Rob Hayward is an elections analyst and the former Conservative MP for Kingswood. He has been kindly keeping ConHome readers up-to-date with the review. See his previous contributions here and here.
A lot is likely to be said in coming months about alternative plans for the required boundary reviews in relation to each county and country, however given the scale of the change that will arise from the forthcoming changes it is probably worth setting out the basic ground rules which will apply.
Across the UK there will be 50 fewer MPs elected at the 2015 General Election than 2010. The reductions will be as follows:
- England -31
- N Ireland -2
- Scotland -7
- Wales -10
- Eastern -2
- East Midlands -2
- London -5
- North East -3
- North West -7
- South East -1
- South West -2
- West Midlands -5
- Yorks & Humber -4
There are four protected seats: Isle of Wight (2), Orkneys & Shetland & Western Isles.
There is also a complicated maximum land area rule. Regional and national boundaries will not be crossed.
With the above exceptions all seats must have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473. There is however no requirement/benefit in being closer to the mid point of 76,641. These totals relate to Parliamentary not local government electors which can be markedly different, particularly in parts of London.
Recognition will be given to the likes of local ties, county boundaries, existing seats (England in particular) but these operate within the overall quota requirement.
It is now virtually certain that the English initial recommendations will be published on 13th Sept and Scotland’s on 13th October. For the first time all English recommendations will be published on the same date and all reviews will following the same timetable.
The publication dates for Wales and N Ireland are currently uncertain.
Public hearings will be held across the countries 5-10 weeks after the publication of the initial recommendations. In England the first hearing will begin in Manchester on 11th October and the last will be held in Exeter about a month later. A very compact timetable.
The hearings will be primarily to consider the Commissions’ initial recommendations but it is worth remembering that all responses whether written or oral are treated equally and there is no obligation to identify alternatives at the hearings.
Even where people/parties support a proposal from the Commissions it is necessary to say so otherwise those proposing an alternative plan will carry the day.
No revised recommendations will be published until well after the initial consultation period is completed. A further process will then operate concluding with final recommendations being put to Parliament for approval by October 2013 at the latest.
It is likely that upwards of 40 seats will be untouched, almost all in England, including every seat in N Yorkshire where all seats are within the required quota.
These reviews will become more regular. They will now be held every 5 years but there will be further change to electoral law in this Parliament. Individual voter registration will probably be introduced in two years time. This will I hope reduce abuse in not only voter registration but also postal voting and campaign irregularities. All of these are now rife in many places and make our elections more ‘corrupt’ than in many developing countries.
This Autumn will witness an interesting and pressured period. It will be different from anything we have previously experienced. The precise political outcome is uncertain but we know that in future all votes will have equal constituency value.
> Rob Hayward took part in a Radio 4 discussion on boundary changes last night with Carolyn Quinn and Lewis Baston. Listen via here.