South East Boundary Changes Part 2: Hampshire

by Jackie_South on June 7, 2012

Following on from Tuesday’s post on the boundary changes proposed for the Isle of Wight, we move on to the mainland and Hampshire.

Hampshire, including the unitary authorities of Portsmouth and Southampton, currently has 18 MPs but stands to lose one of these from the Boundary Commission’s proposals as a consequence of the rule set by Parliament that every mainland constituency should have an electorate of between 72,810 and 80,473.  The map below shows the current seats and the margin it is held by.

Currently, Labour and the Liberal Democrats hold two seats each in the county, with the other 14 in Conservative hands.  Of those 14, two were Liberal Democrat until 2010 (the pre-2010 Romsey and Winchester constituencies), a third (Portsmouth North) was held by Labour and a fourth (Meon Valley) was a new creation for that election.  The Lib Dems are second in 13 of the 14 Conservative seats.

The Boundary Commission’s proposals have implemented the net reduction of one seat by effectively abolishing two (Fareham and Romsey & Southampton North) whilst creating a new seat, Hedge End and Hamble.  Below is a map showing these proposed changes, followed by a seat-by-seat analysis of the new constituencies, running roughly clockwise from the Isle of Wight.  Current boundaries are shown in blue on the map, proposed ones in green.

New Forest West
The current New Forest West constituency is a safe Conservative seat, taking in the towns of the New Forest district to the west and south of the New Forest National Park itself, created in 2005.  Given the divide created by that park, much of this area looks outside of Hampshire’s borders for its nearest big towns, to Bournemouth to the west and Salisbury to the north.

The larger towns are near the coast: at New Milton, including its coastal suburb of Barton-on-Sea, and the yachting centre of Lymington.  Inland are the market towns of Ringwood and Fordingbridge on the Hampshire Avon.  Ringwood has a number of claims to infamy: home to the rip-off Lapland New Forest ‘attraction’, the place where the Duke of Monmouth was held after his attempt to wrest the crown from James II ended in the Battle of Sedgemoor and the town where Alice Lisle, found guilty of harbouring two men fleeing from that battle, had her sentence commuted from burning at the stake to a gentle beheading.

To bring the constituency up to size, the proposed boundary changes extend the constituency to cover most of the national park, taking in the large villages of Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst (home to Mark Kermode).  The proposed seat resembles the pre-1997 New Forest constituency.

This new area makes the seat safer still. Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
New Forest East and Romsey
The current New Forest East constituency is fairly safe for the Conservatives, but not as safe as its western sibling.  As well as the central New Forest villages transferred in the review to New Forest West, the constituency includes a string of Waterside settlements on the western shore of Southampton Water: the town of Totton, the military port of Marchwood, yachting centre Hythe and the village of Fawley.  Fawley is home to the UK’s largest oil refinery.

The local MP is right-winger Dr Julian Lewis.  Despite his rightwing zealotry (which bizarrely included infiltrating the Newham North East Labour Party in the ‘70s to prevent the de-selection of Reg Prentice), he opposed the Coalition plan to sell off national forests.

The loss of part of the seat from the proposals has been addressed through adding the town of Romsey, a Liberal Democrat area.  The proposed seat therefore closely resembles the pre-1997 Romsey and Waterside constituency.

This addition makes the seat a little less favourable for the Conservatives, reducing their majority over the Liberal Democrats by a third.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
North West Hampshire
North West Hampshire, based around the former wool and military town of Andover and the upper Test Valley, is a safe Conservative constituency.  The seat also includes areas to the west of Basingstoke around Tadley and Whitchurch.  Tadley is home to many of those who work at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment just over the Berkshire border, whilst Whitchurch gave the world Lord Denning and Carl Barat.

The proposals extend the current boundaries southwards, to take in the rural northern part of the Romsey and Southampton North constituency.  These are the more Conservative-inclined parts of that seat.  However, the constituency also loses other Conservative rural areas, including part of Tadley, to the enlarged North East Hampshire seat.  The net impact is of these two changes should cancel each other out.

Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Basingstoke
Situated in the North Downs, Basingstoke has expanded rapidly since the 1960s when the market town became an overspill development for London.  As a result, much of it appears to be a new town, and its numerous roundabouts have earned it the nickname Doughnut City.

Other than a single-year tenure by the Liberals between 1923 and 1924 and an odd period held by the Democratic Unionists (following its MP Andrew Hunter defecting) before the 2005 election, this has always been a Conservative seat.  However, Labour came within 900 votes of winning the constituency back in 2001 before slipping back into third place in 2010.

Basingstoke is one of two constituencies in the county unaltered in the proposals.  The Conservatives are likely to continue to hold it (barring a by-election), although Labour could regain second place next time around.  The 2010 result was:
North East Hampshire
North East Hampshire is based around the prosperous towns of Fleet and Yateley.

Yateley was home to Parson Darby, who moonlighted Carry On Dick-style as a highwayman, whilst Fleet was recently revealed to be the sex-toy capital of Britain.  The politics of the area are far less exciting: this is a safe Tory constituency.

The proposals remove the Fleet North ward and extend the seat westwards taking in a rural swathe on the far side of Basingstoke and part of Tadley.  The proposed seat therefore completely surrounds Basingstoke, forming a doughnut around Doughnut City.

These changes make the constituency safer still.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Aldershot
The current constituency includes all the Rushmoor district, which covers the army town of Aldershot and Farnborough, with its famous airfield.   The seat also includes the less glamorous small town of Blackwater from the Hart district.

The constituency has only had Conservative MPs since its creation in 1918, although it is not quite as solidly Tory as you might think for such a military-orientated seat.  Their majority over the Liberal Democrats has varied between 11% and 15% in the last four elections.

The current constituency is slightly under the 72,810 statutory minimum and so the Boundary Commission is proposing a minor change by adding the Fleet North ward from North East Hampshire.  This is a strong area for the Conservatives, edging their margin up a little in the proposed seat.

Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
East Hampshire
The constituency takes up most of the local government district of the same name.  It is largely rural, taking in the western end of the South Downs National Park.  Its largest towns are the historic market towns of Petersfield and Alton, together with the duel-centred fledgling eco-town of Whitehill-Bordon.

Alton is the birthplace of the saying ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’: the original Fanny Adams grew up there in the mid-nineteenth century before falling victim of a particularly gruesome child-murder.  Alton has also been home to Jane Austen and Alison Goldfrapp.

Until 2010, East Hampshire was the seat of veteran Conservative Michael Mates.  In his last contest, leftie Lib Dem Ruth Bright reduced his majority to just over 10%, but newcomer Damian Hinds extended that to 26% in 2010.

The current constituency is just under the statutory minimum size and so the Boundary Commission proposes the addition of the strong Tory ward of Clanfield and Finchdean from the Meon Valley constituency.

This makes the proposed constituency safer still.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Havant
Havant is the base for David “Two Brains” Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science.  The constituency includes the town of Havant, the resorts of Hayling Island and most of Waterlooville.  Waterlooville was founded by soldiers returning from the Battle of Waterloo who stopped at a pub at the crossroads and liked it so much they settled there.

Labour got within 8% of Willetts in 1997, but fell back into third place in 2010, whilst the Liberal Democrats were still 27.7% behind the Conservatives.

As the seat is a little under-size, two wards are added from the Meon Valley constituency, whilst one Waterlooville ward is transferred over to Portsmouth East.

The changes hurt Labour and whilst marginally helping the Liberal Democrats.  Willetts is unlikely to feel threatened by the proposals. Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Portsmouth East
Portsmouth has been split between a northern and southern constituency since 1918, but the Boundary Commission has proposed changing this to an east-west orientation.

