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What the Parliamentary Boundary Review means for Midlands MPs

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The long-awaited review of parliamentary constituency boundaries recently took a step forward with the publication of revised proposals. These proposals that, effect the whole of UK, are now out for consultation with the final version expected in time for approval in June 2023. MPs across the country will be anxiously scanning maps and reaching for the calculators to see whether the political balance of their constituency has changed, or indeed whether they will have a constituency at all.  

The changes, which are designed to reflect population changes since the last review implemented in 2010. Furthermore, this review is also set to eliminate the imbalance that has traditionally granted Wales greater representation than its population merits (for complex historical reasons that are probably beyond the memory and interest of most readers).  

For the Midlands this means that overall, there will be one less constituency than we have today. Two less in the West Midlands, predominantly effecting the Black Country and Staffordshire, and a gain of one the East Midlands.  

Some constituencies, such as Sutton Coldfield, remain identical whereas others such as those in Staffordshire are subject to significant change. Some disappear completely, as in the case of the three existing seats covering Walsall Borough Council that now merge to become two. The relatively modest changes in the region compared to Wales (losing 8) or the South East (gaining 6) means that most constituencies are relatively unaffected, however boundary changes will still concern most MPs and campaigners as they can tilt the balance one way or another depending on which areas are removed or included. 

In a closely fought election these changes can make all the difference. Stoke-on-Trent South for example gains significant rural areas, previously in the Stone constituency, meaning that the balance in the seat is likely to shift further towards the Conservatives. Another example of a similar phenomenon is Redditch, which also gains rural territory. The opposite is true of Shrewsbury and Warwick & Leamington, which shrink losing some of their Tory leaning rural hinterland.  

For developers and others looking to engage MPs it is worth remembering that the politician in question will continue to represent the current boundaries until the next general election, which may be as late as January 2025. However, it will be understandable if they show a bit less interest in an area that their constituency is losing or pay more attention to matters in neighbouring areas that they may be representing post-election.  

Furthermore, there will be a few MPs who will not have a seat and therefore will be subject to the vagaries of their own party’s selection rules as they hunt for a new constituency. This is especially contentious in areas where both MPs wish to continue but only one safe constituency remains. In our region this applies to former Chief Whip and Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson, whose safe South Staffordshire seat is merged in with neighbouring Dudley South. Traditionally the offer of a seat in the House of Lords, or other employment opportunities has been used to limit contested selections.  

Boundary changes often cause confusion for residents and businesses, it is important to emphasise that a parliamentary review has no impact on council boundaries. For example, three wards are moving from Dudley South to South Staffordshire and Kingswinford, that does not however mean that they have left Dudley Council.  

This is now the final stage for consultation. Past reviews have shown that the final version will contain a few surprises but  we are now probably close to the final version. The overall picture is that these changes will positively benefit the Conservatives but if polling remains the same this advantage will be swept away by the national Labour tide. 

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to contact Tristan Chatfield.

Written by: Tristan Chatfield

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