A couple of years back, the Conservative Government asked the (supposedly independent) Boundary Commission to conduct a review of the UK’s constituencies. (Don’t click away yet, it does get more interesting.) However, there was one major brief: slim the country down from 650 constituencies to just 600.
It’s easy to see the Government’s rationale here; the plan would save just under £15 million a year and would bring this country in line with many others – the USA has just 435 seats with 5 times the UK’s population.
Anyway, if the plan gets through, it would mean that 50 MPs would lose their seats. To give you an idea of the scale of that, in the 2015 General Election 90 MPs decided not to re-contest re-stand for election. In the grand scheme of things, 50 MPs may not seem like a lot but it would mean that a reasonably significant number of MPs wouldn’t be able to re-contest their seat. This is because it will have been abolished with different parts of it being merged into neighbouring constituencies.
So here’s reason the 1st reason why the change matters: MPs will be left without seats, and big names too. Ex-Chancellor George Osborne, Brexit Secretary David Davis and former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s seats will all be so significantly altered that they will have to essentially find new ones to contest. That’s not all though, other constituencies such as Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North will be moved and altered. In the Labour leader’s case he will probrably contest the new seat of Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington (the nearest thing to his old one), the irony there being that it is the home to 30,000 Orthodox Jews at a time when Corbyn’s party faces allegations of anti-Semitism. There is a genuine prospect for Corbyn of being unseated, leaving Labour without a Parliamentary leader.
Whilst these boundary changes are meant to be fair, Labour will be hit much harder than the Conservatives by the plan, with some analysts saying that if the system were in place for last year’s election, the Tories’ majority would be double the size. This raises allegations that the review is biased and while this may be the case, every government that has ever commissioned a boundary review has always tried to twist it to their advantage: there are essentially no legal grounds upon which it can be declared biased.
Possibly the most significant thing though is that it may not get through Parliament. It is still not yet known if MPs will definitely vote on the changes (although it is thought that they will) but assuming they did, all Labour MPs would surely oppose the bill. That leaves the Conservatives and their majority of 16, exactly the number of Tory MPs that would lose their seats under the proposals…