Tom Brake, the Sutton LibDem MP who could see his Carshalton and Wallington seat broken up in a merger with safe Tory Croydon wards, believes that the coalition government’s boundary changes are dead in the water.
Speaking to Inside Croydon at Monday’s environment fair in his constituency, Brake was pleased that the boundary changes are in deep trouble.
Under the proposals, Carshalton and Wallington would be split, one part into central Croydon and up to Sanderstead station and across to Mitcham Common, with the other shoe-horned in with true blue Purley and Coulsdon and on to the Godstone Valley and Hamsey Green.
“Carshalton and Wallington go together like fish and chips. Fragment them and you get a scrappy dog’s breakfast instead of a nourishing meal,” Brake has said.
It’s certainly hard to see that much community of interest between commuters at Sanderstead rail station and St Helier’s housing estate.
Brake concedes that building a complete Liberal-Democrat operation in places like Sanderstead and Kenley would have been a challenge, though he did refer somewhat hopefully to some Liberal wins in Sanderstead and Kenley in 1962.
Brake will prefer to appeal to his established constituents, rather than be part of an expected culling of LibDem MPs at the next election.
The boundary changes were part of the ConDem coalition agreement, together with Lords reform. When the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to deliver the LibDems’ desired Lords reform, they withdrew their support for the Conservatives’ hoped-for boundary changes – which would put the seats of prominent MPs including Simon Hughes, Vince Cable and Sutton’s Paul Burstow at great risk.
If the boundary changes do not go through, it could cause some political embarrassment for sitting Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, who has already – perhaps prematurely – declared that he would fight the “new” Croydon East seat at the next general election.
Barwell has gone on the record to tell Inside Croydon that, “I will apply for Croydon East” after his own analysis of May’s London election results that, “We would have comfortably won Croydon East”.
Under the boundary changes, Croydon East could be regarded as a much safer seat than the existing – and what now looks to be a continuing – Croydon Central constituency.
The apparent discomfort of privately educated Barwell with the boundary status quo being maintained was betrayed in one of the MP’s online diatribes: “Liberal Democrats MPs went through the Coalition Agreement line by line and signed up to it; Conservative MPs did not and hence many do not feel themselves bound by every detail.”
Barwell, who employs the current Mayor of Croydon among his political staff, may need to spend even more money on what laughably he claims to be non-political leaflets – paid for by the Conservative party – and in using social media to promote himself. One of his four state-funded parliamentary assistants works specifically to maintain his employer’s public profile.
Cameron, meanwhile, has not given up on changing the parliamentary boundaries, with the prospect of the extra 20 seats that it will deliver to the Conservatives at the next election. The constituency boundary change vote is still very much on the agenda for autumn 2013, when the final report of the Boundary Commission is due. Cameron still feels he can win that vote.
Autumn 2013 is plenty of time to cut a deal with the LibDems, who might be charmed with a lot of our taxpayers’ money with an offer of public funding of political parties. But it is also time enough for further insults to be hurled across the fracturing divide of the coalition.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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- Tom Brake MP writes… Politics is a profession of unrelenting pace (libdemvoice.org)
- The modernisation of the Conservative Party is not complete (newstatesman.com)
- The Coalition Agreement does not commit Lib Dems to supporting boundary changes (libdemvoice.org)
- Nick Clegg blocks boundary changes after Lords reform retreat (guardian.co.uk)