The 7 Lib Dem MPs unaffected by the Boundary Commission proposals

The last 24 hours’ political news has been dominated by the Boundary Commission for England’s proposals for new parliamentary constituencies — and in particular the reduction from 533 to 502 in accordance with the Coalition Agreement to reduce the size of the House of Commons.

I’m a self-confessed politics geek, so I find this stuff interesting. But I was surprised that it should be the lead news item on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning — does the public care as much as us anoraks? I doubt it.

True, some members of the public will have particular concerns about the proposals affecting the seat where they live; and I was encouraged to discover by reading Mark Pack’s article for Lib Dem Voice here that the public will have plenty of opportunity engage during the consultation process.

But for most this is Westminster village stuff, and it says a lot about news editors’ inhabitance of that bubble that they would focus so much attention on hypothetical lines on maps. The reality is few people care which constituency they live in, or necessarily even know. The city I live in, Oxford, is bisected by the Boundary Commission — as it has been since 1983, and is proposed again. It is, of course, an absurdity to split a defined area down the middle. But that’s just one of the many ridiculousnesses of first-past-the-post, and the supposedly sacred constituency link.

Much attention in the last day or so has focused on possible casualties, with household names such as George Osborne and Vince Cable bandied about — as Richard Roberts notes here, though, look behind the hasty headlines, and the reality is often a little less earth-shattering.

The impacts are more likely to be felt in the longer term, as those MPs who lose out on selection for new seats will have little to lose, and may well rebel more against their party line; and those who are selected for hard-to-win seats may also wish to show their new constituents that they’re an independent battler for their new patch.

Especially in the case of the governing two parties, this could lead to a real loss of internal party cohesion. Those of us who’ve lived through similarly extensive boundary changes in local government will know quite what fall-out can result when colleagues end up pitted against each other for selection, and quite what bruised egos can do for party loyalty.

But seven Lib Dem MPs will have no such fears: they are among the lucky 77 current representatives whose consitituencies are wholly untouched by the proposals. And here they are:

  • Cambridge – Julian Huppert
  • Norwich South – Simon Wright
  • Colchester – Bob Russell
  • Eastbourne – Stephen Lloyd
  • Cheltenham – Martin Horwood
  • Torbay – Adrian Sanders
  • North Devon – Nick Harvey

For the other 50 Lib Dems MPs, however, the next few months could be a little more disruptive…

* Post updated 7am 14/9/2011 to show there are 7 Lib Dem MPs unaffected, not 4 as originally stated: apologies for the omissions/incompetence.

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  • Marie Jenkins 13th Sep '11 - 7:08pm

    And Nick Harvey in North Devon

  • Cheltenham Robin 13th Sep '11 - 8:47pm

    Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) has no changes.

    We always get forgotten.

  • UKpolling report suggests a net loss of 7 for the LD vs -5 for theTories and -18 for Labour.

    How is it that LD are supporting a policy which will only increase fairness to the Tories, whilst making the LD situation worse. The party that needs more fairness in representation are the LD – not a party that will increase their over-representation

    I cannot understand this perhaps someone can explain why this is a good piece of legislation for anybody except the Tories?

  • Stephen

    I have no issues with equalisation per se but one of the reasons it has been difficult fir the bc to achieve in the past has been the attempt to keep coherent boundaries. Also there is the registered vs population argument is still valid. This was rushed legislation and driven through by the executive tagged onto another bill in a blatant attempt to make things difficult for the opposition. There was no real attempt to reach consensus and was very poorly conceived.

    My main problem though is on the teduction if mp. On this you will see the anomalies of fptp being exacerbated. How can the under represented ld lose more seats due to the reduction in mp numbers than the Tories? Was 600 chosen because it is the best situation for them? In the manifesto the ld wanted to reduce the number of mps but this was linked to electoral reform. In reality with equalisation we should be at least keeping the same or in fact increasing

    Again the ld have made a poor strategic decision in supporting such a poor piece of legislation. Electoral reform cannot be done in this piecemeal way. Also equalisation does not apply in all cases. Funny how both the ld and Tories are given a couple of ‘free’ seats by the act (iow and the northern isles)

  • Chris Riley 14th Sep '11 - 8:33am

    I am absolutely baffled that anyone can, in good faith, say that *reducing* the number of MPs serves the electorate.

    Most of them have precious little time for constituency work as it is, and in a sitting Government with a majority, you’re going to have about a third of MPs as Ministers, giving them even less time with the people they’re ostensibly supposed to serve. That should be unacceptable.

    In addition, the choice not to use eligible voters, but those who actually voted, cynically exploits popular disenchantment with politics in a way that benefits the Tories and gives them even less incentive to increase voter turnout.

