Boundary reforms will give boost to Tories in south of England

Boris Johnson during the election campaign

Boris Johnson during the election campaign - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Northern England and the West Midlands will lose MPs under a planned shake-up of Westminster constituencies, with cabinet ministers set to be hit by the changes.

The proposals, aimed at ensuring seats with broadly similar numbers of voters, will see England gain 10 additional seats overall, but the bulk of those will be in the South.

While experts believe the plans will result in gains for the Conservatives, the upheaval could cause problems for defence secretary Ben Wallace, whose Wyre and Preston North seat is carved up, and education secretary Gavin Williamson, who faces major changes to his South Staffordshire constituency.

Labour leader Keir Starmer will see his parliamentary boundaries substantially redrawn, while the seats of prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak will remain largely unchanged under the proposed new electoral map of England.

Separate reviews will propose the constituencies in Wales, which is due to lose eight seats, and Scotland, which will be down two.

Of the 533 existing English constituencies, fewer than 10% will remain unchanged under the proposals.

The Boundary Commission is not due to make its final recommendations to parliament until July 2023 and its proposals are the subject of an eight-week consultation.

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Under the proposals:

– The South East has been allocated 91 constituencies – an increase of seven from the current number.

– The East Midlands has been allocated 47 constituencies – an increase of one.

– The Yorkshire and the Humber region has been allocated 54 constituencies – the same as the current number.

– The South West region has been allocated 58 constituencies – an increase of three.

– The West Midlands has been allocated 57 constituencies – a reduction of two.

– The North West has been allocated 73 constituencies – a reduction of two.

– London will have 75 seats, up two.

– The Eastern region will have 61 seats, up three.

– The North East will have 27 seats, down two.

Tory peer and elections expert Lord Hayward told the PA news agency: “My thought is that the Tories’ net gain will be five to 10 seats.”

That was partly due to the reduction of seats in Wales and Scotland and partly due to extra constituencies being created in Tory heartlands such as south-east England.

Lord Hayward said: “There’s much more change than I expected, and I think most people would say that.

“Obviously you’ve got to do a fair amount of change because what you’re working on is electorates that are over 20 years old now.

“But I think in a number of places like Hampshire and Sussex and Suffolk and Leicestershire, they’ve made more change than A) I expected and B) I thought was necessary.

“And the agony is clearly on both sides. You know, there will be constituencies where people face a problem.”

By law, the commission is required to draw up seats with 69,724 to 77,062 electors – a condition which it said meant that widespread change was “inevitable”.

Among those affected are Starmer's Holborn and St Pancras constituency in north London, which the commission is proposing to rename Kentish Town and Bloomsbury to reflect the changes.

The commission noted the current electorate is 5% above the limit, and proposed transferring three existing wards to the planned seat of Camden Town and St John’s Wood, while taking in an “orphan” ward from the neighbouring borough Islington.

It nevertheless said the seat would still cover the same north-south geographical range as Holborn and St Pancras, retaining nine of its existing wards.

In contrast, the commission said its proposals for Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency in west London were “very similar” to the existing boundaries, adding one extra ward.

Sunak’s Richmond seat in North Yorkshire is also subject to limited change under the proposals, losing two wards to Thirsk and Malton.

Meanwhile, the Tory MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, Michael Fabricant, has complained bitterly at the proposals for his constituency, saying they showed “no knowledge” of the area.

“It divides Lichfield Trent Valley station in two and cuts off the eastern edge of Lichfield itself. Frankly, it’s a nonsense,” he said.

“It bears all the hallmarks of boundaries drawn in the 19th and 20th centuries by Whitehall mapmakers in days of empire without any knowledge or care of the regions and people concerned.”

The commission stressed that the proposals, which open for an initial eight-week public consultation period, were provisional.

It is not due to make its final recommendations to parliament until July 2023.

Commission secretary Tim Bowden said: “Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the commission’s initial thoughts.

“We want to hear the views of the public to ensure that we get the new boundaries for parliamentary constituencies right.”

The boundary commissions for Scotland and Wales will publish their proposals separately.

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