West Country Boundary Changes part 2: Greater Bristol and Somerset

by Jackie_South on December 30, 2011

For the second part of my look at the proposed boundary changes in the South West, I’m taking a look at Somerset and the former county of Avon.  These currently have 16 constituencies between them and would keep that number under the proposals.  The current state of play is shown on the map below.

Although the same total remains, the Avon part effectively has 10.4 seats (a drop of 0.6) whilst Somerset gains 0.6 of a seat, bringing it up to 5.6.  The two fractions are joined in a cross-border seat, North East Somerset.

A quarter of the current seats are unchanged.  These are:

  • North Somerset
    This seat covers the parts of the old county of Avon south west of Bristol, including Portishead, Clevedon and Nailsea.  It was called Woodspring before 2010, and covers the northern part of the North Somerset unitary authority created on the abolition of Avon.  It is a reasonably safe berth for Liam Fox MP.
     
    Conservative: 28,549 (49.3%)
    Liberal Democrat: 20,687 (35.7%)
    Labour: 6,448 (11.1%)
    UKIP: 2,257 (3.9%)
     
  • Weston-super-Mare
    The southern part of North Somerset unitary authority, covering the seaside town and some inland villages.  It is a Conservative marginal, which the Liberal Democrats held between 1997 and 2005.
     
    Conservative: 23,356 (44.3%)
    Liberal Democrat: 20,665 (39.2%)
    Labour: 5,772 (10.9%)
    UKIP: 1,406 (2.7%)
    BNP: 1,373 (2.6%)
    Others: 144 (0.3%)
     
  • Bristol North West
    This bellwether seat stretches along the city’s northern border, from Lockleaze north of the city centre out west to Avonmouth.  Since 1966, it has always been held by the party in government, although Labour slipped from first to third place in 2010.
     
    Conservative: 19,115 (38.0%)
    Liberal Democrat: 15,841 (31.5%)
    Labour:13,059 (25.9%)
    UKIP: 1,175 (2.3%)
    Others: 1,146 (2.3%)
     
  • Bristol South
    This constituency, across the River Avon from the city centre and stretching south and south-west, is Labour’s safest in the region.  Even then, with the Liberal Democrat advances in the city in recent years, it still had a majority of less than 10% last year.
     
    Labour: 18,600 (38.4%)
    Liberal Democrat: 13,866 (28.7%)
    Conservative: 11,086 (22.9%)
    BNP: 2,139 (4.4%)
    UKIP: 1,264 (2.6%)
    Green: 1,216 (2.5%)
    Other: 206 (0.4%)

The map below shows the proposed changes: black borders for the proposals, green for the current boundaries.  Click on the map , and then click again to take a closer look.

Starting with the two remaining Bristol seats,

  • Bristol East
    This is Labour’s other seat in the city, a Labour-Tory marginal stretching the length of the city’s eastern boundary.  The proposals move one ward across from Bristol West to bring the numbers up to the required quota.  This is Easton ward to the east of the city centre, which was part of Bristol East prior to 2010.  Labour has the lead in Easton, with the Lib Dems second there, making the proposed constituency safer for Labour.
     
    Labour: 18,718 (37.6%)
    Conservative: 13,176 (26.4%)
    Liberal Democrat: 12,774 (25.6%)
    BNP: 2,334 (4.7%)
    UKIP: 1,576 (3.2%)
    Green: 1,058 (2.1%)
    Others: 184 (0.4%) 
     
  • Bristol West
    Taking in the city centre and out as far as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, this is the more middle-class Bristol seat, although it also includes the deprived area of St. Paul’s to the north of the city centre.  The seat was Conservative since the nineteenth century up until William Waldegrave lost it to Labour in 1997.  The Lib Dems then took it of Labour, thanks to its large student vote and Conservative tactical voting, in 2005.  The loss of Easton ward (see Bristol East) will help the Liberal Democrats.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 24,812 (49.1%)
    Labour: 12,980 (25.7%)
    Conservative: 9,742 (19.3%)
    Green: 1,835 (3.6%)
    Others: 1,175 (2.3%)

