Red Rise County? Lancashire Boundary Changes Could Help Labour

by Jackie_South on November 6, 2011

For my second post looking at the proposed boundary changes for the Parliamentary constituencies in the North West, I’m taking a look at Lancashire, a county with more than its fair share of marginals.

Labour had a truly awful election in the Red Rose county last year.  In total, Labour fell from twelve MPs to six in the county, whilst the Tories jumped from 3 seats to 9 in May 2010. 

It lost Blackpool North & Cleveleys, Morecambe & Lunesdale, Pendle, Rossendale & Darwen and South Ribble to the Tories.  In addition, it notionally lost Lancaster & Fleetwood to them as well – a seat that should have been Labour with the 2010 boundary changes despite losing its prececessor Lancaster & Wyre to the Tories in 2005. 

Finally, the Labour Party also lost Burnley to the Lib Dems, in part due to the scandal around Kitty Ussher’s expense claims.

The boundary change proposals result in Lancashire falling from 16 seats to 14 and a bit, the bit being transferred to a largely Greater Manchester seat.  That seat is called Rochdale North & Rawtenstall, with the latter name referring to the main town in the eastern part of Rossendale district (currently in the Rossendale & Darwen seat).

The map below shows the proposed new constituencies in black, with the current ones shown in green.

The run-through of the proposed seats below runs from north to south (via an eastward zig-zag).

Morecambe and Lunesdale

The proposed change to the current seat of this name is minor: the addition of Lower Lune Valley ward from the Lancaster & Fleetwood seat. 

This new ward is strongly Conservative and will make Labour’s task in regaining the seat a little harder.  However, the Conservative majority over Labour last year was only 866, 2% of the vote, and the new seat will still be a fairly tight marginal with a Tory 4% lead.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 19,265 (41.7%)
  • Labour: 17,398 (37.7%)
  • Lib Dem: 6,811 (14.7%)
  • UKIP: 2,008 (3.9%)
  • Other: 698 (1.5%)

Lancaster

There are bigger changes to the Lancaster & Fleetwood constituency, to Labour’s detriment.   The current seat is a knife-edge marginal with a Tory lead of 333 votes (0.8% of the vote). 

As stated above, the loss of Lower Lune Valley ward to the Morecambe seat is enough to push the rest of the seat back to Labour if that were the only change. But the loss of Fleetwood, which is reunited with Blackpool North as it was prior to 2010, pushes things back in the other direction.  

The body blow to Labour’s chances though is the addition of 35,405 voters from the rural parts of the rock solid safe Conservative seat of Wyre & North Preston, a seat where Labour is third and the Tories have a majority over the Lib Dems of 15,844 (30.9%).  Labour was a further 101 votes behind the Lib Dems.  44% of the proposed seat comes from Wyre & North Preston.

All this makes the new seat safely Tory.

The new seat has only been named after its largest city, despite this being at the northern edge of the constituency, which stretches south along the M6 to the edge of Preston and the town of Ribchester, and east to take in much of the Forest of Bowland which is currently in the Ribble Valley constituency.  There is a good chance of an addition to that single name in the final version.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 21,541 (45.1%)
  • Labour: 11,566 (24.2%)
  • Lib Dem: 10,777 (22.6%)
  • UKIP: 1,889 (4.0%)
  • Green: 1,193 (2.5%)
  • Other: 775 (1.6%)

Blackpool North and Fleetwood

Blackpool North & Cleveleys is another Tory marginal over Labour, which the former won from the latter last year with a 2,150 margin (5.3% of the vote).  The proposals re-unite this seat with Fleetwood, the town to the north of Cleveleys (in turn north of Blackpool) which it was linked to in a seat between 1997 and 2010. 

Also added are the villages of Thornton and Carleton from the Wyre & North Preston seat.  This is reasonable as Thornton runs into Cleveleys.

Finally, three central Blackpool wards are transferred to Blackpool South to make up the numbers in that seat.

The impact of these three changes pretty much cancel each other out: Fleetwood is good ground for Labour, Thornton and Carleton are strongly Tory and the Blackpool wards removed are fairly balanced between the two parties.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 22,187 (42.2%)
  • Labour: 19,967 (38.0%)
  • Lib Dem: 6,404 (12.2%)
  • UKIP: 2,345 (4.5%)
  • Other: 1,617 (3.1%)

Blackpool South

Labour held on to Blackpool South last year with a 1,852 vote majority over the Conservatives (5.3%).

The changes to the seat are relatively small, with the addition of three wards from Blackpool North & Cleveleys.  These additions mean that the constituency now includes all the town centre, and comprise a safe Labour, safe Tory and marginal Tory ward.  The overall impact of the change is minimal.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 18,122 (40.9%)
  • Conservative: 16,078 (36.3%)
  • Lib Dem: 6,445 (14.5%)
  • BNP: 1,905 (4.3%)
  • UKIP: 1,514 (3.4%)
  • Other: 276 (0.6%)

Fylde

Fylde is the safe Conservative seat stretching between Blackpool and Preston, named after The Fylde, the square-shaped peninsula that ends in Blackpool. 

