Rob Hayward is an elections analyst and the former Conservative MP for Kingswood. Here he casts considerable doubt on the accuracy of Lewis Baston's new research into the likely new parliamentary boundaries.
Lewis Baston has produced what I can best describe as an interesting set of boundary proposals published in today’s Guardian (and summarised earlier on ConHome here). It is firstly worth remembering that Lewis is active within the Labour Party, and his proposals are clearly influenced by his party loyalty. The plan is therefore overly optimistic for Labour, pessimistic for the Conservatives and very pessimistic for the Liberal Democrats.
The proposals are not helped by graphics that don’t match parts of the script (key onto a constituency in Edinburgh and you get comments concerning Dumfriesshire, whilst there are no details regarding London seats); the regional figures for the South East don’t complement the seat-by-seat analysis on other maps; and on the regional map Labour is down two but the map of specific seats suggests the Lib Dems are down two.
Of the specific proposals, for example, those for Eastern England do not seem to have any impartial coherence. They somehow retain two Labour seats in Luton, whcih is quite an achievement by any standards when both seats are 10,000 under-sized. Nearly every proposal for the area links Bedfordshire with Hertfordshire, while this plan keeps the two counties separate. Even following that process, however, it is nigh on impossible to create two Labour seats around Luton.
In Cheshire there are some very striking oddities starting with the Wirral seats and working east towards Manchester. I agree that one Tory is likely to lose a seat in Cheshire but the inference of the study appears to be that the Tories will have a marginal seat in the Wirral (more likely a safe seat) whilst two Lib Dem seats in Stockport becomes one ‘Lib Dem marginal’ of Stockport South. Those that know the area of Wirral/Cheshire and Manchester better than I are bemused by the suggestions.
Nice try, Lewis, but more oddities will appear as the day goes on.
The two saving graces for this plan? Firstly, that it is so obviously party biased and secondly that it is somewhat less biased than the proposals that the same person and organisation produced in December 2010!