    There is no way this can be dressed up as actually being fair to the population or being a principled and democratic move, unless you want to pull some sort of disingenuous ‘cost to the taxpayer’ card, as if that were the consideration that must trump all things (and were even true in this case once you factor in the costs to administer the changes).

    It’s cynical politicking for party advantage and Lib Dems supporting it must be either themselves cynical, rather dim or, shall we say, knowingly working against the party interest for the interests of another group. It’s a mixture of all three, of course.

  • Liberal Neil 14th Sep '11 - 9:30am

    There are a number of good reasons why we can do with fewer MPs.

    There has been devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and London, making it even more unnecessary, if it ever was, for electors in those places to continue to be over-represented.

    In many parts of England MPs already serve electorates of the size now being proposed for all.

    Technology has improved rapidly making it much easier for MPs to do their job.

    @Chris Riley – most MPs I know spend lots of time on constituency matters.

  • I agree with those thinking that we can have less MPs (and I doubt that this will work out particularly badly for Lib Dems because it opens up some new areas as well as making people vulnerable). However, as several commentators have pointed out, if we reduce MPs without reducing ministers, it increases the power of government at the expense of parliament which is not what we want at all.

    So, how about we put forward a proposal to limit the number of ministers as well, perhaps as a percentage of parliament? Incidentally, would save some more money….

  • Old Codger Chris 14th Sep '11 - 11:39am

    If fewer MPs means fewer backbenchers – and no reduction in the payroll vote – there’ll be fewer successful backbench rebellions and Parliament will become even more of a rubber stamp.

    The Lib Dem 2010 manifesto proposed cutting the number of MPs to 500. An example of a populist idea which sounds good until the implications are considered – rather like elected police commissioners.

    @Stephen Tall
    Votes do not and cannot “count roughly equally no matter where you live” under FPTP or any other system whereby all MPs are elected in single-member constituencies.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Sep '11 - 3:01pm

    @Chris Riley – “the choice not to use eligible voters, but those who actually voted”

    I think you’ve been misled on a point of fact there. The constituency size is based on number of eligible (i.e. registered) voters, not on the turnout.
    Some argue that constituencies should be based on size of population rather than number of eligible voters, but that’s a completely different argument (and one that I don’t think stacks up).

  • It will be madness if we continue to support this ludicrous proposal. Proportionally we are stuffed by this, much more than Labour.

    We did propose to cut the number of MPs in our last manifesto (which was daft) but it was part of set of measures including a proportional voting system and a reformed House of Lords. It was not a mutually exclusive policy – it depended on these other policies.

    Without a proportional system the results will be less proportional to the number of votes cast and therefore more unfair.

    The elected second chamber is also important as at present unlike other western democracies the only place voters can go to for help and advice is their MP, an elected second chamber would allow a second avenue for voters. But reducing the number of MP s without an elected second chamber would overstretch our MPs more than they already are, actually making the situation worse.

    The legislation is daft anyway, the not splitting ward criteria has left the Bounday Commission an impossible task of forming constituencies that are reasonable. Having looked at their proposals there are numerous rubbish seats.

    We are at about 11% in the polls. I expect us to go up but I will be amazed if next time we are anywhere near the 24% we got last year. These boundaries will leave many of the MPs we have with greatly reduced incumbency advantages. If we don’t get this reduction/boundary change scrapped we are heading for electoral oblivion. Time to simply turn round and say NO, sorry mr Cameron you can’t have this one – were not turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • Like much of Coalition policy this is a porrly thought through and executed piece of legislation

    Cutting MPs is possible but surely only as part of a wider constitutional settlement. This was lib dem policy at the last election. The current cutting of MPs which is hitting everyone except the Tories is at best a cynical fiddling with the constitution. Why 600 MPs? Why are the IoW and the Northern Isles exempt?

    There has been no attempt during the passage of this legislation to reach a consensus on the boundary changes and reducing the numbe rof MPs as it was cynically tagged on to the referendum bill. What would stop a future Labour Government deciding to change the number of MPs or fiddle with the boundaries again just based on them passing legislation.

    I have not been impressed at all by the LD approach on this as yet again they have been outmanoeuvered by Cameron

  • Having watched over the years, successive Conservative government change the way London has been governed because each of the bodies became dominated by Labour -London County Council ( ) 1889 to 1965 to the GLC 1965 to 1986) , I am not surprised at this cynical manipulation of the boundaries.

    Do you think that the Conservatives would carry out this boundary change if it had a strong adverse effect on them ? No chance.

    The Conservatives have scant respect for democracy, hence the masses of unmandated polices enacted by this rogue Conservative government.