The current seat comprises the whole of the Fylde district, plus Lea ward from the Preston district.  Its biggest towns are the coastal resort of Lytham St. Anne’s and the inland town of Kirkham.

The proposed change is to add the town of Poulton-Le-Fylde from Wyre & North Preston.  Poulton is safely Tory, so the change will only serve to make Fylde a bit safer for them.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 27,528 (53.4%)
  • Labour: 10,570 (20.5%)
  • Lib Dem: 10,372 (20.1%)
  • UKIP: 2,415 (4.7%)
  • Other: 654 (1.3%)

Preston

Preston is currently Labour’s safest seat in Lancashire: Labour has a majority of 7,733 (23.8%) over the Lib Dems, with the Conservatives a further 875 votes behind them.

The changes proposed will reduce this majority considerably, by moving one of Labour’s safest wards, Fishwick ward, to the Ribble Valley seat and bringing in five wards from Wyre & North Preston, the Tories’ safest seat in Lancashire.  These wards are all part of Preston proper, but none are held by Labour: three are very safely Tory, another also Tory held and the fifth is Liberal Democrat.

The overall impact is to make the proposed seat a lot more marginal.  My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 19,041 (38.4%)
  • Conservative: 15,110 (30.5%)
  • Lib Dem: 13,125 (26.5%)
  • UKIP: 1,945 (3.9%)
  • Other: 380 (0.8%)

Ribble Valley

Along with Fylde and Wyre & North Preston, Ribble Valley is one of three safe Conservative seats in Lancashire.  The current seat is based on the rural Ribble Valley district centred on Clitheroe, together with some of Preston’s southern suburbs in the South Ribble district.

The proposed changes are relatively minor, although they markedly change the shape of the constituency.  This is due mainly to the loss of the large, sparsely populated western parts of the Forest of Bowland to the Lancaster seat.  The westernmost South Ribble wards are also removed, to the South Ribble constituency.

In return, Ribble Valley gains two areas.  First, there is the strongly Labour ward of Fishwick from Preston.  The second, larger, addition is of three wards from Pendle district to the east of the current seat that cover the small towns of Barnoldswick and Earby, which used to be in Yorkshire before 1974.  These towns are Conservative, with a good showing as well from the Liberal Democrats.

The net impact is minor, and the seat remains safely Tory.  My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 25,698 (49.6%)
  • Lib Dem: 11,557 (22.3%)
  • Labour: 11,071 (21.4%)
  • UKIP: 2,675 (5.2%)
  • Other: 841 (1.6%)

Burnley North and Nelson

Despite the name, this seat is based primarily on the current Pendle seat, which is co-terminous with the district of the same name.  Pendle is based around the east Lancashire former mill towns of Nelson and Colne at the east end of the M65 (the seat was called Nelson and Colne before 1983) and was won by the Conservatives from Labour last year with a reasonably large majority of 3,585 (8%).  

The proposals remove the conservative rural towns of Barnoldswick and Earby to Ribble Valley, and bring in 21,478 voters from northern Burnley.  Burnley is a Labour-Lib Dem marginal and the territory that comes in reflects that.

The result of mixing Pendle’s Conservative-Labour marginal nature with this Labour-Liberal Democrat marginal turf is to nudge this seat back into the Labour column.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 17,624 (34.9%)
  • Conservative: 15,046 (29.8%)
  • Lib Dem: 12,588 (24.9%)
  • BNP: 2,600 (5.1%)
  • UKIP: 1,786 (3.5%)
  • Other: 862 (1.7%)

Burnley South and Accrington

Last year, Labour somehow managed to lose its once safe seat Burnley to the Liberal Democrats, in part due to Kitty Ussher’s expenses shame that forced her to stand down just before.  That is not the whole story though: the Lib Dems have controlled the borough of Burnley since 2008, which is co-terminous with the constituency.

The proposed seat marries most of the curent Burnley seat with 33,356 voters from the neighbouring Hyndburn constituency, which is held by Labour with a majority of 3,090 (7.2%) over the Conservatives.  These voters come from the central, north and eastern parts of Accrington, that seat’s largest town, as well as the small towns of Clayton-Le-Moors and Great Harwood.

As with the Burnley North & Nelson seat, this combination of a Lib Dem-Labour marginal and a Labour-Tory one is to Labour’s advantage, and manages to just about shift the Lib Dems from first to third place.  The BNP would take about 10% of the vote.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 15,638 (33.3%)
  • Conservative: 11,459 (24.4%)
  • Lib Dem: 11,121 (23.7%)
  • BNP: 4,551 (9.7%)
  • UKIP: 1,351 (2.9%)
  • Other: 2,866 (6.1%)

Darwen & Haslingden

This proposal has been created by merging the largest part of two Conservative-Labour marginals: Tory-held Rossendale & Darwen (majority: 4,493 or 9.5%) and Labour-held Hyndburn (majority 3,090 or 7.2%).

