To much (ignorant and misunderstood) cries of “fix!” and “gerrymander!” and “How dare you launch so many constitutional reforms in one go, it makes us look bad!”, the Labour Party are opposing the plan to reduce the number of Members of Parliament to 600, from 650.
As part of the review, parliamentary seats have to be redrawn, one of my favourite activities, although the new legislation puts a lot of strain on me and the many “boundary anoraks” who have been trying out get things sorted in preparation. I point you to a couple of threads at VoteUK (“Equal Voting Size” and “AV Referendum set to be announced“), as well as this thread on USElectionAtlas (“Let the great boundary rejig commence“. These show just how difficult and drawn out the process may turn out to be. I am personally very set against splitting electoral wards between seats, something which may need to happen to make the numbers add up.
My proposals take a look at my home county of Lancashire. The numbers are quite clear; the county cannot lose a seat without being paired with a neighbouring county. I have added up and divided and subtracted as much as possible, for the County to go from 16 to 15 MPs, it must use wards from somewhere beyond Lancashire. To this end, I chose Greater Manchester. It allows for some flexibility, and avoids the problem of creating major knock-on effects elsewhere (as using Cumbria would, for example).
These are my proposed seats for Lancashire, so far. I now will move on to Greater Manchester. Some of these creations have been up and down and switched and changed, but ultimately these seem to be the best I can do with my knowledge of local geography, community links, and democratic validity. Labour supporters who oppose the reduction in MP numbers cry foul over the changes, without any understanding of the manner in which the changes take place. I did not set out with a plan to create constituencies which were anti-Labour, or pro-Tory, or likely-LibDem. It would be fruitless of me to try.
Anyway, here be what I have created so far…Lancashire down from 16 to 15…
1) Blackburn and Rishton. Takes the town of Blackburn and adds half of Hyndburn next door. This seat effectively merges the two existing seats together, although the extreme west of Blackburn, and east of Hyndburn, are moved elsewhere.
2) Blackpool North and Fleetwood. Not quite the pre-2010 seat, but close enough. Takes the eastern suburbs of Blackpool, so in essence the town is divided east/west rather than strictly north/south. This creation maintains the current divide of Thorton from Cleveleys, which wasn’t ideal but no alternative exists which doesn’t isolate Fleetwood from the rest of the county (no jokes about this already being the case, please….)
3) Blackpool South. Almost called “Squire’s Gate and The Golden Mile” for a bit of variety, this is the existing South with a “tail” extending along almost the whole coastal touristy bit.
4) Burnley and Accrington. Almost all the existing Burnley seat with the eastern bits of Hyndburn. I could not keep Burnley as a united authority because Pendle is undersized, but this I think neatly brings two near neighbours together in a credible combination.
5) Chorley and Wrightington. This caused me all sorts of headaches. Chorley is just the right size for a constituency, but no near neighbours are, so I had to add bits of Chorley to South Ribble to make up the numbers there. This seat takes Chorley into the south-west, with Parbold, Appleby Bridge, Lathom and Wrightington all joining in. I notice from Google Earth and Street View that there seems to be good road links between them all, so can’t see anything too unusual here. My first thought was “Chorley and Horwich”, but that would have been far too messy.
6) Darwen, Egerton and Pleasington. I know the name is a bit clumsy, but with the existing “Rossendale and Darwen” not having any actual direct road links between those two towns, something had to be done. I think this is a decent replacement, Darwen is connected to the parts of the authority it left Lancashire for, the northern bits of Bolton look north as much as they do south, and it replaces a constituency which had little democratic validity.
7) Fylde. The entire borough of Fylde coupled with the town of Poulton-le-Fylde. The seat is no longer coupled with Preston at all. This caused me a lot of headaches, as originally I envisaged Fylde being paired with Garstand and points east.
8) Lancaster and Morecambe. Exactly what it says on the tin. The city of Lancaster, and the towns of Morecambe and Heysham.
9) Pendle and Burnley North. With Pendle stuck in the top right corner of East Lancashire, it’s not easy to create a credible seat without splitting something into pieces. I have not been to silly here, I don’t think, moving Danehouse, Queensgate and Lanehead wards into Pendle.
10) Preston. The existing seat of Preston, minus Ingol ward, plus the ‘commute to work’ bits from over the Ribble. This is a slight return to the pre-2010 seat, although I have added Coupe Green and Gregson Lane as well, because it’s awkward positioning made adding to Chorley or Ribble Valley difficult without causing me headaches elsewhere. I did toy with calling this “Preston, Bamber Bridge and Samlesbury” but given the 1997-2010 seat was effectively this without a name change I don’t think one is needed here.
11) Rossendale and Ramsbottom. The whole of Rossendale borough is over 20,000 voters too small, so something had to be added. I tried north, I tried east where everything goes moorland and mountainy, I considered Darwen despite my misgivings. But this seems to be the best of a bad bunch. Takes three chunks out of Bury, going as far south as Tottington, but I don’t think a good MP will have any problem representing a seat of this size and shape.
12) South Ribble. No longer taking in any of the Lancashire Marsh Towns, this South Ribble includes the town of Euxton from Chorley. You only have to talk to people in my office for an hour or so to discover just how Euxton is considered a natual extension to Leyland, so a seat like this makes sense. The advantage of the larger constituency size plan is the reversal of the stupid decision to take Lostock Hall and Tardy Gate into Ribble Valley.
13) Valleys of Ribble and Lune. I know, it’s a great name, ain’t it? The whole of the Ribble Valley borough coupled with the rural bits from Lancaster, looping around to include Carnforth and Silverdale and other bits people assume are Cumbrian. This seat works because it keeps a lot of rural Lancashire together.
14) West Lancashire. The borough of West Lancs is too large, so bits have to be cut away. I think taking the southern bits into Chorley make sense, and anyway I haven’t considered adding Merseyside which would have opened the door to “Southport and Ormskirk” or some such mega creations. I think keeping a borough together as best as possible is preferable.
15) Wyre and Preston North. Originally ditched from the start, I could not fathom out an alternative which made sense. At one point I had “Fylde and Rural Preston”, but this painted me into a Garstang shaped corner. My WaPN is far larger than the current seat and of course does not include Poulton-le-Fylde.