Portsmouth East is closest to being a successor of Portsmouth South, held since 1997 by beardie Russian-loving Lib Dem Mike Hancock.  That seat takes in the city centre, the southern resort of Southsea, Naval Docks and Portsmouth FC’s home of Fratton.  Hancock, who also serves as a councillor for Fratton, notched up a 12.6% majority over the Conservatives in 2010.

The proposals remove the city centre, docks and the west of Southsea, and bring in the strongly Conservative Drayton and Farlington ward, the less strongly Tory Copnor and the Con-Lib Dem split ward of Baffins from Portsmouth North, together with the Conservative Purbrook ward from Havant.

The net impact is to turn the constituency into a Conservative marginal, with a 3,400 majority over the Liberal Democrats.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Portsmouth West
Portsmouth West is the successor to Portsmouth North, held by Labour between 1997 and 2010, when the Conservatives won the seat with a sizable 16.5% majority.

The removal of three wards to the new Portsmouth East seat help Labour, as these are stronger Conservative territory than the western wards, including the working class Paulsgrove area made infamous by its mob attacks on the homes of suspected paedophiles.

The new sections do not help Labour though, stretching the seat south along Portsmouth Harbour to take in the city centre, Naval Docks and western Southsea, all in Liberal Democrat wards were the Conservatives come second.  A further addition is the similarly Lib Dem-Tory territory of Portchester East ward from Fareham.

All this pulls the Liberal Democrats into second place, with Labour a further 4% behind in third place.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Gosport
The naval town of Gosport has some areas of severe deprivation, but has only had Conservative MPs.  The one it had up to 2010,Peter Viggers, made the headlines with his expenses claim for a duck house.  Labour got Viggers’ majority down to 2,621 in 2001 but, like similar results in Basingstoke and Havant, it had slipped to third place by 2010.

The constituency takes in the entirety of the Gosport district (which includes the small seaside town of Lee-on-the-Solent as well as Gosport) together with the neighbouring seaside town of Stubbington from the neighbouring Fareham district.

Gosport is one of the two constituencies in the county unaltered by the proposals (see Basingstoke above).  The 2010 result was:
Fareham and Horndean
Despite the name, this constituency contains more of the current Meon Valley constituency than the Fareham one, which is effectively divided up and abolished.

Meon Valley was a new creation in 2010, made up from the town of Horndean in East Hampshire, parts of Waterlooville in Havant and the southern part of the Winchester district.  The Conservatives had a 12,000 majority over the Liberal Democrats in 2010 – estimates suggest that this would have been a Tory-Lib Dem marginal before then.

The proposals remove rural areas in the north to Winchester, including the town of Bishop’s Waltham, and areas east of Horndean to East Hampshire and Havant.

In return, the town of Fareham is added from the constituency of that name, together with the western half of Portchester.  Fareham is more Conservative: Mark Hoban had a majority of 17,000 in 2010 over the Liberal Democrats.

The outcome is a constituency that would have had a Conservative majority of around 15,000 in 2010.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Hedge End and Hamble
Hedge End and Hamble is a new constituency created from parts of the current Eastleigh, Fareham and Southampton Itchen constituencies.  It covers the largely prosperous areas to the east of Southampton.

The largest section of the new seat comes from the two titular towns, in the southern part of Eastleigh.  This area is Liberal Democrat over all, and all the councillors in this section of the seat are from that party, although the Conservatives have some strength in the prosperous yachting village of Hamble-le-Rice and near the Hampshire County Cricket Ground in West End.

The next largest section is provided by the area around Lock’s Heath in the current Fareham constituency.  This area is very strongly Conservative.

Finally, Bitterne ward is added from Southampton Itchen.  It is different from the rest of the new constituency in that it is a Labour inclined area, with the Conservatives in second place.