Most of the rest of Rossendale & Darwen transfer to the Greater Manchester seat of Rochdale North & Rawtenstall, with a further ward moving to the Blackburn seat.  All the rest of Hyndburn moves to the Burnley South & Accrington seat.

The proposed seat comprises three distinct areas of milltown east Lancashire.  Most westerly is Darwen, in the borough of Blackburn with Darwen.  Haslingden is the western end of Rossendale district, and is currently split between the two seats.  Finally, Hyndburn district brings in the southwestern parts of Accrington, together with the smaller towns of Oswaldtwistle and Rishton.

The combination of these parts create a tight marginal, which would just have been Conservative in 2010.  My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 19,266 (38.3%)
  • Labour: 18,380 (36.5%)
  • Lib Dem: 8,612 (17.1%)
  • UKIP: 1,719 (3.4%)
  • Other: 2,377 (4.7%)

Blackburn

There are minimal changes to Jack Straw’s safe seat (majority 9,676, 21.4%). 

One ward comes in from the current Rossendale and Darwen seat: Fernhurst ward.  This is a logical change, as it neatly means that the constituency now comprises all those parts of the borough of Blackburn with Darwen that lie north of the M65.  Fernhurst is a fairly Conservative ward though, so this will cut the Labour majority a little.  The seat would be Labour’s safest in the county.

My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 22,523 (46.4%)
  • Conservative: 13,569 (27.9%)
  • Lib Dem: 7,441 (15.3%)
  • BNP: 2,158 (4.4%)
  • UKIP: 1,023 (3.9%)
  • Other: 1,876 (3.9%)

Chorley

The present Chorley seat is another of those Lancastrian marginals, held by Labour last year with a majority of 2,593 (5.2%) over the Tories.

The proposed changes are relatively minor, adding in those parts of the Chorley district that currently lay outside the seat so that the new constituency becomes co-terminous with the local authority area.  This moves two wards, the  town of Eccleston and the surrounding area, across from the current South Ribble seat.

The electoral impact of that change is minimal.  My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Labour: 25,197 (44.1%)
  • Conservative: 22,282 (39.0%)
  • Lib Dem: 6,957 (12.2%)
  • UKIP: 2,186 (3.8%)
  • Other: 451 (0.8%)

South Ribble

The South Ribble constituency is based around the town of Leyland (birthplace of Leyland Motors which grew into British Leyland), Preston’s south-western suburb of Penwortham and a rural stretch that reaches the coast at North Meols, just north of Southport.  This western rural section includes Hesketh and Tarleton from the West Lancashire district.

The current seat was one of the Conservatives easier wins of Labour last year, with a majority of 5,554 (10.8%).

The proposed seat hands back its sections of Chorley district to the Chorley constituency (see above) and in return takes in four South Ribble district wards from the Ribble Valley seat, around the villages of Farington (a suburb of Leyland) and Lostock Hall (a suburb of Preston).  These four wards were part of the South Ribble constituency before 2010.

The overall impact of these changes is to nudge the seat a bit further towards the Tories.   My projection of the 2010 result on the new boundaries:

  • Conservative: 22,948 (45.9%)
  • Labour: 16,073 (32.2%)
  • Lib Dem: 7,826 (15.7%)
  • UKIP: 2,142 (4.3%)
  • BNP: 962 (1.9%)

West Lancashire

The current West Lancashire seat, based around the towns of Skelmersdale and Ormskirk, is unchanged in the Boundary Commission proposals.  It therefore remains a Labour marginal.  The 2010 results were:

  • Labour: 21,883 (45.1%)
  • Conservative: 17,540 (36.2%)
  • Lib Dem: 6,573 (13.6%)
  • UKIP: 1,775 (3.7%)
  • Green: 485 (1.0%)
  • ‘Clause 28′: 217 (0.4%)
  •  

    Summary

    The changes reduce the number of Lancastrian seats from 16 to 14, effectively abolishing the Tory-held Wyre and North Preston seat and the Labour-held Hyndburn seat.

    However, the impact of the changes in the south-east of the county with the splitting of Burnley help Labour, with the result that they would notionally increase their number of seats from their current six to seven. 

    Those changes lose the Liberal Democrats  their sole seat in the county, Burnley, to Labour and mean that the Tories lose two seats (Wyre & North Preston and Pendle), bringing them down to seven.  Of those seven, three - Blackpool North & Fleetwood, Darwen & Haslingden and Morecambe & Lunesdale - are all relatively easy for Labour to win next time, particularly in the latter two if the Lib Dem vote is squeezed.

    Unlike London or Cumbria, the proposals in Lancashire actually look as if they could help Labour a bit.

    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    Doktorb January 25, 2012 at 6:05 am

    If these seats stay the same – and I doubt they will – “Lancaster” should become “Lancaster and Wyre” as it pretty much echoes the seat of that name from pre-2010.

    The boundaries are pretty badly done, though. I suspect they will be redone unless the Commission concludes the amount of opposition leaves them no choice but to keep things as they are. “If you can’t please all of the people…” and all that….

    Reply

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