The parliamentary boundary commissioners have finally issued their proposals for new constituencies, and it is not good news for Croydon’s Labour MPs. WALTER CRONXITE reports
Tasked by the Conservative Government under David Cameron (remember him?) to reduce the size of the House of Commons by 50 MPs, to accommodate just 600 members, the Boundary Commission has delivered its much-delayed final proposals. They will make it difficult for Labour to retain both its seats in Croydon’s current three constituencies.
Indeed, it could be said that Croydon is reduced to just two parliamentary seats, as the Labour stronghold of Croydon North has been subjected to something worthy of a cut and shunt job by a dodgy garage, with Norbury and Broad Green dropped into a new constituency with bits of Mitcham and Tooting, while Croydon wards in and around Thornton Heath and Upper Norwood get hooked on to a couple of voting areas from Lambeth.
As part of what many regard as a nationwide gerrymandering exercise on behalf of the Tories, it effectively transforms Croydon Central – won from the Conservatives in 2017 by Labour’s Sarah Jones, pictured left, with a majority of 5,652 – into what looks to be a Conservative marginal seat.
Gavin Barwell, the Tory MP ousted last year by the electorate, doubtless approved the plan when he will have been given early sight of the Commissioners’ report in his current role, as chief of staff to Prime Minister Theresa Mayhem.
The Commission’s work has been done under the pretext of “balancing” the number of voters in each constituency.
The reduction to 600 members comes with a strict minimum of 71,031 electors and no more than 78,507 voters for each constituency.
In London, the number of parliamentary seats will fall in the final proposals from the current 73 to 68. South London loses two parliamentary seats, reduced from 28 to 26 MPs under these proposals.
The Commissioners’ report admits that Croydon Central has an electorate that falls “within the permitted electorate range”. Yet they have still gone ahead and divvied it up in such a way that it loses some Labour-supporting areas, while keeping Tory-voting wards.
Paragraph 380 of the Commissioners’ 214-page report states, “We have investigated the different counter-proposals received in the Borough of Croydon and have decided not to alter the pattern of constituencies in this part of the sub-region. We are not persuaded by the counter-proposal to create constituencies of Croydon Central and Croydon South, particularly as this required the splitting of the Heathfield ward between constituencies.
“We consider that an exceptional and compelling case has not been made to divide this ward. We are also not persuaded by the counter-proposal that attempted to include the Broad Green ward in the Croydon South West constituency. The consequential modifications as part of this counter-proposal are not supported in representations and are likely to break community ties, particularly in the Coulsdon area. Therefore, we propose no changes to the revised proposals in the Borough of Croydon under our final recommendations.”
This reconfigured Croydon South East loses Labour-supporting Woodside ward and the pre-2018 Fairfield ward, and gains two deep blue wards from the old Croydon South seat. According to Electoral Calculus, in 2017, such a seat would have had a Tory majority of 1,830.
The proposed boundary changes won’t mean for certain that Steve Reed OBE may have to undergo some form of selection process before the next General Election.
Reed’s Croydon North sinecure is to be split, with West Croydon, Norbury and West Thornton shunted off eccentrically to sit with wards mainly on the other side of Mitcham Common, from the Mitcham and Morden seat held by Siobhan McDonagh, pictured, into the reconfigured “Mitcham and Norbury”.
Reed is expected to pitch to stand for the new “Norwood and Thornton Heath” seat, which is made up of the eastern part of his current constituency and a couple of wards from his old Lambeth stomping ground. There is enough of his existing constituency within these new boundaries that Reed could be seen as the sitting MP and not, under current Labour rules, forced to face reselection.
According to calculations by the Electoral Calculus website, under the Commissioners’ proposals, the Conservatives will have had a four-seat parliamentary majority in the 2017 election, instead of ending embarrassingly eight seats short, and in hock to the DUP.
These boundary changes are not yet a done deal, however.
It is not easy to get boundary changes through a Commons chamber when the Government has no majority and MPs’ jobs are at risk.
The revised proposals for Ulster are looked on kindly by the DUP, so the real challenge for May and Barwell will be those Tory MPs who face losing out in their own altered or indeed abolished seats.
The Commission passed their proposals to the Government last Wednesday, prompting Reed to describe it as “hugely antidemocratic behaviour”, saying that the Tories were “presumably trying to coerce or bribe their MPs into backing it before publishing.”
It is unlikely that any bribes would be required to persuade Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp, pictured right, to support the proposals. His constituency will become the new Croydon South West seat, which would not be on Labour’s target list, with all that hard work to do in South East and Philp defending an adjusted 6,886 majority.
At Westminster, John Healy, Labour’s shadow housing spokesman, said this afternoon, “Tories are using the Boundary Commission for a political fix before the next Election: this breaks communities into new constituencies and weakens Commons’ controls on Government.”
Among the London constituencies facing the axe is Islington North, where the MP since 1983 has been Jeremy Corbyn.
It is understood that Tory MPs affected by boundary changes were being invited to have one-to-one meetings with the Government chief whip to discuss their options in the event that the proposals get the approval of parliament.
“They’re be looking to buy off the ones who lose out some way or another, I’m sure,” was the view of one source. After all, what’s a few extra peers in the Lords when there’s 50 fewer elected MPs?
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