The proposals whittle down the three constituencies in South Gloucestershire unitary authority to 2.6.  This is bad news for Lib Dem minister Steve Webb, who sees his pretty safe Thornbury and Yate seat cut in two.  The two seats wholely in the district are:

  • Thornbury and Filton
    This is in the west of the district, mainly based on the Conservative-held Filton and Bradley Stoke and now extended to take in Thornbury.  The seat includes the northern suburbs of Bristol and both Severn Bridges.  Labour were second in Filton & Bradley Stoke, but the Lib Dem votes from Thornbury shift them to third and make the seat marginal.
     
    Conservative: 23,697 (41.5%)
    Liberal Democrat: 19,393 (35.5%)
    Labour: 10,292 (18.0%)
    UKIP: 1,706 (3.0%)
    BNP: 1,059 (1.9%)
    Others: 996 (1.8%)
     
  • Yate
    The successor seat to Thornbury and Yate, shorn of Thornbury and with the addition of territory from the Conservative held seats of Kingswood and Filton and Bradley Stoke.  Labour is second in both of those seats, whilst the Conservatives are second in the current Thornbury and Yate.  This is just enough to put the Tories ahead in the new seat.
     
    Conservatives: 20,470 (37.6%)
    Liberal Democrats: 19,889 (36.5%)
    Labour: 10,891 (20.0%)
    UKIP: 2,337 (4.3%)
    Others: 910 (1.7%)

There is then the seat straddling the historic Gloucestershire-Somerset border, just over 60% coming from the Gloucestershire side.

  • Kingswood and Keynsham
    Both parts of this seat are currently in Con-Lab marginals, won last year in each case by the Tories.  Kingswood was Labour-held from 1992, whilst the current North East Somerset seat (called Wansdyke up until last year) was a surprising 1997 victory that Labour managed to hang on to until last year.  The proposed seat, sweeping east and south of the city of Bristol, will be a bit safer for the Tories than either of these predecessors as Labour’s strongest ground in NE Somerset was around the old mining area to the south.
     
    Conservative: 24,413 (44.2%)
    Labour: 18,000 (32.6%)
    Liberal Democrat: 9,934 (18.0%)
    UKIP: 1,410 (2.6%)
    BNP: 1,125 (2.0%)
    Others: 379 (0.7%)

The last seat wholly in the old county of Avon is Bath.

  • Bath
    This constituency has had two rural wards added from North East Somerset to bring it up to the quota.  This will help the Conservatives a little, but it remains pretty safe for the Lib Dem Don Foster.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 29,149 (53.2%)
    Conservative: 17,562 (32.0%)
    Labour: 4,952 (9.0%)
    Green: 1,673 (3.1%)
    UKIP: 1,096 (2.0%)
    Others: 406 (0.7%)

This brings us to the seats that are wholly or mostly in Somerset proper.  Running through them clockwise:

  • North East Somerset
    Although the current North East Somerset seat, currently held by obnoxious other-worldly Europhobe Jacob Rees-Mogg (who once canvassed in a chauffeur-driven Bentley with his nanny), is the largest contributor to this proposed seat, it does not form a majority of it.  Almost as many electors come from the Frome part of the Somerton & Frome constituency Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata failed to win last year – Frome is the Lib Dem’s strongest part of that constituency.  The final part comes from the eastern edge of the current Wells seat, including Shepton Mallet.  Both these Somerset seats are Liberal Democrat and would have given them the lead in 2010.  Labour have a respectable share of the vote in the parts coming over from Rees-Mogg’s seat, but are nowhere in the other two.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 19,603 (39.9%)
    Conservative: 16,939 (34.5%)
    Labour: 10,706 (21.8%)
    UKIP: 1,716 (3.5%)
    Others: 192 (0.4%)
     
