Constituency boundary wars: Winners and losers

 
Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander Charles Kennedy could be pitted against Danny Alexander

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The UK's electoral map could change forever under plans to reduce the number of constituencies and MPs. But who will gain - and who will lose - from the shake-up?

It could get very ugly indeed.

New research suggests the Liberal Democrats could lose a quarter of their seats at the next general election before a vote has been cast, under coalition plans to redraw the political map of Britain.

Other projections have suggested the plans would not have such a devastating effect on Nick Clegg's party, but neither would they hand a significant boost to the Conservatives, as many have assumed.

The truth is, nobody really knows.

The four Boundary Commissions, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have only just begun their work and are not due to unveil the new constituencies until September.

But it is safe to say there will be an almighty row when they do.

The plan - to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - is aimed at ensuring all constituencies are roughly the same size.

'Pro-Labour bias'

Barring a handful of exceptions in the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Wight, every seat must be within 5% of 76,000 voters.

The plan, contained in the The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, was secured by the Conservatives in return for allowing the Lib Dems a referendum on changing the voting system.

Prime Minister David Cameron believes it will remove what he sees as the inherent pro-Labour bias in the current system.

BIGGEST ELECTORATES

  • 1. Isle of Wight (Con) - 109,902
  • 2. East Ham (Lab) - 90,674
  • 3.Manchester Central (Lab) - 90,110
  • 4. North West Cambridgeshire (Con) - 88,851
  • 5. Ilford South (Lab) - 87,765

Labour have accused the Conservatives of attempting to "gerrymander" the electoral system by creating more "safe" Tory seats.

In fact, it is likely to end the careers of MPs on all sides, as their constituencies are simply wiped from the political map.

Others will face a fight with neighbouring MPs from the same party over who gets to contest the new, combined seat.

Potential flashpoints could include Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and his former party leader Charles Kennedy.

Both MPs represent geographically huge, but sparsely populated seats, in the Highlands of Scotland.

Another battle could see Chancellor George Osborne pitted against the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 committee Graham Brady, both of whom represent largely suburban seats in the North-West of England.

Bitter battles

Other potential losers could be Lib Dem Ministers Norman Baker, Sarah Teather and Andrew Stunell and Conservative colleagues Grant Shapps and Hugh Robertson.

But the most bitter battles could come between local party associations facing extinction.

SMALLEST ELECTORATES

  • 1. Na h-Eileanan an Iar (SNP) - 21,780
  • 2. Orkney and Shetland (LD) - 33,085
  • 3. Arfon (PC) - 41,198
  • 4. Aberconwy (Con) - 44,593
  • 5. Dwyfor Meirionnydd (PC) - 45,364

The effect of this on morale and campaigning strength in the run up to the next general election can only be guessed at, particularly among Lib Dem activists, already reeling from low opinion poll ratings and public anger over unpopular coalition policies.

The Lib Dems tend not to dominate areas of the country in the way Labour and the Conservatives do - the party has few traditional "heartlands" with many seats next door to each other - making them potentially more vulnerable when constituencies are merged.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was a keen advocate of the plan to cut the number of MPs when it was included in last year's coalition agreement, seeing it as part of a broader push towards "fairer" politics.

But projections - such as one unveiled by researchers at Liverpool University earlier on Monday - are likely to send a jolt of fear through his already jittery party.

Lib dem revolt?

The Democratic Audit map based on the same criteria being used by the Boundary Commissions, shows the Lib Dems could lose 14 out of their 57 MPs.

Although roughly even numbers of seats would be lost across the parties - 16 Conservative, 17 Labour and 14 Lib Dems - that would represent 24.6% of the seats the Lib Dems won last year, compared to 5.2% for the Tories and 6.6% Labour.

The party insists that the only map that counts is the official one being drawn up by the Boundary Commissions.

All we know so far is that 10 seats will go from Wales, seven from the North-West of England, and five each from London and the West Midlands.

And that the final date by which Parliament must put the new boundaries in place is October 2013.

A revolt by Lib Dem backbenchers and peers could potentially derail the plans and stop the Conservatives gaining what they believe would be a significant advantage at the 2015 general election.

Would Lib Dem MPs be tempted to renege on the coalition agreement and side with Labour to try to save their skins?

With the the public's resounding 'no' to AV still ringing in their ears, and the coalition entering what is likely to be its final days as the 2015 election approaches, it would be a brave person who bet against it.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    So now we have a PM who was not voted in changing the voting system so that his party is more likely to keep winning elections and this is somehow legal! The tories may lose an equal amount of seats but the two other parties split the left vote whilst the tories have almost all of the right so the opposition lose twice as many, well done Lib Dems your self-destruction is complete

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    Sorry, remind me, when did MPs speak for their constituents?? 95% of my constituency did not support the rise in tuition fees. By this logic, my MP would have voted AGAINST, but for seem reason voted FOR. Go figure.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 13.

    We should get rid of half of the politicians in parliament, and only those with over 50% of their constituency vote should be allowed into parliament.
    I already hate the system whereby MPs with very few votes are allowed to speak for the people, when the people never really voted for them.
    Its obvious that MPs in general do NOT represent the majority views.
    Get rid of them and save the tax payer!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    The statement "Other projections have suggested the plans would not have such a devastating effect on Nick Clegg's party, but neither would they hand a significant boost to the Conservatives (...) The truth is, nobody really knows." is really rather odd.

    There is a mathematica/computational technique called "community detection" that could be used (with existing data) to answer this right now.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    Why, when I go to the tables to find my new constituency in the South-West, am I directed to the South-East tables. It seems the same if you want to check in the Yorks & Humber area too. Perhaps a total shake up in these areas?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    @Drewbonce - Of course! Doh.....I'll get me coat....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    Mightyblooze - allowing for kids and others not registered, your town with its population of 200,000 probably has about 150,000 registered voters, so you'll probably have no change in number of MPs. The 76,000 number is of registered voters, not population

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Should save money, less MP's for the Police to keep an eye on.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    Why are Scotland and Wales still sending so many MP's to Westminster? I do understand that this is the Government for the entire UK but surely they are now over-represented.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    Far from reducing the number of seats where I live, the opposite is true. My town has a population of around 200000 and currently has 2 seats. To keep "within 5% of 76000" would see an extra seat, merged with surrounding villages. Interesting!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    The liberals have demanded all their components of the coalition agreement but trying to delay conservative parts of the agreement.
    ie Immigration controls and no doubt the Reforming

    Hypocrisy if you ask me.

    Why does labour think is fair for them to have loads of small constiuencies in cities unlike once again the south west which has large numbers of voters for constituencies

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    Why the need to reduce the number of MPs? Historically there were more MPs when the population was nearly as low as half of what it is today. It is difficult enough to see your MP anyway, we have lived in the same house since 1985 & not once have we seen a candidate or one of their representatives on our doorstep.
    Reduce the number of local councillors & bureaucrats & save some real money.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 3.

    I hope and pray that it is is Charles Kennedy up against Danny Alexander that we end up with Mr Kennedy who has real Liberal Democrat credentials.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 2.

    You asked - "Would Lib Dem MPs be tempted to renege on the coalition agreement and side with Labour to try to save their skins?"

    Well yes - they betrayed those who voted for them to get a seat in cabinet so why would we trust them to stick to a coalition agreement?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1.

    Might I politely remind all and sundry that under The REPRESENTATION of THE PEOPLE ACT(s), the electorate are choosing a PERSON (not a party) to represent their own GEOGRAPHICAL Group/Area? Surely it should be the NUMBER of the Electorate that counts, anyway?

 

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