The lack of Lib Dem support in the Fareham and Southampton parts of the seat swing this seat fairly safely behind the Conservatives.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Southampton Itchen
Southampton Itchen, named after the river bisecting the city, was only just held by Labour cabinet member John Denham in 2010, with a majority of only 192 votes over the Conservatives.  Whilst it has been a Labour-inclined seat since it was created in 1950, it was won by Conservative Christopher Chope in 1983 and 1987, partly as a result of former Labour MP Bob Mitchell defecting to the SDP and contesting both those elections.

The constituency takes in the city centre, the eastern part of the docks and the more working class section of the city.

The proposed boundary changes help Denham a little.  One of Labour’s strongest wards in the city, Bevois, is transferred in from neighbouring Southampton Test.  Whilst Labour-leaning Bitterne transfers out to the new Hedge End and Hamble constituency, the net impact is to add about 600 votes to Labour’s majority.

This still leaves the seat very marginal.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Southampton Test
Southampton Test (named after the river that runs along the west of the city) has normally been the more Conservative of the two Southampton seats.  However, in 2010 it was the better seat for Labour of the two thanks to some boundary changes that year, albeit with only a 2,413 (5.5%) vote majority.

The constituency includes the more affluent northern suburbs as well as some inner-city estates.  Up until 2010, Labour had only won this constituency when it has won the general election.

The bad news for Labour MP Alan Whitehead is that the proposed changes more than reverse the impact of those 2010 changes.  First, the strongly Labour ward of Bevois transfers to the Itchen constituency.  Secondly, two wards transfer in from Romsey and Southampton North: the suburban Conservative-Lib Dem marginal Bassett ward and the strongly Conservative rural Chilworth, Nursling and Rownhams ward.

The net impact would have been to turn this from a Labour-held marginal to a Conservative held one in 2010.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Eastleigh
Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh constituency is split in two by the Boundary Commission, with the slightly larger part retaining the name.  That section includes the railway town of Eastleigh itself, together with the large villages of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and part of West End.

Chris Huhne held the current constituency with a 3,864 vote majority (7.2%) in 2010, a significant advance on the 568 majority he achieved in 2005.

With the loss of the southern part of the current seat to Hedge End and Hamble, additional territory is added from the north west.  Firstly, 16,658 electors come from Eastleigh’s suburbs of Chandler’s Ford and Hiltingbury, currently in the Winchester constituency.  Secondly, 22,257 electors come from two distinct parts of Romsey and Southampton North: the north east Southampton suburb of Swaythling and the more rural area around North Bassesley, home to Keith Harris of Orville the Duck fame.

Over all, these changes pretty much balance each other out politically, leaving Huhne pretty much as he was despite the significant changes to this constituency.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:
Winchester
Given the fall from grace of Winchester’s previous Lib Dem MP, Mark Oaten, it was surprising that the Conservatives only achieved a 9.1% swing in 2010 to win this seat by a 3,000 vote (5.4%) majority.

The current constituency includes the county town (and Alfred the Great’s capital) Winchester, with its university, together with the small town of New Alresford and the Chandler’s Ford/ Hiltingbury conurbation.

That conurbation transfers to Eastleigh, and a larger rural area around the market town of Bishop’s Waltham transfers in.

These changes would have doubled Steve Brine’s majority for the Conservatives in 2010.  Our projection of the 2010 result on these new boundaries is:

Conclusion
Hampshire is a county where the Boundary Commission’s proposals certainly advantage the Conservatives, to the detriment of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  Despite the loss of a constituency in the county, the Conservatives would have won 15 seats in 2010 on these boundaries, compared to the 14 they actually won.

Both the other parties lose a constituency each: Southampton Test for Labour and Portsmouth South for the Liberal Democrats.  Labour could win the Southampton seat back on a 4.1% swing, whilst a swing of 3.5% would deliver Portsmouth East to the Liberal Democrats.

The other Portsmouth seat could be a three-way contest: the Lib Dems need a 4.4% swing to win it, whilst Labour need one of 6.4%.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats will need to protect their own solitary seats though, both of which are marginal.

The map below summarises the margins for each party, based on the 2010 results.  We have also included the Isle of Wight for completeness.

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