Monday, 31 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: Northumberland, Durham & Cleveland (the North East)

The North East England region is the smallest in terms of electorate and also by population size; it is also a very contrasting region with the densely populated, urbanised and well-connected Tyne & Wear Region in the middle and with the rural and remote county of Northumberland at its northern tip; Northumberland is the least densely populated county in the whole of England, with only 62 people per square kilometre living there according to the 2011 census.

This region also has proportionally the most constituencies to lose in England, with its seat entitlement decreasing from 29 to 25 (a loss of 14% of its current seats). It also has few small wards since there are no longer any small districts, making drawing new rural constituencies difficult. Even though the wards of the metropolitan constituencies are reasonably small, it is easy to get it wrong if you do not read the map correctly and work out (in Newcastle's case) where to put the practically unavoidable 'Tyne Bridge' seat. Also, no part of rural Northumberland should be in any Tyne & Wear constituency.

It is time in this region to hark back to older boundaries, before the Cleveland area was moved out of North Yorkshire and when the old county borders were respected, in order to create sensible constituencies. There is no need for a 'Stockton East & Middlesbrough West' seat, or any need to split Middlesbrough three ways.

Tyne & Wear is not easy to get right either, so a minimum change approach is useful even though only 3 constituencies can stay intact. The only issue is having a revived Tyne Bridge constituency, but this can be resolved by making sure it includes as little of Newcastle-upon-Tyne as is necessary and making sure it does not split communities.

The Boundary Commission's Northumberland plan is well thought out, but it needs some tweaking to get it right. I do not particularly favour ward-splitting any more than the BCE does, but unfortunately it is necessary to split one large rural ward to make sure each Northumberland constituency is entirely in Northumberland-this should be the large and sparse Rothbury division (only a small part of which contains the eponymous village).

My alternative constituencies for North East England are:

Wansbeck is abolished.
Houghton & Sunderland South is abolished.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central is abolished.
Stockton North is abolished.
Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland is abolished.
Middlesbrough West succeeds Middlesbrough in practice and is similar to the pre-1974 Middlesbrough West seat.
Stockton (-on-Tees) succeeds Stockton South and reunites the eponymous town.
Billingham & Sedgefield succeeds Sedgefield.
Consett succeeds North West Durham.
Chester-Le-Street & Houghton succeeds North Durham.
Easington & Sunderland South succeeds Easington.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne West succeeds Newcastle-upon-Tyne North; the name change reflects the reality of its compass point in relation to Newcastle.
Gateshead & Tyne Bridge succeeds Gateshead and is similar to the 1983-2010 constituency of Tyne Bridge, but with all of the town of Gateshead this time.
Berwick & Ashington succeeds Berwick-upon-Tweed. Of Rothbury ward it has all polling districts except for B91ELS, B96HOL, B102WT and B95HES, making its actual electorate 78,400.
Hexham & Morpeth succeeds Hexham and contains polling districts B91ELS, B96HOL, B102WT and B95HES of Rothbury ward, making its actual electorate 77,354.
Wallsend has the same boundaries as the current North Tyneside constituency; it reverts to its former name to reflect realities.
Tynemouth and Sunderland Central are both unchanged from their 2010 boundaries.
Middlesbrough East is a new seat and essentially restores the pre-1974 constituency of the same name.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

My analysis of the Icelandic elections of 2016

Recently, Iceland's parliament, the Althing, held its latest parliamentary election, which was called early after a scandal involving offshore tax funds prompted calls for new elections. The world's media then focused on the leader of the Pirate Party, Birgitta Jonsdottir, since she was tipped to be the next Prime Minister of Iceland and because she was leading the most successful Pirate Party in the world. (By comparison, Britain's Pirate Party is barely existing, and Germany's has fallen from grace)

