WALTER CRONXITE on the wider ramifications of the Boundary Commission’s somewhat gentle realignment Sutton’s parliamentary seatsSo excited was London’s last remaining LibDem MP last night that he – or one of his over-eager aides – broke the strict embargo on the Boundary Commission’s publication of its report on its proposals for the nation’s parliamentary constituencies by tweeting the news of his escape from potential electoral wipeout.
All England’s MPs were given prior sight of the proposals at noon yesterday, 12 hours before the Commission’s report went live to the public.
The Commissioners’ decision not to divide Carshalton and Wallington into two or more pieces – as the previous boundary review five years ago had suggested was a solution to this part of south London’s overloaded constituencies – saw whoever it is who pulls the strings on Tom Brake’s Twitter account exhibit the social media equivalent of premature ejaculation, as they blurted the essential detail to anyone who was interested.
And they did so twice.
Brake tweeted that his constituency was to stay largely intact, with the addition of the stoutly Conservative area of Belmont, and then he invited his followers to visit the Boundary Commission’s website to record their views on the proposed change.
The inclusion of Belmont ward in a slightly enlarged seat will make Brake’s task of seeking re-election tougher, but far from the mission impossible which might have been the case had the Commission’s previous recommendations been put forward.
What is extraordinary about the relatively untouched nature of Brake’s fiefdom in southern Sutton is how it has swerved greater sculpting by the Commissioners, when to the east, in Croydon, and to the north and west, in Merton, much greater alterations have been proposed.
Less Braking Up Is Hard To Do, and more The Brake Escape.
The Commissioners have delivered a 75,000-voter seat, all within Sutton, simply by adding a single ward to Brake’s existing constituency of nine wards, each with around 7,600 electors (compare Sutton’s small wards with Croydon’s, where many have more than 10,000 voters).
Brake probably couldn’t believe his luck.That simplicity of a re-jigged seat is not the case in Sutton’s other parliamentary constituency, Sutton and Cheam, recently won from the LibDems by Croydon-based PR exec Paul Scully for the Conservatives.
That now becomes Sutton and Cheam and Merton.
The numbers show that both Sutton seats were relative lightweights compared to neighbouring Croydon. With Boundary Commissioners briefing publicly that they were minded to follow the London Assembly constituencies – which hereabouts twins Sutton with Croydon – the reasonable assumption was that some of Sutton’s under-powered wards would be used as makeweights in new Croydon constituencies.
The Commissioners explain: “In the borough of Sutton, we propose a Sutton and Cheam constituency, which retains eight wards from the existing constituency, and includes the two Merton borough wards of Lower Morden and St Helier from the existing Mitcham and Morden constituency.
“Our proposed Carshalton and Wallington constituency remains the same with the addition of Belmont ward from the existing Sutton and Cheam constituency. We believe that these limited changes are required to formulate a pattern of constituencies that meet the electoral quota.”
The loss of his strong Tory support in Belmont – the only Sutton ward which returned three Conservative councillors at the 2014 local elections – and the inclusion of the council estates of Merton’s St Helier ward will make Scully’s prospects of re-election trickier, though not unlikely. In effect, what was once a LibDem v Tory seat will be turned into a Tory v Labour contest under these proposals.
Meanwhile, Merton’s shedding of those two Mitcham and Morden wards into Sutton appears to be part of a concerted effort by the Commissioners to deconstruct the seat of Siobhain McDonagh, a popular and effective Labour MP whose constituency, under these recommendations, has been fractured into several elements, which even see the Croydon ward of Norbury being lumped in with Streatham and Mitcham in a seat which would include parts of three different south London boroughs.
There now begins a 12-week consultation period, including a series of public hearings, details of which can be found at www.bce2018.org.uk. 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.
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…
- How the Boundary Commission’s review affects Croydon
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