Shirley shome mishtake: boundary review keeps Barwell happy

WALTER CRONXITE on the latest recommendations for Croydon’s parliamentary seats from the Boundary Commissioners, just published

Someone will be pleased with the Boundary review

Someone will be pleased with the work of the latest Boundary review

Croydon gets to keep three parliamentary constituencies under proposals published today by the Boundary Commission. But the Commissioners have surely delivered what the Tories’ ex-PM and now ex-MP, David Cameron, wanted when he set them to work on his nationwide gerrymandering exercise, as they look to have transformed the marginal Croydon Central seat into a safe Conservative constituency, something which proved beyond the political skills of its MP, Gavin Barwell.

This has all been done at some cost. Some of the work on the constituencies’ boundaries look worthy of a cut and shunt job by a dodgy garage under some south London railway arches.

And the Croydon parliamentary constituencies, at present made up of 24 council wards, would comprise just 23 wards under these proposals.

Norbury ward is to be cast into the outer darkness – well, a new, Lambeth-dominated constituency of Streatham and Mitcham – in a swap for Crystal Palace ward being dragged into Croydon North from Bromley, as the borough-wide integrity of the constituency has been traded in by the Commission in its efforts to balance the number of voters in each constituency within the 71,000 to 78,500 target range it has been set.

And also under these proposals, Shirley ward, where Barwell has recently joined with residents in opposing schemes to build new housing, would become part of a Beckenham constituency, alongside their neighbours from West Wickham.

The arbitrariness of the Commission’s target numbers for each constituency is amplified when it is considered that the number-crunching has been done with figures from before January 2016, therefore missing out on the high number of newly registered voters who joined the electoral roll before June’s EU Referendum. The whole exercise, intended to reduce the size of the Commons from 650 MPs to 600 by the 2020 General Election, is thus rendered out of date even before the virtual ink was dry on the official pdfs released at midnight.

Gavin Barwell: a stroke of the cartographer's pen has given him an extra 14,000 votes

Gavin Barwell: a stroke of the pen has given him an extra 5,000 votes

The demands of its targets have also seen the Commission abandon certain principles to which it adhered when undertaking its previous review in 2011. In this part of south London, the Commission’s stated aspiration of basing parliamentary constituencies on the London Assembly dual-borough seats has been dropped.

So previous proposals to mix and match seats with wards from Sutton and Croydon have now been dismissed, the numbers balancing act performed instead by shunting the likes of true blue Purley and Croham wards from Croydon South into Central, as the counterweight to moving Waddon (currently Croydon South’s only Labour ward) and Broad Green (Croydon North) back into Central, where they were part of the constituency 40 years ago.

The end result is Croydon Central, where Barwell hung on by his fingertips in 2015 with just 165 votes, becoming a 5,800-vote Tory majority seat – according to independent analysis through Electoral Calculus, and based on recent opinion polls. Despite his own worst fears, the new Minister for Housing may have a parliamentary future after all…

This is how the Boundary Commission has redrawn the political map of Croydon

This is how the Boundary Commission has redrawn the political map of Croydon

Indeed, if the Commissioners’ recommendations are accepted – and there’s a 12-week consultation period underway now – the new boundaries will make Croydon far less politically contentious than at any time in the past couple of decades.

Even Steve Reed OBE has some cause to be grateful to the Commissioners: by simply tinkering around the edges with his Croydon North seat, the Progress MP escapes triggering Labour Party rules which might have seen him needing to face a re-selection process. On these boundaries, with the inclusion of council leader Tony Newman’s Woodside ward moved from Croydon Central, Croydon North remains a 15,000-vote Labour majority seat.

But after performing their wards juggling act, the Commissioners – on their outdated electoral figures – have barely managed to get Croydon North under the 78,500 electors limit.

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna: one of the Labour big guns who supported Goyal's fund-raisers

Chuka Umunna might take more  interest in Croydon. Steve Reed will be soooo pleased

And one snag for Reed will be the likelihood that, with Norbury in a reconfigured Streatham seat, its MP, currently Chuka Umunna, might take a growing interest in matters south of Streatham Common.