Despite all these expectations, the Pirate Party actually finished third in the poll, behind the Left-Green movement (Iceland's Green Party) albeit with the same number of seats (10) as Left-Green and with them nearly trebling their 2013 performance (14.5% vs. 5.1%). This is because a lot of the Pirates' base is among young voters, who as in other countries are less inclined to vote than older people; the problem of young abstainers is by no means confined to the UK. Nor is the problem of long-term turnout decreases; turnout for Icelandic elections is among the highest in democratic countries but it dropped this year from 81.4% to 79.2%, in spite of the increasing influence of both the Left-Green and Pirate Parties. It was the Progressive Party (an equivalent of Finland's Centre Party in practice) who deservedly suffered the worst drubbing, ending up with just 8 seats, losing more than half of their 2013 vote, and finishing a poor fourth overall. Pro-European splinter group Vidresin (the name means 'Regeneration' in Icelandic) was partly responsible for this, winning 7 seats, although its parent party, the conservative and Eurosceptic Independence Party, won 21 seats, an increase of 2 from 2013 despite having been a partner in the previous coalition government. Its leader, Bjami Benediktsson, is now set to become Iceland's next Prime Minister, having already served as Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs for Iceland, given that the centre-right parties now have an aggregate majority in the Althing. Social democracy as an ideology continued its global slide into political irrelevance with Iceland's Social Democrats being knocked down to 3 seats and 7th place in the poll. In fact, they only survived by achieving enough votes for top-up seats (5.74% of the vote). Another disappointment was the failure of the People's Party, campaigning on improving conditions for the poor and disabled to win any seats.

It is rather a pity that Iceland will not be electing its first female Prime Minister this time around, since neither Katrin Jakobsdottir nor Birgitta Jonsdottir will be able to secure the progressive majority needed; Vidreisn will likely align with the two previous coalition parties within formation of the next government of Iceland.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Things we can do instead of building new runways

Earlier this week, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith (also their failed Mayor of London candidate) resigned his seat over the approval of an unnecessary and deeply harmful third runway at London's famous Heathrow Airport, to recontest it as an independent.

Which brings us to fundamentally why we do not need a new runway at Heathrow, or indeed anywhere else in the United Kingdom:

1. Fossil fuel aircraft cause enormous environmental damage, and this hurts people as well. In Greater London alone air pollution kills nearly 10,000 people per year. Aircraft are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. We instead need to focus on improving international transport infrastructure in Europe and facilitate greater use of online communication (e.g. Skype) so that people will not have to fly around the world for work.

2. Technology is now innovating faster than we can build hubs that are based on current technology. New runways take several years to build at least, especially for such busy international airports as Heathrow. By the time this new runway would be built, it would be essentially a waste of space and of up to £20,000,000,000 worth of taxpayers' money. Fewer people in the UK are taking flights in reality; it is just that richer people are taking a larger share of UK flights (the richest 15% of people are accountable for 70% of flights, and it gets more disproportionate the further you go up the wealth ladder, with many of these flights being simply to notorious tax havens).

3. Even with just two runways, the excessive noise from Heathrow Airport is a problem for people living in the Richmond Park constituency; a third runway with consequently more aeroplanes could make that noise issue intolerable. That noise issue applies everywhere airports are built.

4. Thousands of peoples' homes, as well as some listed buildings, will have to be demolished just to make way for this unnecessary runway, at a time when Britain is already in a housing crisis. As stated by the Green Party's 2015 general election candidate for Esher & Walton, Olivia Palmer, this will put added pressure on nearby villages not in a position to absorb thousands of displaced people at once. The same will undoubtedly happen if other new runways are built.

And if people still want to fly, innovations in new airship technology could see a revival of fossil fuel-free air transport, even if it is not that fast. I believe these innovations should continue to thrive so that our atmosphere and our air can one day be free of the damage caused by kerosene-powered aeroplanes.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: South London

This is another area where the Boundary Commission's initial proposals have caused a real mess, just to protect constituencies in Wandsworth (only Tooting is in quota anyway) at the expense of other natural communities in the area, particularly Wimbledon.

With some tinkering and ward-splitting, it is possible to get much better constituencies in this area, avoid splitting Wimbledon or Mitcham & Morden, and yet still retain coherent Wandsworth constituencies.

Lambeth, which consists of five broad areas (Vauxhall, Clapham, Streatham, Brixton, and Norwood) needs to be dealt with carefully in terms of preserving community identities. Transport links must also be considered as well as historical connections, particularly those between Streatham and Clapham (Streatham has included most of Clapham since 1974); I firmly believe it is time the community of Clapham was reunited, its northern half being separated from Vauxhall. This allows a return of the old Brixton constituency, latterly called Lambeth Central until it was split up in 1983.

As for Croydon, splitting two of its wards can minimise change as much as possible, because the awkward average ward sizes otherwise make drawing sensible constituencies in Croydon impossible without breaking up Carshalton & Wallington, which is also not desirable either. As long as ward splitting is performed carefully, there is no reason why it should be completely ruled out in order to preserve geographical and cultural ties within an area. Sutton's constituencies should expand eastwards, not westwards, to minimise disruption.

