The political impact of Parliamentary boundary changes

Yesterday Sara highlighted the Newsnight report into the political impact of reducing the number of Parliamentary constituencies. Democratic Audit have kindly provided me with a copy of their research which was used for the BBC headlines about how the Liberal Democrats were likely to lose out disproportionately.

You can read their report in full below, but it’s worth highlighting the significant caveats that Democratic Audit put on their results: “While it is possible to draw conclusions about how the proposals could impact on party representation, these findings must be regarded as purely indicative … It is very difficult to produce precise estimates of the likely partisan impact of these changes”. They describe their political projections as, “a rough estimate of the likely impact”.

Moreover, their calculations are based on making very little allowance for how parties will change their campaigning in response to changing boundaries. So ready a fair few pinches of salt and read on…

Projecting the Impact of Reduce and Equalise

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  • The new constantly changing boundaries will never be the same from one election to the next, and they will never coincide with natural community boundaries. MPs will lose all sense of identification with their local areas.

    When the new constituencies are declared, eighteen months ahead of election day, all our incumbent MPs will have to go and campaign in new, artificially created constituencies, including large areas they do not now represent. They will have eighteen months to impress large numbers of electors they do not yet represent. Our advantages of incumbency will be lost. Democratic Audit took no account of that in their calculations.

    We shall get hammered. And if AV does not pass, as the political betting community expect, then we shall get even further hammered.

    Why on earth are we considering voting for this?

    Yes, it is a gerrymander. But not against Labour. It is going to make the under-representation of the Lib Dems a great deal worse than it is now.

  • Andrea Gill 14th Aug '10 - 7:39am

    @Nigel – Or indeed those in marginals/winnable seats. Our constituency is slightly too big and covers wards with 7 Lib Dem, 4 Conservative and 1 Independent councillors, so depending on where the cut is made this could rather improve our chances after coming second last time.

  • David Allen 14th Aug '10 - 5:27pm


    I don’t agree. If you read the Democratic Audit article, they say they took account only of the problem where Lib Dem support is concentrated into a very small constituency, for example Berwick with 57,000 electors. But they have made no allowance for the much commoner problem that will occur when a perfectly normal-sized Lib Dem constituency is sliced in half, eighteen months ahead of the next election – as will happen in the majority of cases. Very often, that will mean combining an area where we have a slim majority with a neighbouring area where we are little known. As a result, we will often lose. That is what DA did not take into account. They did not paint us a worst case scenario. The reality will be a lot worse than their predictions!

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