East Midlands Boundary Changes Part 1: Northamptonshire

by Jackie_South on January 31, 2012

We return to our series on the impact of the proposed Parliamentary boundary changes to take a look at the East Midlands.  We’ve previously covered London, Northern Ireland and North West, North East and South West England.

The East Midlands isn’t always the most glamorous of regions, much of it lacks the beauty of the South West or the grit of the North East.  But this middle of the pack quality means that it is pivotal in elections, stuffed full of key marginals.  For example, Labour won all but one of the constituencies in Northamptonshire in both 1997 and 2001, but none of them in 2010.  The map below shows the current state of play.

The county gained an extra seat in 2010 (South Northamptonshire) and so it was a likely loser in the changes.  In fact, it almost keeps all seven, although the numbers have had to be supplemented with 21,266 electors from Leicestershire to meet the new constituency size rules.

The map below shows the Boundary Commission’s proposals.  Beneath that is a seat-by-seat profile, running east to west, looking at the impact of the changes.

Current boundaries and constituency names are shown in green whilst the proposed ones are in black.

Corby
No changes proposed

Corby is currently the most marginal seat in Northamptonshire, held since 2010 by the ubiquitous Louise Mensch.

Corby is a seat of two parts.  Only 53% of the constituency is in the district of Corby, a former steelmaking town with a Labour council and a large Scottish population.  The remaining 47% is comprised from the strongly Conservative rural East Northamptonshire district.  It is the balance of the two elements that makes the seat so marginal.

There are no changes proposed to the seat.  The 2010 result is set out below.

Wellingborough

Loses two wards to Kettering, gains two from Daventry

Labour held Wellingborough between 1997 and 2005, when they lost it to Peter Bone, a hard-right wacko who supports homeopathy and makes frequent reference to “Mrs Bone” in his speeches.  There’s something slightly Mr Garrison about him.  That hasn’t stopped Bone turning the seat into a safe one in 2010, securing a majority of 11,787 (22.8%).

The constituency covers the town and most of the district of Wellingborough, together with the non-Corby parts of East Northamtonshire around Rushden (of Rushden & Diamonds fame, although the team played in Irthlingborough in the Corby seat).

The changes move two wards northwards to Kettering, whilst bringing in two wards in the west of Wellingborough district from the current Daventry constituency.  These are all wards that the Tories would have won in 2010, although one off the new ones (Earl Barton ward) now has a Labour councillor.

The impact on the Conservative majority will be slight.  Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries.

Kettering
Gains two wards from Wellingborough

Like Wellingborough, Labour held Kettering between 1997 and 2005.  It also now has a similarly named Conservative MP, Philip Hollobone, who is also a bit of a nutter – he campaigns against the the niqab and describes the burqa as “going round wearing a paper bag over your head”.

The seat is currently co-terminous with the borough of Kettering.  Labour has a number of council seats in the footwear-making town itself (probably most famous in my generation for its success in It’s A Knockout) and one in the small market town of Rothwell, but the Conservatives dominate in the district over all.  In 2010, Hollobone secured a 9,094 (19.2%) margin.

The proposed changes won’t dent that, as both of the added wards from Wellingborough are also Conservative-held.  Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries.

South Northamptonshire
Loses three wards to Northampton South, gains five wards from Daventry

South Northamptonshire was the new seat created in 2010, comprising most of the rural South Northamptonshire district based around Brackley and Towcester together with three southern wards from Northampton.  It also includes the Silverstone racetrack and Michael Heseltine’s country pile.  It is solidly Conservative, with a majority over 20,000.

That won’t change with the Boundary Commission’s proposals.  These remove the Northampton wards and add in the remaining two South Northamptonshire district wards currently in Daventry and a further three wards from the Daventry district.

All this will only serve to make the expanded seat safer for the Conservatives.  Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries.

Northampton South
Loses two wards to Northampton North, gains three from South Northamptonshire

Northampton South is yet another Northamptonshire seat held by Labour between 1997 to 2005 before being regained by the Conservatives.  However, it was a little closer in 2010 than Kettering or Wellingborough, with a Conservative majority of 6,004 (15.4%).

That result is probably not an entirely accurate reflection of the real position, where Labour are probably a bit closer.  The complicating factor is that the Labour MP between 1997 and 2005, Tony Clarke, stood as an independent in 2010.  Clarke fell out with the national party over the war on Iraq, and after losing the constituency in 2005 decided to run for a seat on the council.  The regional party then over-ruled his selection, resulting in Clarke standing as an independent against the official Labour candidate and winning.  He then took 2,242 votes (almost 6%) in 2010.  You could therefore think of that majority as being less than 4,000 if you assume that almost all of Clarke’s votes would have been Labour under different circumstances.

The proposed changes push that majority back out again.  Labour just about out-polls the Conservatives in the wards transferring to Northampton North, but is well behind in the three new wards coming in from South Northamptonshire.

Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries, treating Clarke’s votes as “Others”.  Adding those Clarke votes to Labour’s would give a Conservative majority of 8,811 (18.1%).

Northampton North
Gains two wards from Northampton South

Labour held this constituency until 2010, and it now has a relatively small Conservative majority of 1,936 (4.8%).  Two new wards come in from Northampton South: Ecton Brook and Spencer.  Ecton Brook has both Labour and Conservative councillors whilst Spencer is held by the Lib Dems, but over all Labour out polls the Conservatives in this new territory.

The outcome is to make the seat closer still.  Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries.

Daventry
Loses five wards to South Northamptonshire, gains twelve wards from South Leicestershire

Daventry was the one Northamptonshire seat that the Tories held on to in 1997.  The current constituency is largely rural but contains the towns of Daventry and Brixworth, together with the northern fringes of Northampton.  It also includes the Spencer’s stately home of Althorp. Unsurprisingly, it chalks up a sizable Conservative majority of 19,188 votes (37.1%).

The changes proposed here are the most significant in the county: five wards transfer over to South Northamptonshire.  To make up the numbers, a swathe of rural southern Leicestershire around Lutterworth is added.  This new territory is almost as Conservative as the rest of the seat, with every ward held by the Conservatives in the 2011 local elections.

Below is my projection of the 2010 results on the new boundaries.

Summary

The changes don’t radically change the political make-up of the county.  There remain tow key marginals that Labour will fight hard to win: Corby and Northampton North.  Corby is unaltered, whilst Northampton North is a bit more winnable under the proposals.

In a landslide election, they could probably win Northampton South and Kettering too.  Wellingborough is now probably beyond their reach, whilst Daventry and South Northamptonshire were never within it.

The map below summarizes the margins for the proposed constituencies.

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