My alternative constituencies for South London are:

Vauxhall is abolished, although the main Vauxhall area itself remains intact.
Streatham & Clapham succeeds Streatham and contains the entirety of both communities.
Battersea & Vauxhall succeeds Battersea.
Balham & Tooting succeeds Tooting and is similar to the 1918-1950 Balham & Tooting constituency. It contains polling district FDC of Furzedown ward, making its actual electorate 72,784 and the changed Mitcham & Morden's actual electorate 73,879.
Croydon East succeeds Croydon Central and apart from losing polling districts HE4 and HE5 of Heathfields ward to a changed Croydon South, has the same boundaries as the current Croydon Central. Its actual electorate is 71,114. The real electorate of Croydon South in this plan is therefore 72,022. Croydon North loses polling districts BG1, BG6 and BG7 of Broad Green ward (this is the only change to this constituency) to a changed Carshalton & Wallington, making its new electorate 76,524 and Carshalton & Wallington's new electorate 75,686.
Brixton is a new seat, although a very similar seat has existed before.

The next section of my alternative boundaries series focuses on North East England.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

My alternative proposals: South East London

Due to the quota requirements set out in the 2018 review, South East London (Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley, and Bromley) will see quite substantial change.

The BCE's initial proposals constitute yet another 'botch' and do not properly take into account the real links between these areas, the routes of the London Overground line and Southeastern railway line in particular, or the fact that 51 years on from the creation of the current London boroughs, the old districts they replaced still have a sense of identity and this is respected when local ward boundaries are drawn (usually).

Contrary to what is first believed, Lewisham Deptford can be saved if the 'Lewisham' parts are moved to other constituencies, leaving the four 'Deptford' wards behind, and there is no need to combine Peckham with Lewisham. The Crystal Palace community within Bromley should not be split either, as the BCE proposes, but should be kept whole when combined with the rest of Beckenham (which has parts of Bromley in it, but this is easily fixed). As for the rest of Lewisham, recreating the old Lewisham West constituency is not a problem as long as it extends to absorb the Lewisham wards formerly in Deptford, but no part of the actual community of Deptford.

Southwark and Bexley are trickier due to ward size issue, especially in the Bermondsey part of Southwark where substantial developments have taken place. Instead of being combined with Lewisham, Peckham should be combined with Dulwich, just as part of it was before 1997. This does however result in the splitting of Bermondsey & Old Southwark, with Southwark joining Camberwell and Bermondsey being paired with Deptford, just as the aborted 2013 review recommended. With many under-sized constituencies in the eastern part of South East London, one or two prominent splits are inevitable.

My alternative proposals for South East London constituencies in the 2018 review are:

Erith & Thamesmead is abolished.
Dulwich & West Norwood is abolished.
Dulwich & Peckham succeeds Camberwell & Peckham.
Camberwell & Southwark succeeds Bermondsey & Old Southwark in practice.
Bermondsey & Deptford succeeds Lewisham Deptford in practice.
Lewisham West succeeds Lewisham West & Penge (Penge itself is moved back to Beckenham).
Lewisham East & Greenwich succeeds Lewisham East.
Woolwich succeeds Greenwich & Woolwich.
Erith & Crayford succeeds Bexleyheath & Crayford.
Bexleyheath & Sidcup succeeds Old Bexley & Sidcup.

The final part in the London section of my series of alternative proposals takes us to South London (Lambeth, Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton, and Croydon).

Monday, 24 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: West London

The considerable number of slightly undersized and slightly oversized constituencies in this area, comprising the boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Richmond-upon-Thames, means some change will be needed (except in Kingston and Richmond), but as long as the idea of reviving Ealing Acton & Shepherd's Bush is mooted, creating sensible constituencies will be relatively easy.

It is important to note that Southall & Heston should actually include all of the main Southall area, which the initial proposal does not, but disconnecting Hammersmith from North West London helps solve this problem. I am pleased that the initial proposals reunite the community of Hounslow within the wider borough of Hounslow, even at the expense of placing an Ealing ward in Brentford & Isleworth's successor, Brentford & Chiswick (which still has Isleworth in it). Reuniting Yiewsley with West Drayton regarding Hayes & Harlington, is also a sensible move, although Uxbridge & South Ruislip should simply take in the remainder of Ruislip, leaving the current Ealing North untouched. 