  • Glastonbury and Wincanton
    Despite the fact that neither name appear, this is the successor of the current Somerton and Frome seat.  It has lost Frome to the proposed North East Somerset seat and gained Glastonbury from the Wells seat to replace it.  There is also some strongly Lib Dem territory around Ilminster that transfers in from Yeovil (Ilminster had been part of Somerton and Frome until last year.  For some reason, the Boundary Commission has opted to name Wincanton rather than Somerton in the title, despite both being of similar size.  The seat becomes an even tighter Lib Dem marginal than Somerton and Frome.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 25,440 (46.1%)
    Conservative: 25,001 (45.3%)
    Labour: 2,354 (4.3%)
    UKIP: 1,680 (3.0%)
    Others: 745 (1.3%)
     
  • Yeovil
    The proposals remove the area around Ilminster from the current seat without adding any new turf.  This would have knocked some votes off the numerical majority but left the percentage lead for the Liberal Democrats’ David Laws pretty much unchanged.  It remains to be seen whether the impact of Laws’ expenses scandal and selling off of his party’s principles dent this sizable lead.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 28,183 (55.8%)
    Conservative: 26,596 (32.8%)
    Labour: 2,624 (5.2%)
    UKIP: 2,087 (4.1%)
    BNP: 1,039 (2.1%)
     
  • Taunton
    Like its neighbouring seat of Yeovil, the changes here are fairly minor, with the trimming off of some rural wards in the west.  As the constituency no longer reflects the Taunton Deane district as a whole and is more concentrated on Somerset’s largest town, the ‘Deane’ part has been removed from the name.  The lost territory is a bit more Conservative than the rest of the seat, making Taunton a bit safer for its Lib Dem incumbent Jeremy Browne.
     
    Liberal Democrat: 26,200 (50.3%)
    Conservative: 21,094 (40.5%)
    Labour: 2,884 (5.5%)
    UKIP: ,874 (3.6%)
     
  • Bridgwater and West Somerset
    The current seat of this name is the only Conservative seat in Somerset proper at the moment, but a fairly safe one at that.  It isn’t that the Tory vote is particularly high, it is the fact that there is Labour strength in the town of Bridgwater itself, and to a lesser extent in Minehead, but the Tory opposition is from the Lib Dems in the more rural parts of the constituency.  The addition of the western rural parts of Taunton Deane and the loss of territory east of Bridgwater make it safer still for the Conservatives.
     
    Conservative: 23,269 (48.3%)
    Liberal Democrat: 13,310 (27.6%)
    Labour: 7,346 (15.2%)
    UKIP: 2,245 (4.7%)
    Others: 2,056 (4.2%)
     
  • Wells
    The current seat covers the cathedral city of Wells, Burnham-on-Sea, Cheddar, Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet.  These last two towns are removed in the proposals (see above) and in return comes some territory to the north and east of Bridgwater.  The Lib Dems managed to win the constituency in 2010 from the Conservatives, but the Tories would have held it on these boundaries.
     
    Conservative: 24,969 (45.8%)
    Liberal Democrat: 21,437 (39.4%)
    Labour: 4,654 (8.5%)
    UKIP: 1,954 (3.6%)
    Others: 1,456 (2.7%)

Summary
The map below summarises the margins in the proposed seats, based on the 2010 elections.

The changes leave Labour on two, but make it harder for them to take any additional seats.  The proposals would give the Lib Dems one gain - North East Somerset – but lose two others to the Conservatives: Thornbury & Yate and Wells.  Over all, the Tories would gain a seat, although potentially lose Jacob Rees-Mogg.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

A Cairns December 30, 2011 at 9:56 am

‘The changes leave Labour on two, but make it harder for them to take any additional seats. ‘

True but if they put Thornbury and Yate back together (which could well happen in the final review), there would be a Filton and Mangotsfield seat which would be an interesting Tory leaning Con vs Lab marginal.

The map is largely fine apart from that though.
North East Somerset would make a fascinating LD vs Con battle.

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