Guido Fawkes, the political blogger, has leaked the Boundary Commission’s report which was due out tomorrow (the Croydon detail begins on p16).
And as Andrew Pelling wrote here earlier today, although even the Boundary Commission considers Croydon big enough to warrant the representation of four MPs, pressure on the number of MPs for the whole of London means that south of the River Thames, 27 MPs are to be reduced to just 25.
For Croydon, the proposal is that we will have a significant interest in four constituencies, with two wholly within the borough and two overlapping into Sutton.
The end result will be two seats with comfortable Tory majorities, one strongly Labour seat, and another looking likely to be a Labour marginal seat – the losers being the LibDems from neighbouring Sutton. So much for the ConDem coalition partnership.
Pelling predicted major changes to his old seat, Croydon Central. And that is exactly what the Boundary Commission is proposing. What has for the past 20 years been a tightly contested election target for Labour and the Conservatives looks likely to become a safe Tory seat.
The Boundary Commission wants to rename Croydon Central – Gavin Barwell’s seat – as Croydon East, with the addition from the old Croydon South constituency of Selsdon & Ballards ward (ballast to make it safer Tory territory?).
Croydon North is such a large constituency that it is to remain largely unchanged, except it is to lose Broad Green ward.
Where matters could get very interesting is the marriage of convenience that will be known as “Croydon Central and St Helier” that contains four Croydon wards (Broad Green from Croydon North; Fairfield ward from Croydon Central; and Croham and Waddon wards from Croydon South) and five Sutton wards.
Likewise, a shotgun marriage to the south is proposed in the creation of “Purley and Carshalton”, using Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West. Kenley, Purley and Sanderstead wards (from the current Croydon South), and four ward from Sutton.
In both of these crossover constituencies, Croydon voters will far outnumber those bolted on from Sutton: around 43,000 to 37,000 in the new Croydon Central and St Helier constituency; and 50,000 to 29,000 in Purley and Carshalton.
Tom Brake is the current LibDem MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and the Boundary Commission appears to have shattered any chances he has of being re-elected, as his heartland vote is split between what may develop into one Labour marginal and a staunchly Conservative seat.
The concept of having Parliamentary constituencies which do not conform to borough boundaries is not new, though it lacks a degree of elegance in its solutions, and it is sure to create complications for cross-borough MPs. How can they attend Town Hall meetings to represent their constituents if Croydon and Sutton councils meet on the same night, for instance?
- Croydon’s MPs await news of a game of musical seats (insidecroydon.com)
- All together now: with the non-public, non-inquiry panel (insidecroydon.com)
- Martin Luther King, Croydon and putting riot victims first (insidecroydon.com)
I’m not quite so sure that Tom Brake is sunk. If you look at the ward figures (from last year, although admittedly in the Local Elections as that’s the only data on ward figures available), I make the new Croydon Central & St Helier seat a close Lib/Con marginal with the Libs just shading it and Labour not that far behind – it ends up approx Lib 37%, Con 36.5%, Lab 26% between the three parties. What will make it very interesting is that the Lib Dems are weak in Croydon, but very strong in Sutton, Labour are the reverse, and the Conservatives strong in Croydon and reasonably strong in Sutton, so that seat could go either way. The Purley and Carshalton seat does look like a safe Conservative – even more so than the current Coydon South, so there is little doubt Brake would stand in Croydon Central and St Helier, in which case he would need to quickly build his networks in Croydon and realign his current Sutton focus with strong support from the local Council.
All this assumes the reform actually goes ahead and in this form…
I ran some 2010 Local Election numbers to get a feel for the proposed new Croydon Central and St. Helier constituency.
Obviously we all know that local election votes are not necessarily tied to general election votes but as the local elections were held at the same time as the general election they are probably slightly more representative (higher turnout) and useful than usual.
What I did was take the average vote for each party in each of the wards in the proposed new constituency (number of votes per candidate divided by the number of candidates) and then added them up. ‘Simples’
The result was as follows: (21,493 Sutton ward votes – 23,485 Croydon ward votes):
Lib Dems – 16,855 (11,517 Sutton – 5,338 Croydon)
Conservatives: 16,629 (6,816 Sutton – 9,813 Croydon)
Labour – 11,494 (3,160 Sutton – 8,334 Croydon)
While the Croydon wards are slightly larger they have a slightly smaller turnout. Also the Lib Dems do not do quite as badly in the four Croydon wards as Labour do in the five Sutton wards. As far as I can tell this seat looks like all three parties will be in with a shout – although Labour will have some catching up to do. Of course that depends in large part on the whether the ‘Coalition’ succeeds in improving its position in the next 2/3 years.
My initial view is that this looks like a Tory seat but saying that Tom Brake is a hardworking MP, has good name recognition, particularly in the Sutton wards – and has proved exceptionally good at squeezing the Labour vote in Carshalton and Wallington – down from 23.5% in 1997 to 8.7% last time out. For many in Central Croydon this will be the first realistic opportunity to actually elect a Lib Dem MP.
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