As if the Tories in Croydon South needed any more help, the boundary changes see their majority reinforced at 18,000 votes, even with the inclusion of the eastern wards from Croydon Central of New Addington and Fieldway. At a previous boundary review, the then Tory incumbent, Tricky Dicky Ottaway, was laughed at when he suggested that New Addington should be included in his constituency. Now, it seems to be the done thing.

The very idea that London, with its rapidly expanding population, should have to lose five parliamentary seats at all can be judged for the Tory gerrymandering that it is. More voters surely deserve more elected representatives, not fewer. But London is a Labour-voting city, and Cameron’s Tories wanted to dilute that political advantage.

The end result has led to some very contorted new constituencies – Purley, in Croydon Central? Seriously? – some of which have little natural relationship to geography, history or local authorities.

Read what the Commissioners say themselves about the task they were set:

“A particular issue that affected our distribution of constituencies throughout London is the electoral size of the wards in each London borough. The majority of wards contain more than 6,000 electors. This made it difficult to create constituencies with an electorate within 5 per cent of the electoral quota, while avoiding dividing wards between constituencies. In considering alternative distributions of constituencies in London, we noted that it was possible to create constituencies by aggregating wards from a number of neighbouring boroughs.”

It seems, then, that Brexit was not the only electoral mess to be left behind by David Cameron.

The Commissioners explained their proposals for Croydon thus:

“In the borough of Croydon, we have been able to retain three constituencies with minor reconfiguration. The proposed Croydon South constituency lies in the southernmost part of the borough and includes five wards from the existing constituency and three wards from the existing Croydon Central constituency.

“Our Boundary Commission for England proposed Croydon Central constituency retains three wards from the existing constituency, and includes the Broad Green ward from the existing Croydon North constituency, and three wards from the existing Croydon South constituency.

“We also propose a Croydon North constituency, which retains six wards from the existing constituency, and adds the Bromley borough ward of Crystal Palace from the existing Lewisham West and Penge constituency, and the Woodside ward from the existing Croydon Central constituency.”

Under the Boundary Commission’s proposals, below are the wards which will make up the parliamentary constituencies.

The figures in brackets are the number of electors (by constituency and by ward). Where a ward has been included from another borough, this too is stated in brackets. The colours used indicate the latest election outcome, at the 2015 General Election or, for the wards, the 2014 council elections.


Addiscombe (10,130)
Ashburton (10,117)
Broad Green (10,859)
Croham (10,122)
Fairfield (10,688)
Purley (10,251)
Waddon (10,527)


Crystal Palace (Bromley) (7,783)
Bensham Manor (9,553)
Selhurst (10,293)
South Norwood (10,268)
Thornton Heath (9,557)
Upper Norwood (10,068)
West Thornton (10,159)
Woodside (10,112)


Coulsdon East (9,211)
Coulsdon West (9,900)
Fieldway (6,787)
Heathfield (9,497)
Kenley (10,381)
New Addington (6,923)
Sanderstead (9,617)
Selsdon and Ballards (9,085)

Such proposals, though, are not set in stone. Not yet, anyway.

“Today’s proposals are just the Commission’s initial thoughts – during the next 12 weeks we want people to take a look and tell us what they like and don’t like about our proposals,” Sam Hartley, the secretary to the Commission, said.

“Use our website to tell us what you think, or come along to one of our public events to give us your views in person.”

There is to be a series of public hearings, details of which can be found at The consultation closes on December 5. There will be a further two rounds of consultation in 2017. Following which, final recommendations will be made to Parliament in September 2018.

Here’s the Commission’s London report in full.

And if you had any doubts that the process and work of the Boundary Commission was a little on this dull side, this video produced by the Commissioners should put your mind completely at rest…


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in 2020 General Election, Bromley Council, Chris Philp MP, Coulsdon, Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Fieldway, Gavin Barwell, Lambeth Council, New Addington, Norbury, Purley, Shirley North, Steve Reed MP, Waddon, Woodside and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Shirley shome mishtake: boundary review keeps Barwell happy

  1. derekthrower says:

    Purley now part of Croydon Central or look at it another way – not part of Croydon South? This bodge of a configuration to fit into a predetermined number just takes no account of the electorates own geography and really looks like a rush job to just start the inevitable horse trading which will follow.

