Top MPs at risk in shake-up of English constituencies

 

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Some of the most high-profile MPs in Parliament face seeing their seats disappear as part of a far-reaching shake-up of the Commons map in 2015.

Ken Clarke, Chris Huhne and Tessa Jowell are among those affected by Boundary Commission plans for England and Northern Ireland.

The proposals are part of a move to cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600 by the next general election.

Details for Wales and Scotland will be published at a later date.

The government believes a smaller Commons will lower the cost of politics, saving £12m a year, while the system will be fairer as the electorate in each constituency will be more uniform.

Independent recommendations

But some Labour MPs have accused the coalition of gerrymandering while some Lib Dems are reported to be unhappy about the prospect of losing seats in the shake-up - agreed as a package earlier this year in combination with May's referendum on the voting system.

MPs whose constituencies are set to be effectively abolished will have to find another seat to contest if they wish to remain in Parliament, leading to a fierce scramble in the run-up to the next election.

The Boundary Commission for England has given details of the 502 constituencies, down from 533 last year, in which elections are likely to be held in 2015.

The full details of allocated English seats, as against 2010, are:

  • South East England: 83 seats (-1)
  • North West England: 68 (-7)
  • London - 68 seats (-5)
  • Eastern England: 56 seats (-2)
  • Yorkshire and Humber: 50 seats (-4)
  • West Midlands: 54 seats (-5)
  • South West England: 53 seats (-2)
  • East Midlands: 44 seats (-2)
  • North East England: 26 seats (-3)

Senior figures from all parties are likely to be affected by the changes.

Threat to MPs

Shadow Cabinet members Ed Balls and Hilary Benn could face a fight for one seat if their nearby constituencies in West Yorkshire are partly amalgamated.

MPS WHOSE SEATS ARE UNDER THREAT

  • George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Hugh Robertson (Tories)
  • Ed Balls, Hilary Benn, Tessa Jowell, Chuka Umunna (Labour)
  • Chris Huhne, Vince Cable, Tim Farron (Lib Dems)

In London, the Dulwich and West Norwood seat of former minister Tessa Jowell would be split into three while Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna would see his Streatham seat divided up four ways.

Lib Dem MPs who could be under pressure include Chris Huhne, Vince Cable and Tim Farron.

Energy Secretary Mr Huhne's Eastleigh constituency would be split in two under the plans while Business Secretary Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, could potentially find himself up against Conservative Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, in a future contest.

'Tea room fuss'

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe constituency in Nottinghamshire would cease to exist in its current form.

He told the BBC he "regretted" its likely demise but would not rush into any decisions about his own future - preferring to wait until the outcome of the consultation.

PROPOSED SEAT ALLOCATIONS

  • England: 502 (-31)
  • Scotland: 52 (-7)
  • Wales: 30 (-10)
  • Northern Ireland: 16 (-2)

"It all has to be handled carefully. But I am one of those who has been through boundary changes before and it usually works alright for those who go about it sensibly.

"The fuss in the (Commons) tea room will soon die down, I trust."

Conservative leader David Cameron, MP for Witney, and Labour leader Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, are among 77 people whose constituencies would be unaffected by the changes.

MPs will be able to "appeal" against the provisional changes during a 12-week consultation taking place between now and December.

The Boundary Commission will publish revised proposals next year which will also be subject to exhaustive consultation before finally being submitted to Parliament for approval by October 2013.

It is encouraging the public to give their feedback on its proposals - including the names of constituencies - during a series of open hearings in October and November.

"The Commission was given clear principles and from that starting point we have found a solution that we think best meets Parliament's rules," said the Commission's secretary Simon James.

'More equal'

The government said the plan to shrink the Commons was "right" and had been spelled out in the coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

THE PROPOSED CHANGES

  • The number of seats will fall from 650 to 600
  • Almost all constituencies will have between 72,810 and 80,473 registered voters
  • Three constituencies - Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney and Isle of Wight - will be excluded from this quota due to their distinctive geography
  • Isle of Wight gains second MP
  • Final proposals to be submitted to Parliament for approval by October 2013

"The constituencies used in the 2010 general election vary widely in size and this process will make them more equal and ensure everyone's vote has a more equal weight," a No 10 spokesman said.

Options open to MPs without seats include applying for selection in a new seat whose boundaries resemble their old one or going up against another MP for the right to represent a different seat.

Another option is to succeed any MP who chooses to retire and not stand again in 2015.

Details of proposed changes to Scottish constituencies will be published next month while the likely make-up of seats in Wales will become clear in January.

Professor John Curtice, an elections expert from the University of Strathclyde, said the existing electoral map discriminated against the Conservatives, due to population shifts over time and the comparative number of seats in England, Scotland and Wales.

The changes would reduce but not eliminate this "bias", he added.

Graphic showing changes in Ken Clark's constituency
 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 618.

    You get what you vote for - the UK voted down the Alternative Vote, which I supported, and also wanted less MPs "taking expenses" and gave a mandate for this reform.

    It will cost less to have less MPs. Personally I'd want multi member constituencies voted for by AV or STV from a list system, but that doesn't appear to be what the UK wants (yet).

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 574.

    So with the culling of 50 MPs [whatever you think of them] our democratic representation is being erroded. Forgive me if I'm wrong but I though that our population was growing [even taking out immigrants etc] so why is it that the MP is representing even more people? This means even less chance of actually talking to an MP and not their secretary than before.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 547.

    Here's the situation in my part of the country.

    Before the boundary reorganisation: blue wasteland.
    After the boundary reorganisation: blue wasteland.

    This tinkering at the edges of our so-called democracy is essentially meaningless. Wherever you are in England, at least half of you will probably live your entire lives without having voted for your elected MP.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 519.

    In my opinion the most important aspect of this is the evening out of Constituency sizes so that no party has an unfair advantage(as was the case)as any such unfairness does not serve democracy well. PR(just as the discreditedAV) would not necessarily give a better system although I do agree that sitting MP's should be local to the community they are serving.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 512.

    An unhappy New Year for MPs here in Wales, with the cull being from 40 to 30. Mind you nearly all the Labour MPs put their names forward in the recent Labour Leadership election, so some egos there need cutting down to size. What really needs to happen is the Lords should face a similar reduction. In fact 'sitting' peers should not exceed the number of MPs. For a start, kick out the lobbyists!

 

Comments 5 of 19

 

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