    Having the majority of the media in their pockets, is not even enough for the Tories. Are we surprised they want to further load the dice in their favour ? What a scurrilous and unprincipled bunch.

  • Chris Riley 15th Sep '11 - 8:50am

    @Liberal Neil

    I live in the constituency of Macclesfield, so even if David Cameron and the entire PCP are pictured on live television doing unspeakable things with livestock, we will return a Conservative to Parliament.

    Until the last election, we ‘enjoyed’ Nicholas Winterton as our representative. He was actually not a bad constituency MP for some people (his own core vote, in other words) – but this Parliament, we have the Tory David Rutley who has really upped his game with regards to constituency work. But he doesn’t have enough time (he’s on a Select Committee, but is not a Minister. He’s Ministerial calibre at the least – and a mate of Dave’s – so the assumption is that he might get a post eventually).

    However, the likelihood is that, with these changes, we’ll be ‘blessed’ with George Osborne as our representative in Parliament in a large, rural constituency with a lot of small, well-spaced villages and towns sharing little in common other than location and a penchant for Conservatism. In between his sitting in Number 11 getting his economic policy wrong, hob-nobbing with party financiers, talking partisan nonsense in public and stitching up the Liberal Democrats every chance he gets, he isn’t going to get a lot of time for constituency work, is he?

    I may have political views which don’t actually correspond at many points with Rutley’s, but in practise, all I really ask from my representative in Parliament is that they bother to engage properly with their voters and reflect their views, and in that respect, I’m happy with him because he’s a good local MP.

    Unfortunately, these changes make it less likely that my future MP will actually spend much time with their electorate which is what their job actually is, unless we elect a complete duffer with no hope as a Minister – hardly likely when we’re in one of the safest Tory seats in the country and therefore a plum one for a rising party star, and not actually that desirable anyway.

    The only good thing about these boundary changes appears to be that we might be deprived of the pleasure of Nadine Dorries in Parliament.

  • Liberal Neil 15th Sep '11 - 9:29am

    @Chris Riley – I understand your point, but is the situation you describe any different to what currently applies to Witney, for example, where there is an electorate already as big as the new average, and where they have the PM as their MP? I’m not saying it’s ideal (the real issue is how any senior minister combines a ministerial role with that of constituency MP) but it’s not much of a change from the present. (BTW, to be fair, Cameron seems to have a good reputation as a constituency MP).

  • Shocked MPs told electoral plan could remove 10m voters

    The conservatives will make registering to vote an individual choice.

    Ministers have unexpectedly proposed that it should no longer be compulsory to co-operate with electoral registration officers (EROs) when they try to compile an accurate register, in effect downgrading the civic duty to engage with politics.

    Russell warned: “It is logical to suggest that those that do not vote in elections will not see the point of registering to vote and it is possible that the register may therefore go from a 90%completeness that we currently have to 60-65%.”

    John Stewart, chairman of the electoral registration officers, said the drop-off was likely to be 10% in “the leafy shires” but closer to 30% in inner city areas. He said there would be an incentive not to register as the list is used for jury service and to combat credit fraud. He said he expected large numbers of young voters would not register.

    The Conservatives will stop at nothing for ways to increase and enhance their vote.
    Why are the Liberal Democrats propping up such disreputable and undemocratic opportunists ?

  • Certainly worth noting that three of the seven are in the East of England region.

  • Mike Falchikov 18th Sep '11 - 6:27pm

    Orkney & Shetland has certainly been preserved – tho’ I gather there was a London-based suggestion of uniting the Northern Isles with the Western Isles (300 miles from the northernmost bit of Shetland). It is a bad deal, though.
    We got ourselves shafted by lumping it in with the AV referendum – should have seen this coming. THere are a lot
    of new MPs and quite a lot of newly-drawn constituencies in this parliament. This should have been given a chance to bed down for another general election and the issue (for which there was no huge groundswell) revisited after 2015. Maybe the Lords will do us a favour and throw it out so as to miss the timetable for implementation.

  • Parliamentary boundaries are of no real significance. We are supposed to be electing a national parliament, not a local council, so it doesn’t matter where the lines are drawn.
    Having said that, many of the the BC’s proposals are imaginative, bordering (!) on the comic, particularly when I look at my own area of Canterbury – a salamander if ever I saw one.
    And if equal numbers are the thing, which they should be, the Highlands and Islands should not have protected status. They are very well represented at Holyrood,which determines more of their business than Westminster does. And the northern part of the Isle of Wight could be joined to a bit of Gosport or Portsmouth. It needs more than one MP, but not two.
    But what am I saying? I am saying that single-member constituencies are an 18th-century way of producing a 21st-century governing assembly. List PR is the only sensible way forward.

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