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Partisan Impact of Boundary Changes: Alternative Modelling

Guest slot: Harry Hayfield

Foreword by Lewis Baston

Harry Hayfield, one of the authors of the Britain Votes website, approached Democratic Audit and volunteered not only to calculate 'notional’ 2010 results for the model parliamentary seats, but also to write some commentary. We’re very grateful to Harry for his work on these, which bring some of the perhaps rather dry work of modelling constituencies to entertaining life.

The method used to calculate 'notional’ results (i.e. what the votes cast in 2010 in the area covered by the new constituencies were) is approximate, which is only reasonable given that the seats themselves are an unofficial model and the Rallings-Thrasher method of calculating notional results (as used in past Media Guides to the New Parliamentary Constituencies)  is somewhat laborious. The method here assumes uniform voting patterns across each old constituency. This will usually be a reasonable guide to the complexion of the new seats but which will be misleading when there are sharp contrasts between the components of the old seats (Pudsey is an example of such a seat).

The following content is an unofficial, but very welcome, contribution to the Democratic Audit work on boundaries. For more of Harry’s work, please see the Britain Votes Blog.

Wales

Wales has always been a Labour heartland. In the Labour disaster of the 1983 election Labour won 20 of the 38 Welsh seats (on a 37% vote share). The Labour landslide of 1997 saw Labour win 34 seats on a 55% vote share, but even this was eclipsed by the Labour landslide of 1966 when the only seats not to go Labour were Barry, Denbigh, Flint West and Montgomery. So it should come as no suprise to hear that even on the poor performance that Labour had in Wales in 2010 (polling just 36% of the vote) in a reduced House of Commons, Labour still rules Wales winning 23 of the 30 seats and as you might expect with Labour being so dominant, the other parties all suffer. The Conservatives lose four of their current crop, the Liberal Democrats lose one and Plaid Cymru lose two (all of which could lead to some very interesting selection battles).

Cardiff Central: Lab 33% Lib Dem 32% Con 26% Plaid 4% Others 2% UKIP 2% Green 1%
Alun Michael MP (Lab, Cardiff South) might be very tempted to give this new seat a go as his Cardiff South seat vanishes. In the Assembly elections, Cardiff Central was gained by Labour on a 15% swing from the Liberal Democrats, however at Westminster Jenny Willott will have been the MP for two terms by the next election and as we know Liberal Democrat incumbents do have a very good track record of holding onto seats that they should in theory lose

Carmarthen: Lab 31% Con 29% Plaid 25% Lib Dem 12% UKIP 3% Others 0%
Carmarthen for Plaid Cymru is as totemic a seat as Hamilton is for the SNP. Having won it in a by-election in 1966, they had to wait 35 years before winning it back at the 2001 general election (and then as the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency, which didn't even cover Carmarthen town itself). However the new Carmarthen, whilst looking promising for Johnathan Morgan (the current Plaid MP for Carmarthen East) could also be very attractive to Simon Hart (the current Conservative MP for Carmarthen West) or any number of Labour candidates (be it Nick Ainger who lost Carmarthen West in the general election or Christine Gwyther who failed to win the Assembly seat)

Denbigh: Lab 35% Con 34% Lib Dem 16% Plaid 10% UKIP 2% BNP 2% Others 0%
Imagine the scene, a Labour canvasser trudging around the Denbigh constituency of old somehow manages to end up in 2015. He walks into the Labour office in Denbigh and says "I know it's a lost cause, but can I help the Labour campaign" and is shocked by the news that Labour would have won Denbigh if it had been around in 2010 by a matter of 240 votes. He would never be able to believe this because the old Denbigh was a traditional Conservative / Liberal battleground with Labour constantly being beaten into third and given the make up of the seat any number of Labour MP's would fancy their chances. Susan Jones (the current MP for Clwyd South) would surely be the favourite, however Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) would be able to cite more parliamentary experience (having been elected in 1997), with Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) being able to claim local knowledge.

Gwynedd and Machynlleth: Plaid 38% Con 23% Lab 18% Lib Dem 16% UKIP 3% Others 3%
Elfyn Llwyd's term as Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader has been full of missed chances. Elected in 1999 (to replace Ieuan Wyn Jones who concentrated on his Assembly position) he cheered Carmarthen East in 2001 and booed Ynys Môn at the same election, couldn't believe it when Ceredigion fell to the Lib Dems in 2005 and must have been sick as a parrot to see only Arfon gained by less than 1,500 and see Ceredigion move from a target to a distant hope (on a swing of 11% against them) and now thanks to the reduction of the house must surely wonder whether having to defend a majority of 15% (the lowest since the 1987 general election) would be worth the effort of staying in Westminster at all. if he did decide to stand down I can think of several high fliers in Plaid who would be interested (not least Hwyel Williams the MP for Arfon) especially as half his seat enters this new one.

