And what are the wider electoral implications of the changes?by John Curtice / September 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Bad news for Labour? Certainly. So everybody on the Conservative benches is happy? Definitely not. This more or less sums up first reactions to the initial proposals for redrawing the map of parliamentary constituencies that were published on Tuesday by the English and Welsh Boundary Commissions.
As we explained last week, Labour were bound to be the principal losers from the proposals. On the figures being used by the Boundary Commissioners to draw up the new constituencies, the average Labour seat currently contains some 4,400 fewer registered voters than the average Conservative one. As the Commissioners’ principal aim is to produce constituencies that contain more or less the same number of voters, quite a few Labour seats were bound to disappear.
Indeed, Labour’s problem is illustrated perfectly in Jeremy Corbyn’s own north London backyard, where a number of senior Labour figures have their seat. At present there are two seats in the borough of Islington, Corbyn’s North seat and Emily Thornberry’s South constituency. There are just under 120,000 people on the electoral register in the two seats. However, given the electorate figures on which the boundary commission is operating, there would need to be over 140,000 to justify retaining two whole seats in the borough.
So Thornberry’s seat has been expanded to take in a bit of Corbyn’s constituency. Most of the rest of his seat is now paired up with some of what is currently part of the neighbouring Hackney North seat, held by Diane Abbot, thereby creating a new cross-borough seat of Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington. Nearly three-fifths of the new constituency comes from Corbyn’s seat, so he looks to have the stronger claim to the Labour nomination there. The rest of Hackney North is paired up with much of Hackney South, currently held by Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, to create a new Hackney Central to which the two female Labour MPs would appear to have more or less an equal claim. Labour loses a seat and Abbott and Hillier find themselves most at risk of being the particular MP who loses out.
However, the current review is not just an exercise in making constituencies more equal in size. It is also about reducing the size of the House of Commons from 650 MPs to 600. That change…