By Jonathan Isaby
Follow Jonathan on Twitter
"Lib Dems face crisis over new electoral map", screams the headline on the front of this morning's Guardian.
It is reporting on what it suggests is the "most detailed analysis yet" of the likely outcome of the review of constituency boundaries currently being undertaken by the various Boundary Commissions.
The research, conducted by a Democratic Audit - a research group based at Liverpool University - maps the results of last year's general election onto a set of boundaries based on a 600-seat House of Commons, which is the number of constituencies that will exist at the 2015 general election.
It suggests that each of the parties would have won fewer seats, as follows:
- Conservatives - 16 (5.2% of the party's seats)
- Labour - 17 (6.6%)
- Lib Dems - 14 (24.6%)
Psephologist Lewis Baston of Democratic Audit explains to the Guardian:
"The Liberal Democrats are likely to lose out more than the other main parties because their seats are yellow islands in a sea of red or blue; changing the boundaries is more likely to bring in hostile territories, their majorities tend to be smaller than Labour or Conservative MPs and their Lib Dems trade a lot on incumbency and constituency service. That is disrupted by a boundary review."
The Boundary Commissions for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be announcing their initial proposals for the new boundaries this September, although the final electoral map will not be confirmed in Parliament until 2013.
This is all going to be very unsettling for current MPs from all parties, as the Guardian summarises:
The review will leave many MPs unusually insecure about their electoral fortunes. There will be intra-party wars for seats; margins will shift for and against incumbents; and some will be left treading water until their seats are abolished. The result could be a particularly volatile House of Commons.
The paper has published lists of MPs whose parliamentary careers are under threat if the boundaries fall as this research suggests, naming Conservatives George Osborne, Graham Brady, Priti Patel, Grant Shapps, Bernard Jenkin, Keith Simpson, Bill Wiggin, Hugh Robertson, Graham Stuart, Zac Goldsmith and Mark Prisk.
However, we will not know until September whether those suggestions are real or not. What's more, this analysis suggests that at the last election the Conservatives would have lost only one fewer MP than Labour, when the constituency equalisation ought to be redressing the considerable pro-Labour bias ingrained in the current boundaries. Senior Tory insiders reckon that there could be a net benefit of up to twenty seats to the Tories from the changes, which fails to materialise if this research were to be correct.
What we do know is that virtually every boundary is going to have to change because the legislation leaves so little leeway for variation from the set electorate quota of 76,000 voters per constituency. And, crucially, even those seats which currently fulfill that criterion are unlikely to be left untouched as a result of the knock-on effects of changes to other seats.
9am update: Baston has posted this piece on the Guardian website explaining his methodology and with a link to a spreadhseet of what he sees the Boundary Commission proposing.
> Last month Gareth Knight demonstrated the complicated consequences of the boundary changes in research for ConHome based on the possible outcome of the review for Lincolnshire.