In our second blog analysing the the Boundary Commission’s revised proposals, we assess the impact the commission’s recommendations will have across the North of England. The review has been made to ensure constituencies have a minimum of 69,724 voters, a figure some have fallen below in recent years as populations shift around the country. These proposals are now out for consultation with the final version expected in time for approval in June 2023.
The Boundary Commission, noting numerous controversies in their initial proposals, have retreated from some of the sweeping changes they first planned. Importantly for those in the North East, recommendations for a new Whitley Bay & Cramlington constituency have been removed, allowing the seaside town to stay in the same constituency as Cullercoats.
The wider proposals still make some significant changes to the electoral landscape of the region. Sedgefield, the former seat of Tony Blair, would be absorbed into the proposed Newton Aycliffe & Spennymoor constituency. Though Labour lost Sedgefield in 2019, they will have been confident of regaining this and other seats in the North East come the next election. Gateshead would lose one of the two constituencies within its boundaries. With Labour currently holding both seats in the area, this will see one fewer Labour MP in a region that has traditionally been its heartland.
Yorkshire keeps its 54 constituencies, but wards have been moved around the region to meet electorate thresholds. Notably, Batley & Spen, represented currently by Labour’s Kim Leadbeater, will be split into Dewsbury & Batley and Spen Valley. With Spen Valley gaining Mirfield, which has historically been a strong Conservative area, local Tories will be looking to this new seat as a potential gain. Elsewhere, a new Headingley constituency is proposed, carved out from Leeds West and Leeds North West. With all 4 wards for this new proposed constituency voting Labour in the 2022 Leeds City Council elections, Labour will be confident of continuing its dominance in the city.
The Prime Minister’s constituency is to be renamed Richmond & Northallerton, losing Bedale and Tanfield wards, both currently represented by Conservatives. However, with his 27,000+ majority, Rishi Sunak will rest easy.
Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace MP sees his Wyre & Preston North constituency abolished. Whilst he is a popular local MP, he will have to a battle on his hands to be the Conservative candidate in one of the remaining Lancashire seats. On Merseyside, Wirral South, Alison McGovern’s constituency, is also set to be abolished. As Chair of influential Labour faction Progressive Britain and enjoying warm relations with the leadership, she will be urged to look for a new constituency as Labour edge closer to power.
Bury South, one of England’s most marginal seats, will now include Kersal and Broughton wards. With large Jewish communities in these wards that have in recent years voted for Conservative councillors, making the seat tougher for Labour. Conservatives in Bury North, even more marginal than Bury South, will be glad to gain the ward of Radcliffe North.
A new proposed constituency of Mid-Cheshire will incorporate Winsford, Middlewich and Northwich. These areas, which have generally been Labour locally and Tory nationally, will quickly turn Mid-Cheshire into a marginal constituency that the two main parties will need to take if they want to be on track to form a government.
The big picture
National analysis has the boundary review benefiting the Conservatives to the tune of around 5 seats. However, with polls putting Labour around 20 points up ahead of the next election, the impact of the new constituencies might be disguised by a Tory wipe-out.
BECG works closely with local and national stakeholders across the political spectrum. Whatever surprises the final boundaries throw up, we are well placed to help our clients navigate the changed political landscape. If you would like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to contact Kevin Whitmore.