Brecon and Montgomery: Lib Dem 43% Con 39% Lab 9% Plaid 5% UKIP 3% Others 2% Green 1% Roger Williams (the Lib Dem MP for Brecon and Radnorshire) has managed to see off the Conservatives for three elections in a row. Selected as the candidate in 2001, he held on to the seat by just 751 votes. restablished it's safeness in 2005 (3,905 majority) and defied the national trend in 2010 with virtually no swing at all. However thanks to the Conservatives gaining Montgomeryshire, you can imagine that Glyn Davies MP will be battling Roger Williams MP for this new seat. And with two popular MP's battling for every vote, it would be a confident people who would project this at the end of a five year coalition government.

Wales Tallies:
Labour 36% winning 23 seats
Conservatives 26% winning 4 seats
Liberal Democrats 20% winning 2 seats
Plaid Cymru 11% winning 1 seat
Other Parties 7% winning 0 seats

12/07/2011: Welsh Allocations

North East England

If Wales is a Labour heartland, then the North East of England is a Labour fortress. Even in the 1983 Conservative landslide of the 30 seats that made up the North East only 7 elected non Labour MP's (5 Conservative, 2 Alliance) and in the Labour landslide of 1997 that figure was reduced to 2 (Lib Dem Berwick and Con Hexham) although Hexham only stayed Conservative by 222 votes (or less than 0.5%) so it should come as no huge suprise to hear that even in a shrunken North East (net loss of 4 seats), it's Labour who still rule with 24 seats to their name, but with less seats to go around there are some Labour MP's who may well ponder the idea of standing for an elected House of Lords come 2015.

Take for example Alan Campbell MP (Lab, Tynemouth) who sees his seat get torn between Wallsend and Tynemouth (Lab 48% Con 25% Lib Dem 19% BNP 3% UKIP 2% Others 1% Green 0%) and Whitley Bay (Lab 46% Con 29% Lib Dem 18% BNP 3% UKIP 2% Green 1% Others 1%). Does he follow the majority of his former seat into the new Whitley Bay constituency or does he say "You know, I've been an MP since the 1997 Labour landslide, that's 18 years of service to the electors of Tynemouth, it's time I stood down and sought election to the Lords". 

But what about those non Labour MP's in the North East? James Wharton MP (Con, Stockton South) allowed David Cameron to announce "We have representation in the metropolitan North East for the first time since 1992". What a shame therefore that the seat gets split into two (Middlesbrough West and Stockton) both of which vote Labour. Middlesbrough West (which takes in 34% of the old Stockton South) has Labour polling 42% to the Conservatives 30% and the new Stockton (creating by merging the old Stockton North and South) has Labour on 40% and the Conservatives on 35% (but given the trend of polling since the election, that's almost a certain Labour hold).

And what of the Liberal Democrats. Well, despite a bit of a scare (that saw his majority collapse to the smallest since his election in 1974), Sir Alan Beith would win Berwick upon Tweed (although he might think that being an MP for well over 40 years by the next election, he might decide that a place in the Lords would be better), which just leaves Ian Swales whose win in Redcar (on a swing of 22% from the former Solicitor General came as a shock to everyone bar Peter Kellner. Redcar gets torn between Middlesbrough East and Cleveland East, which is not that promising for Mr. Swales.

Middlesbrough East and Eston: Lab 39% Lib Dem 29% Con 22% UKIP 4% BNP 4% Others 2% contains 44% of the old Redcar
Redcar and Cleveland East: Lab 36% Lib Dem 30% Con 25% UKIP 4% BNP 3% Others 1% contains 56% of the old Redcar and as there has been a swing in excess of 10% from Lib Dem to Lab since the general election both seats look unlikely to elect a Lib Dem at the next election.

So all in all I think it is safe to say that the North East will return a shedload of Labour MP's at the next election (just a slightly smaller shed than in past elections)

Regional Summary
Labour 523,825 votes (44%) winning 24 seats
Conservatives 284,788 votes (24%) winning 1 seat
Liberal Democrats 283,202 votes (24%) winning 1 seat
British National Party 52,435 votes (4%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 32,518 votes (3%)
Green Party 3,807 votes (0%)
Other Parties 21,163 votes (2%)

12/07/2011: North Eastern Allocations