics. Mark Crawford, a Postgraduate Sabbatical Officer at UCL (the biggest university in the country to strike) says he has been pleasantly surprised by the number of students who have messaged asking him how they can help. 

Perhaps this is due to the pains some academics have gone to minimise the disruption their students will face. Some lecturers have made presentations available online, and have amendeded their reading lists. One academic at King's College London, KCL, has even rearranged her seminars off campus. 

Yet this feeling of goodwill may disappear when reality kicks in. Robert Adderly, a second year Law student at KCL, and a campaigner for the student group provocatively titled “Students Against Strikes” says he’s unsure how supportive students will be once the action actually begins. 

Adderly, while sympathetic to the concerns of the academics does not believe striking is the most effective way to negotiate with Universities UK. He goes on to say that he believes “neither side is willing to compromise” and says that the “only people losing out are students.”

He also says he believes a lot of students “haven’t assessed how they really feel about the strikes” and that the “longer it goes on, the more students who will get angry”. 

Adderly's thoughts are backed by a poll conducted by Trendence UK, a market research company, which found that 38 per cent of students supported their academics on strike, compred to 38 per cent who did not.

Several academics have spoken to the New Statesman off the record about feelings of uneasiness around the strike, arguing that there is a better, less disruptive way of resolving the pension debate. Others are unsure about the leadership of UCU and believe striking will only lead to a build up of work later. 

Professor Andrew Pomiankowski at UCL emailed his students saying while he supported the strike, he would continue conducting his classes this week. He later told the New Statesman “I have a lot of sympathy with the reasons for the strike - the loss of provision of pensions, especially for the younger members of staff. Talking is the only way of resolving this problem. However, I don’t feel that I should disrupt teaching of students. That’s a step too far.”

The strikes go to the heart of the debate about the marketisation of university. Even students who support the strike are in conflict with one another. Notably, students who support the strikes are unhappy with campaigns such as Adderly’s which are also demanding universities compensate them for lost teaching hours. Crawford says your “first instinct shouldn’t be how much am I losing? It should be how much is our staff losing.”

On the other hand, Adderly argues we shouldn’t pretend the marketisation of university hasn’t already happened, saying “It’s here. It’s happening. We are now consumers.” 

Though it appears unlikely that universities will refund students, these strikes are highlighting how our attitudes to higher education have changed in a short space of time, and causing some to ask if this is the future we want for British higher education.