For those of you unaware, the Conservative government is bringing in new boundaries in 2018, ones that will form the basis of constituencies for whenever the next general election is held (2020, unless the Fixed Term Parliament Act is got round). It will reduce the number of MPs from the current 650 to 600.
In doing so, it will make English constituencies more generally Tory friendly. This is easy to understand intuitively: when you make constituencies bigger in size you have a good chance in many instances of having them expand into suburbs and rural areas. But if this was the only problem for non-Tory parties to contend with then I wouldn’t be writing this article.
The new constituencies will be based on the register as at the 2015 general election. So the boundaries aren’t being reshaped based on population, or even adult population, but on where voters who were registered to vote as of May 7th, 2015 lived. All those people who registered to vote in the EU referendum, as a for instance, will not count at all. Partly as a result of all of this, and partly as a result of several urban constituencies having smaller registers and thus by the bounds of the new rules being too geographically tiny, Labour loses 30 MPs before another vote is cast. The Lib Dems lose 5. To remind some of you out there who may have forgotten, the Lib Dems only currently have 8 MPs. So that’s more than half – again, before a single vote is cast in another general election.
Given the impact of all this, the two parties in question are taking this all in a rather subdued manner. I suppose psephology is hard to rally a protest around. But this boundary review really could change British politics more than most things that people do protest about and all we’ve had so far is a few quotes from Rosie Winterton. It’s strange watching it unfold – like watching someone walk very, very slowly into a rotating blade.
The Tory hegemony that was looking inevitable already, even without taking the reshaping of the constituencies into account, seems about to be imbedded in a way that will be hard to reverse. Labour were looking at pretty hefty loses under Corbyn anyhow – now, it could be truly apocalyptic. I suppose this is one of the reasons May isn’t in a hurry to call a general election – a bad loss could possibly mean Labour do get free of Corbyn, rebuild and then turn things around enough to escape oblivion.
It should be said that equalisation of boundaries in and of itself is not a bad thing – indeed, in many ways the Tories should be commended for the idea. But trying to do reduction at the same time opens them up to the charge of partisanship – which the combination of actions has more than a whiff of.