Labour’s London Boundary Challenge

by Jackie_South on September 13, 2011

The Boundary Commission published its initial proposals for constituency boundary changes in England today (we’ll have to wait a little longer for those in Scotland and Wales).  Regular readers will know that I posted a few speculative articles on how they could pan out for the parties in certain parts of the country: the Isle of Wight, the Wirral, Cornwall and Devon and North Wales.

We weren’t too far off on Cornwall and Devon (at least in the second iteration), but the Boundary Commission have decided to do some strange things in the other two cases: on the Isle of Wight, they have gone for a north-south split that puts Newport’s Carisbrooke ward in a different seat to the rest of that town instead of an east-west split.  The Wirral is even odder, with the creation of a Mersey Banks seat with no bridge or tunnel linking the two banks.

I intend to do a series on the political impact of these changes, starting with London.  Based on notional results from the 2010 general election (using the local election data from the same year to allocate votes between wards), the loss of 5 seats in London means a net loss of 5 Labour seats.  The Liberal Democrats lose one and the Tories actually gain one, largely as a result of the creation of two seats spanning the Croydon-Sutton border to abolish Tom Brake’s Carshalton and Wallington and spread the votes of rock-solid Tory Croydon South about.

Here’s the map, with darker colours showing higher majorities.  (Clicking on it a couple of times will allow you to look in more detail).  The lightest colours show notional marginals with a majority of less than 10%.

 Abolished seats, those where less than 50% of it makes up any new seat, include Ilford South, Leyton, Edmonton, Kensington, Feltham & Heston, Erith & Thamesmead and Streatham.  Of these seven, six are Labour-held and one Conservative, giving some hints to why Labour has fared badly.  This is not because Labour seats beforehand were particularly small: indeed the largest seat beforehand in the country outside of the Isle of Wight was East Ham.  Labour in London will feel hard-done by.

Some boroughs will feel aggrieved too.  Take Lambeth: it currently has two whole seats and the majority of a third.  These proposals leave only one seat, the new Brixton seat, entirely within its boundaries.  It then contributes to five other constituencies that cross borough boundaries, with perhaps the residents of Streatham South most irked in being put in the Mitcham seat.

In contrast, there are no changes in Tower Hamlets, the changes to Barnet are minimal (one ward added from Camden to the Finchley & Golders Green seat) and Bromley reverts to the three seats it had prior to 2010.

Some long-standing constituency names have gone, like Leyton, Norwood and both Holborn and St Pancras.  Some long dead ones have emerged from the grave, like Brixton, Clapham (Common this time), Paddington and Wanstead & Woodford.  The loss of the word ‘Brent’ may be less mourned.

There are a few naming anomolies: Leyton probably deserves a mention in the Stratford seat, the East Ham seat also includes Ilford town centre.  Holborn doesn’t get a mention in the (admittedly already long-named) City of London & Islington South seat despite Camden contributing two-and-a-half times voters as the City.  On the other hand, why does Perivale get a mention as the only Ealing ward in Wembley & Perivale, an otherwise Brent seat?

News coverage, such as today’s Guardian piece, had a couple of misleading suggestions. 

One is that Vince Cable is vulnerable.  The closest successor to his current Twickenham seat is Teddington & Hanworth, with a notional Lib Dem margin over the Tories of around 7,000 votes – perhaps vulnerable in the current polls but not a seat that would normally be classified as a marginal. 

The other is that the creation of Streatham & Tooting will create a tussle between rising stars Sadiq Khan and Chukka Umunna.  Unlike their two current seats, the new one is pretty safe (notional majority of 13,000) given that the challenge in Streatham is from the Lib Dems and in Tooting from the Tories, so it is a bit of a plum.  However, Khan’s claim is far greater than Umunna’s, as despite the name only two of the wards from the current Streatham seat are included.  Umunna has a better claim to the equally safe new Brixton seat.

Which are the closest marginals?  I calculate that those with a notional majority of under 5% are:

  • Chingford & Edmonton: Tory majority of 1,800 over Labour (potentially making live difficult for Iain Duncan Smith unless he plumps for Wanstead and Woodford).
  • Croydon Central & St Helier: Tory majority of 300 over the Lib Dems.
  • Eltham: Tory majority of 2,000 over Labour.  This is a current Labour marginal turned Tory by the addition of two safe Tory wards from Bexley.
  • Enfield North: an ultra-tight Labour majority of 75 over the Tories on these figures.  The current seat with that name is a Tory marginal, but the addition of territory from Edmonton just sways it to Labour.
  • Hendon: Tory majority of 106 over Labour.  There have been no boundary changes to this seat.
  • Ilford North: another squeaker, with a Tory majority of 92 over Labour.
  • Richmond & Twickenham: Lib Dem majority of 1,400 over the Tories.  Richmond Park is currently Tory held, but loses its Kingston wards (all of which have at least some Tory councillors) to Kingston & Surbiton and gains four slightly more Lib Dem ones from the current Twickenham seat.
  • Stanmore: Tory majority of 1,700 over Labour.  This seat is the successor to Harrow East, with the addition of a couple of wards currently in Brent North.
  • Sutton & Cheam: Tory majority of 800 over the Lib Dems.  The current seat with this name is a Lib Dem marginal, but the addition of two wards from Merton switch the balance.
  • Willesden: Lib Dem majority of 500 over Labour.  This seat is largely based on the current  Brent Central seat held by Sarah Teather.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tim Roll-Pickering September 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Regarding “City of London & Islington South”, I presume this is because the relevant clause in the legislation was retained which requires the undivided City of London to be in a constituency that mentions it by name. This concession was made after heavy lobbying against the abolition of the old City of London constituency in the late 1940s (most of the electorate were business voters, a class abolished at the same time).

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