New constituency boundaries: containing the Greens and helping the Tories

The new boundaries for Parliamentry constituencies have been leaked, and I am grateful to Dem Soc, Brighton and Hove, and the fascinating Anthony Zacharzewski in particular, for sharing the information.

Enter, stage right, my friend Gerry Mander, who has created new boundaries designed to contain the Greens. There is no rationale other than that. The new Brighton Pavilion and Hove constituency (Brunswick & Adelaide, Central Hove, Goldsmid, Hanover & Elm Grove, Preston Park, Queen’s Park, Regency, St Peter’s & North Laine) guarentees the re-election of Caroline Lucas – the proposed constituency currently has just one non Green councillor, the very non-Tory and all-round nice guy, Andrew Wealls.

That is the tactic, load all Greens into one constituency. A central Brighton and Hove constituency makes some sense, but Brighton & Hove North is a most bizarre concoction: Hangleton & Knoll, Hollingdean & Stanmer, Portslade (north and south), Patcham, Hove Park, Westbourne, Wish, Withdean.

As St Anthony says: “It’s a strange division, as I suspect that the people of Hollingdean (Brighton & Hove North) would see themselves as having more in common with central Brighton than with Hangleton & Knoll or Mile Oak.”

That’s the least of it, AZ, what about residents of Stanmer Village and Portslade South? What on earth do they have in common.

Coalition partners Norman Baker and Simon Kirby will be eyeing up each other with suspicion, even hostility. The new Lewes and East Brighton constituency is made up of Moulsecoomb & Bevendean, East Brighton, Rottingdean Coastal, Woodingdean, all Lewes town wards, Saltdean, Chailey, Wivelsfield, Ditchling, Plumpton, Kingston, East Chiltington, Streat, and St John Without.

I think that this new constituency will see the end of Stormin’ Norman. Why vote for a candidate without backbone who implements Tory policies when you can vote for a candidate with backbone who implements Tory policies.

The aim, I suspect, is to guarantee two Tory seats in Brighton, Hove and Lewes. Simon Kirby will have taken some comfort. Mike Weatherley must be relieved, or is he? What if Caroline Lucas decided not to stand in Brighton Pavilion and Hove but chose, rather, to stand in Brighton and Hove North? She could win it given that she polls well in Withdene, Patcham and Hollingdean and Stanmer, and she could well attract lots of support in some of the current Hove seats. But then again so could another Green candidate, if the Greens choose their candidate with care.

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31 Responses

  1. I get the feeling you are being had on.
    Or the gerry mander is having a laugh 😉

  2. Yes. It’s not very subtle, is it? Poor old Norman Baker has sold his soul for the Ministerial limo and they’ve taken his seat away. And the division between the two Brighton seats is as artificial as it gets – we in Patcham feel far further from Hangleton and Knoll, let alone Portslade or Wish, than we do from Preston Park, because of the way the communication lines in the city work. The east-west division we have now is far more logical. At least the Pavilion name has been preserved.

    The big losers from this have to be Labour, though. It’s simply not credible to see Labour winning any of the three seats. It’s an interesting commentary on the way our election system works that you can move so quickly from four constitutences with Labour holding three, to three consituences where Labour won’t have a prayer in any of them.

    The local elections, and now this. I wonder whether there are a few Labour people in Brighton and Hove reassessing the case for full proportional representation.

    • No, Labour are clearly still the main challengers in all three, with the northern seat very much a Labour/Tory marginal and Labour unquestionably the biggest challenger to the Greens in the city centre seat. Even in the Brighton East/Lewes seat, Labour came a clear second to the Tories in terms of votes in this May’s local elections (see below) so are best placed to challenge the Tories there.

  3. This is far from a done deal. There will be lots of scared and angry backbenchers on each side of the house, and the coalition leadership have little goodwill with which to convince their respective parties that they come out of it best.

    I think there could be some sizable rebellions when the changes come up for a vote. I have it on good authority from a couple of Labour peers that they were privately supported by Tory backbenchers when they were filibustering the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill earlier in the year.

  4. Tallying May’s local election results by highest vote for each Party in each ward (not all wards were contested by all, eg Greens did not contest Peacehaven, Labour missed a couple of Lewes village wards, Lib Dems gave up on Moulsecoomb but Tories fought everything) the nominal Brighton East/Lewes vote totals were:

    Con 13,715,
    Lab 9,009,
    LD 6,584,
    Green 5,861.

    We forget how well Labour did in Rottingdean and Woodingdean. Even allowing the Greens another 1000 votes in Peacehaven had they stood (unlikely) Labour are still clearly in second place and in a position to squeeze the other two parties.

