Our Sutton reporter, BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK, on the potential consequences of the parliamentary boundary changes for the borough’s veteran MP
It is not only Labour seats in London that the Tories are after through their gerrymandering exercise masquerading under a constituency boundary review, published yesterday.
Under the proposals for Sutton, incinerator enthusiast Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats’ longest continuously serving MP, could lose the Carshalton and Wallington seat he has held since 1997.
And there’s worse news for the Sutton LibDems generally, too.
According to Electoral Calculus, and based on voting at last year’s General Election, in the borough’s other constituency, Sutton and Cheam, under the revised boundaries as proposed, the LibDems would be relegated to third place, as the reconfigured seat would become safely Conservative. The LibDems held Sutton and Cheam for 18 years until 2015,
It seems highly likely, therefore, that the LibDems’ 12 remaining MPs will join the mounting opposition the boundary changes as proposed.
The word at Westminster is that there is even growing opposition within the Conservative back benches, with four groups of MPs, each with enough votes to block Theresa Mayhem’s minority government pushing through the proposals.
Among those Tory MPs who could have their seats axed or their majorities slashed under the proposals are Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.
The politicshome website was quoting “a Con-servative source” last night as saying, “The last thing that any govern-ment would want is a vote on this amid all the Brexit shenanigans.”
The proposals are supposedly aimed at reducing the number of members in the House of Commons from 650 to 600.
The reduction comes with a strict minimum of 71,031 electors in each seat 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.
In Carshalton and Wallington last year, under the current boundaries, in a closely contested General Election battle, arch-Remainer Brake saw off the Tory challenge of an Old Etonian heir presumptive to an ancient baronetcy, Matthew Maxwell-Scott (hyphen optional), by just 1,369 votes.
That paper-thin majority (Brake had defended the seat in 2015 with just a hundred or so votes greater majority) is erased by the Boundary Commissioners by the simple addition of Tory-voting ward Belmont.
Belmont has been the only ward in Sutton to remain steadfastly blue throughout the LibDems’ 30-year rule of the local council.
According to Electoral Calculus, if last year’s election had been fought using these proposed boundaries, the Tories could have unseated Brake by a 739-vote margin, 22,779 to 22,040.
Although as one Sutton political anorak put it, “The Tories might have unseated Brake already if they hadn’t selected The Hon Fauntleroy Biscuit-Barrel Bt as their candidate.”
The boundary change proposals will undoubtedly add extra spice to the council by-election to be held in Belmont next month, where allegations are already being traded about how the LibDems have fixed the election date to their advantage.
In Sutton’s other parliamentary seat, Tory Paul Scully, pictured above right, ended the LibDems’ grip on Sutton and Cheam in 2015 – notably after five years when the sitting MP, Paul Burstow, had been serving in a Conservative-led austerity government.
With the new boundaries proposed for Sutton and Cheam, taking in two wards from Merton – Lower Morden and St Helier – Croydon-based businessman Scully appears to have a safe seat for some time to come.
On these new boundaries, Sutton and Cheam would have given this result based on 2017 voting:
Con – 30,196 – 50%
Lab – 15,692 – 26%
LibDem – 13,018 – 22%
Green – 935 – 2%
UKIP – 307 – 0%
Of course, the reality under First Past The Post voting is that in most seats, the support for parties in third place and below often evaporates, with some of their supporters opting to vote tactically.
Which may offer a glimmer of hope for Labour in Sutton, who remain without a single representative on the local council.
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