Can we have a reality check on the boundaries story?

Can we have a reality check on the boundaries story?

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    It’s rubbish to say the changes hand the advantage over to the Tories

This story by Colin Brown in the Independent is typical of some of the coverage that we’ve seen over the weekend on the impact of the boundary changes on the next General Election. Labour goes into the next election still with a massive advantage – it is just that it isn’t quite as big as was before.

What’s happened is that there’s now the “official” version of what the coming boundary changes would mean if applied to the 2005 result. We have not seen the detail yet but the numbers are very closely in line with the work that has been done by Anthony Wells for UK Polling Report and Martin Baxter for Electoral Calculus.

Just look at what happens if the GB vote divides like this at the next election.- CON 39%: LAB 33%: LD 22%: OTH 6%. This is roughly where we are with the latest polls but with the “others” total being compressed because of the likely polarisation that a close election would bring.

Even with the new boundaries the Anthony Wells’s excellent “Swing Calculator” puts the seat numbers at LAB 284: CON 283: LD 54: OTH 29.

    Such a result would, of course, be an abomination in terms of electoral fairness. Labour with less than one third of the vote, and having barely five-sixths of the votes of the Tories, would still have most seats.

One factor that still has not be sorted out properly which is the differing size of seats in England, Scotland and Wales.

England – average number of electors per seat – 69,735
Scotland – average number of electors per seat – 65,300
Wales – average number of electors per seat – 55,762

This over-represents Scotland and Wales which are predominantly Labour supporting. To be equal, Scotland should have 55 seats instead of 59 and Wales should have 32 seats instead of the 40.

    The continued inequity in seat sizes is a scandal that Labour should have sorted out properly and one where they are electorally vulnerable.

Maybe the Downing Street spinning we are seeing is designed to disguise the real facts on the electoral system. I think we should be able to look to serious journalists to scrutinise and challenge what they are being spun by the Labour machine. That is not happening here.

Mike Smithson

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