  2. Tim Rodgers says:

    I’m looking forward to Chris Philp touring New Addington waving copies of his Taxpayers Alliance pamphlet “Work for the Dole”.

  3. farmersboy says:

    Exactly as I predicted at the start of the gerrymandering.

    I don’t like to say I told you so, but a a trawl through the comments here and elsewhere will show I said Croydon Central would become Croydon Central south-leaning, so I will say I told you so.

    As my flat has moved from leafy South Croydon to the middle of a gang culture video, will its value go down?

    On the plus side I can now legitimately harangue Gav whereas before it was just a hobby

    • davidjl2014 says:

      So you are happy to see 59 seats in Westminster attributed to Scotland, whose whole population of 5.2 million (with a percentage living in England) continue to have such a influence on how we run this country. This is not gerrymandering. Considering 99% of them don’t want to be part of GB in the first place and have no interest in south of the boarder and only sit there to represent their tiny proportional inhabitants. Surely 25 seats would be generous at the very least. To top it all they have their own assembly as well!
      My guess is that you are more concerned about the devaluation of your flat. With that I have some sympathy. But as a socialist, I’m sure you can live with it and take it out on Gav with guns blazing.

      • farmersboy says:

        It’s not actually my flat I was being facetious as is my wont.
        And I’m not sure I’m a socialist anymore as I’ve been expelled from the Labour Party, for erm, being a socialist…

  4. The article seems to be confused between current opinion polls (which suggest that Gavin Barwell would be easily re-elected by a huge margin, due to the fact that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is useless at the moment) and notional results (which estimate how the new boundaries would have voted in the 2015 general election.

    On the one hand:
    In the 2014 local elections, the eight wards which make up the current Croydon Central constituency had a Labour lead of 669 votes, whereas the seven wards which make up the proposed new version had a Labour lead of 99 votes.
    This would suggest that the Conservative Party has gained a net advantage of a few hundred votes in the new proposed version, compared with the status quo.

    But on the other hand:
    In the 2016 election for London Mayor, Zac Goldsmith had a lead of 29 votes in the current constituency, whereas Sadiq Khan had a lead of 688 votes in the proposed new version.
    (That is if we exclude postal votes, which are not sub-divided by ward).
    Similarly, the Labour lead in the Croydon & Sutton constituency election goes up from 248 votes in the current boundaries to 456 votes in the proposed version, and the Labour lead in the party list section goes up from 898 to 1,242.
    This suggests that Labour has a net advantage of a few hundred votes in the new proposed version, compared with the current boundaries.

    Obviously people vote for different parties in different elections, but all of the evidence shows that the new boundaries, if enacted, would leave Croydon Central still very close between the two main parties. We cannot be certain how people voted in different wards in the 2015 general election, but we can be confident that the result in Croydon Central would still have been close (a few hundred votes either way) even if the proposed new boundaries had already been in place.

    • Trouble is, Mr Loony,
      a, You can’t really “discount” postal votes since they play such an often vital part in all elections today, and as you say, their ward of origination is disguised; and
      b, Nor can you discount current polls (at least, no more than we probably should discount all polls).

      Electoral Calculus are number crunchers of repute. If they say the “new” Croydon Central is a 5,000 vote Tory majority based on current polls – rather election results from 18 months or nearly three years ago – then we’d suggest that that is a more up to date guesstimate.

  5. jamie10000 says:

    Plus 1 on John’s analysis there.
    Remember that these proposals are only the start of the discussion. The final proposals that will go to Parliament in September 2018 will look very different and will be the result of months of discussions and remodelling. If you don’t like these proposals then make a representation and suggest something more to your liking. Add some hard data and analysis like John has done and you may find your ideas are accepted.

  6. croydonres says:

    Take a look at the map. To have so much of Croydon “South” going around to the East of Croydon “Central” is clearly very wrong. . Purley, as a loyal reader above has highlighted, is very clearly very South –not very central.

    Are there any Geographers among the Boundary Commissioners ?

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