  5. […] BrightonPoliticsBlogger, who is a better blogger than I, believes this is orchestrated to ensure two Conservative constituencies after 2015, and to constrain the Greens. On the face of it, I find it hard to disagree, and if enacted it would be reasonably disastrous for Labour. […]

  6. Will the new constituency bring an overdue direct bus link between Hangleton and Patcham? I mean, will the celebrated Number 5, which Brian Fitch tried to claim as his, ply a route between the two places as the seagull flies instead of its current long and winding road?

    I see that Warren Morgan again claims imminent victory, just as he asserted that Labour had 24 seats in its grasp a few months ago…

    I am not fazed by the boundary changes. If that’s how it is, that’s how it is. The pavements stay in the same place, leading from one to another…

  7. One of the key defences of first-past-the-post, single member seats is that it preserves some kind of religious link between elector and MP.

    Difficult to see how that argument can be sustained if these kind of daft, non-geographical, ahistorical units are typical of the commission’s recommendations as a whole.

    However, this is surely less about containing the Greens than about giving the Tories a decent shout of winning an outright majority on the kind of percentage they polled last time (37%).

    PR now! Larger, multi-member seats would see an end to this politically motivated tinkering. Apart wanting proportionality in the outcome of elections, I want a choice of MP who I can approach.

    • PS – the blogger doesn’t mention perhaps the most outrageous local suggestion – putting Newhaven, which might make East Brighton and Lewes competitive, into Uckfield!

  8. The proposed changes are remarkable. I don’t think anyone saw this coming. However, we should remember that the entire boundary change has been a political act, not one based around logic or reason. The Government has committed itself to reducing the Commons whilst inflating the Lords.

    All parties in the city should keep in mind the expectation that our population is expected to increase by an extra 10,000 before 2018. Has this been factored in? How long will the proposed constituencies stay proportional before one has 10% more voters in than the neighbouring one?

    I think equal constituencies is a very worthy ambition but do we really have to lose our number of representatives to achieve that? I think not.

    • Luke: not only has the expectation of population increases not been factored in, but population, per se, has not been a factor at all in these proposals.

      It’s all been done on registered voters, leaving out the considerable number of people who are not on the registers, for whatever reason.
      It has always been thus, but the effect is going to be magnified by the reduction in the number of seats that you mention.

      Agree with you that reducing the number of MPs is not desirable. It was just an affected piece of anti-politics posturing – ditto recall elections. It helps those involved avoid having to address the fundamental iniquities of the system – that’s about all there is to it, I think.

  9. One, obviously very important, matter which seems to have been ignored thusfar: how will these boundary changes affect our esteemed BrightonPoliticsBlogger?

  10. It’s quite astonishing really; you have to hand it to the Tories on a technical level; they’re astoundingly good at being evil geniuses. As a result of this, a lot of MPs will spend much of the next 8 weeks focussing on boundary change tribunals; after that, they’ll spend time trying to ensure they retain their seats by getting the nomination for the new one. And in the meantime, the Government will keep on cutting, further destroy the NHS and erode patients’ rights and so on and so on. It’s brilliant, and I just hope the Lib Dems who’ve made it all possible appreciate the brilliance of their total and utter shafting at the hands of their leadership’s inability to see a stitch up at 20 paces.

  11. If this the outcome, it is far less about containing the Green Party, about whom the Tories nationally lose little sleep, than about preventing a Labour comeback in Hove and Kemptown. Realistically, the Green Party were assured Pavilion but Labour were the opposition in Hove & Kemptown. As Warren points out they are not without hope in the new arrangements, but they will need the tactical support of all anti-Tories.

  12. On the same basis (2011 local election results, adding together the highest party votes from each ward) in Brighton and Hove North, Labour would have 12,300 to the Conservatives 14, 500, with the Greens on 8, 400.

    And Simon Burgess has now confirmed on an earlier thread (State of the City, Labour) that he is not seeking selection for this or any seat in the city.

  13. Peter Kyle’s surely the Labour person who wants the most winnable non-Pavilion seat?

  14. How can the UK manage with fewer MPs ?

    See what the LibDems leader in Brussels has to say:-

    Basically he says – EU and National government have massive overlap – so cut national parliaments – and save money too.

  15. They won’t admit it, but the Greens will have a fight on their hands for the city centre seat, Labour on a general election turnout could so very well.

