The latest report from the Boundary Commission for England carves up the borough into three new parliamentary seats in a most illogical manner, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
The Labour Party in Croydon will be hoping fervently that Theresa May’s dependency on the DUP for her majority at Westminster will see the Boundary Commission’s latest recommendations for redrawn parliamentary constituencies shelved, indefinitely.
The revised proposals from the Boundary Commission for England, published overnight, would if implemented immediately wipe out Labour’s new-won majority in Croydon Central, and they would also consign parts of the current borough to being represented by an MP whose constituency is predominantly outside Croydon.
The proposals as published today were, in any case, outdated before the virtual ink had dried on the Commissioners’ online maps. The borough wards on which the Commission has based its parliamentary constituencies are the pre-2018 boundaries.
The disconnect between the outdated wards and the cross-borough parliamentary constituencies is symbolised by the map on the BCE’s website, which shows the word “Croydon” with boundary lines crossing over it, divvied up almost on a whim.
The Boundary Commission was originally charged by David Cameron (remember him?) with redrawing the constituency map across the country to provide 50 fewer seats in parliament, but with MPs representing more equal number of constituents. The immediate reaction to this latest, second draft of proposals is that they are unlikely ever to get through parliament since they reduce the likely number of seats held by the Democratic Unionist Party in Ulster, who are propping up the Tories’ government, as well as upsetting many Conservative MPs who, for now, are in safe seats.
In the BCE’s first draft, which went out to public consultation, Croydon still had three MPs, but the constituencies straddled established local authority boundaries.
Under this latest proposal, Steve Reed OBE would finally get his long-held desire and find himself representing Lambeth (or at least a bit of it) in the House of Commons. The rock-solid Labour seat of Croydon North would disappear to be replaced by a constituency called Norwood and Thornton Heath, made up with bits from Gipsy Hill and from the (Labour-held) Dulwich and West Norwood seat.
But the London Road area gets separated from the rest of Croydon, as Broad Green, West Thornton and Norbury wards get plopped into a new seat called Mitcham and Norbury.
The predominantly Labour-voting Woodside ward, currently in Croydon Central’s constituency, would be moved into the Norwood and Thornton Heath seat. It would be a considerable disadvantage of Labour prospects in what was previously Croydon Central.
In the Commissioner’s initial proposals, Labour-leaning Broad Green, Addiscombe and Ashburton went into a Croydon South-West seat that ran only as far as south as Purley, all to Labour’s advantage.
Using Electoral Calculus’ assumptions, based on votes by ward in the recent General Election, the reconfigured Croydon South-West seat would see Chris Philp’s majority come down to 6,916 from 11,406.
The Croydon South-West seat would be made up of Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West, Croham, Croydon Central’s Fairfield ward, plus Kenley, Purley and Waddon wards.
Croydon Central was one of the great success stories for the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party at June’s General Election, seeing Sarah Jones returned as MP.
But if the boundary changes were implemented, Jones would see herself 1,830 votes behind the Tories, based on Electoral Calculus’ reading of the 2017 results.
The re-titled Croydon South-East seat would be made up of six of Jones’s current wards (Addiscombe, Ashburton, Fieldway and New Addington wards, Heathfield and Shirley), but with the added true blue Selsdon and Ballards ward, plus Sanderstead. The loss of those vital votes in Woodside, moved north into an already safe Labour seat, would be costly to Labour’s prospects in any future Croydon South-East.
The small mercy, at least, is that no eastern Croydon wards get farmed out to a Bromley seat, as had been previously proposed. Shirley’s middle-class and largely Tory voters were able to persuade the Commissioners not to create an “orphan” ward, sent into Beckenham.
The knock-on effect of responding to these concerns – each constituency has to have a similar number of constituents, remember – has been to expel Norbury and now two more wards out of the western side of the borough.
The revised configuration from the Commission’s initial proposals has come about because of a very great deal of unhappiness on the part of Siobhain McDonagh, Labour’s MP for Mitcham and Morden.
The public now has until December 11 to comment on the latest proposals. They might take a view, for instance, that it is a nonsense to place Croydon’s town centre and the Whitgift Estate being in the same seat as north-western Whyteleafe.
With such a short consultation, period it is not clear that people in the less-privileged wards running up the London Road will have the resources to resist being lumped into a seat with residents across the other side of Mitcham Common in places like Cricket Green and Figge’s Marsh down near Tooting station.
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