  16. Just to point out, if we take the local election results for Lewes and East Brighton:

    Con 13,715,
    Lab 9,009,
    LD 6,584,
    Green 5,861

    We then get the following percentages:

    Con 38.9%
    Lab 25.6%
    LD 18.7%
    Green 16.6%

    Replicated at a general election (an assumption, but the best we have), that’s the highest Green result in the whole country after Brighton Pavilion: higher than both the other target seats Norwich South (14.9%) and Lewisham Deptford (6.7%).

    It’s also a very similar result to the Brighton Pavilion 2005 result, which was:

    Lab 35.4%
    Con 23.9%
    Green 21.9%
    LD 16.5%

    The Tories and Labour have switched positions, but that shouldn’t matter as they’ve proven equally able to take Tory and Labour wards. It’s a very similar starting point for them – except they have the added bonus of a Lib Dem exodus on a national level and having already won a seat next-door.

    I think that’s important for context. With the right candidates and the right political weather, the Greens could end up taking all three of these new seats (I actually don’t know the numbers for Brighton and Hove North so I’m just going by what BPB says in the OP about the first two). I wouldn’t put money on it, but it’s possible.

  17. Does CH really believe what they’ve said? I think the majority view is that CL’s seat went from safe to ultra-safe. In that new constituency, based on councillor numbers, the only opposition is nice guy Andrew Wealls.

    Twenty Green councillors would be concentrated in that one constituency. How many other constituencies in the country will really have that kind of dominance? Especially in view of the fact that two years a go the Greens had no Parliamentary representation and 13 councillors.

  18. Posted on Northstandchat- good thread on same subject there too

    The Hove/Pavilion seat looks safer if anything for Caroline Lucas: if people vote as they did in the last council elections, her new constituency is currently represented by 20 Greens and 1 Tory councillor. Less marginal than before!
    North Brighton looks like a gerrymandered attempt to create a safer Tory seat. Kemptown Lewes looks anyones bag, 50% of Baker’s personal vote gone, an active Tory mp and plenty of potential Green supporters floating about. Add to that a less affluent area that ought to be solid Labour if Miliband gets his act together- too hard to call! And as for linking Uckfield and Newhaven, why was Newhaven not included with Brighton East. That really was a fix!

    The last time boundaries for Brighton Council were changed, many thought it was going to be a Tory stitch up and leave Brighton blue forever. But the reverse was the case, huge Tory majorities in a few wards, and a Labour Council in Brighton for the first time in a 1000 years! Who can predict the vagaries of the voters?

    Brighton Politics Blog

    Plenty more views on this on the excellent Brighton Politics blog

  19. “The last time boundaries for Brighton Council were changed, many thought it was going to be a Tory stitch up and leave Brighton blue forever. But the reverse was the case, huge Tory majorities in a few wards, and a Labour Council in Brighton for the first time in a 1000 years! Who can predict the vagaries of the voters?”

    No, the boundaries and number of cllrs changed in 2003, which saw the end of over 25 years of Labour control in Brighton, based on a Tory ward design that guaranteed them around 20 seats from 54 almost regardless of citywide vote share. This parliamentary review will build in much the same “base” nationally.

    • Warren: interesting post, can you say any more about the circumstances in which the current ward design came to pass? Surely Labour had the opportunity to make submissions? Why were these not adopted?

      You are right that the net result in 2011 was to over-represent the Tories (and under-represent Labour). But this was not the case in 2003, when (IIRC) the Tories outpolled Labour citywide but Labour ended up with 6 more seats.

      As per the Scrapper Duncan post below, I think you have to be a little bit careful about implying that gerrymandering is at work here.

      • I was thinking further back than 2003 Warren, back to the days of Pier Ward in the early 1980s. Reorganization then by a boundary commission under a Tory goverment changed the game for a resurgent Labour party at the time. First ever Red council in 1987 was it?

  20. […] Brighton Politics Blogger shamelessly talks the aim behind the changes as being motivated by political considerations. Thus he strongly implies that the Boundary Commission is corrupt. Where’s the evidence for this? Everyone working in the democratic process has a duty to protect it. These kind of slurs add to the disillusionment of politics. If he knows something we don’t, he should tell us. There’s no evidence that the changes have been motivated by political considerations. He makes some good points though about the strange demographic bedfellows that the new arrangements will make, with MPs representing some areas which have very little in common with one another. That has happened elsewhere in the country for decades. The fact is that our current electoral system is the worst form of democracy on the planet and these problems are part of the reason why. […]

  21. […] including the Brighton Politics Blogger, have written about the proposals. Read their postings here, here and […]

  22. […] including the Brighton Politics Blogger, have written about the proposals. Read their postings here, here and here. This entry was posted in Local, News. Bookmark the […]

  23. […] including the Brighton Politics Blogger, have written about the proposals. Read their postings here, here and […]

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