Harrow is more problematic, because particularly in terms of London Underground lines, different parts of Harrow connect better with different parts of Brent, meaning that in reality, Harrow must continue to be split east/west (not north/south).

Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond-upon-Thames is relatively straightforward, since all three constituencies can remain completely intact. They are quite well connected to Hounslow, so I have included them in this area.

My alternative constituencies for West London are therefore:

Feltham & Hounslow succeeds Feltham & Heston.
Brentford & Chiswick succeeds Brentford & Isleworth.
Southall & Heston succeeds Ealing Southall.
Uxbridge & Ruislip succeeds Uxbridge & South Ruislip.
Northwood & Harrow West succeeds Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner.
Harrow Central succeeds Harrow West.
Harrow East & Kenton succeeds Harrow East.
Wembley succeeds Brent North.
Willesden succeeds Brent Central, taking in the Kilburn part of Hampstead & Kilburn.
Richmond Park, Twickenham, Kingston & Surbiton and Ealing North are all unchanged from their 2010 boundaries.

Next in this series: South East London.

Friday, 21 October 2016

A tale of two by-elections

In case you have not heard, the result for the Witney by-election was as follows:

Emilia Arno, One Love Party, 44 (0.1%)

Kendrick 'Dickie' Bird, UKIP, 1,354 (3.5%, -5.7%)

David Bishop, Bus-Pass Elvis Party, 61 (0.2%)

Robert Courts, Conservative, 17,313 (45.0%, -15.2%)

Duncan Enright, Labour, 5,765 (15.0%, -2.2%)

Mad Hatter, Monster Raving Loony Party, 129 (0.3%)

Lord Toby Jug, Eccentric Party of Great Britain, 59 (0.2%)

Adam Knight, Independent, 27 (0.1%)*

Elizabeth 'Liz' Leffman, Liberal Democrats, 11,611 (30.2%, +23.4%)

Winston McKenzie, English Democrats, 52 (0.1%)

Helen Salisbury, National Health Action Party, 433 (1.1%, +0.0%)

Larry Sanders, Green Party, 1,363 (3.5%, -1.6%)

Daniel Skidmore, Independent, 151 (0.4%)

Nicholas Ward, Independent, 93 (0.3%)

As expected, Robert Courts retained the seat for the Conservatives, in spite of a strong campaign from the Liberal Democrats and also a good campaign from my Green colleagues. Interestingly, the Conservatives' vote share here (45%) is exactly what they achieved when David Cameron first won this seat in 2001, at a time when they were struggling to recover from the devastating drubbing of the 1997 Labour landslide. Turnout was a surprisingly poor 46.8%, in spite of being given far better coverage than the Batley & Spen by-election and the tense battle for online and offline coverage.

Despite starting from a poor fourth place, the Liberal Democrats reclaimed second position and managed a swing as high as 19.3% from the Conservatives-their best since their victory at the Eastleigh by-election of 1994-but it was not even within spitting distance of winning such a safely Conservative and prosperous constituency as this. Labour, despite having no illusions about any chances of winning, actually did reasonably well despite falling to third place; they feared a Liberal Democrats squeezing as much as any other candidate but their vote share only dropped to 15%, which was better than they achieved in Witney in the 2010 general election which first put David Cameron, into No. 10.

We saved our deposit in Witney last year, but sadly could not repeat this feat, again because of the Lib Dem squeeze but coming ahead of UKIP again was consolation. Even in their heyday last year, UKIP only managed 9.2% in Witney, so their poor performance is not surprising at all. The National Health Action Party's performance was rather disappointing, given that anxiety over the future of our NHS is growing over Jeremy Hunt's stubborn ineptitude especially over strikes by junior doctors. The Brexit issue proved not to be a significant factor in this by-election despite online media hype.

Of the candidates who did not stand there in 2015, only Daniel Skidmore was able to finish ahead of the Monster Raving Loony Party, and then again only narrowly. Former Conservative PPC Nicholas Ward's anti-HS2 platform made no difference, especially when the Green Party is already opposed to HS2( Perennial candidate Winston McKenzie achieved his worst ever performance in a parliamentary election/by-election on the English Democrats' behalf, finishing even behind ex-OMRLP frontman Lord Toby Jug.
The wooden spoon award for the Witney by-election, however, is awarded to Emilia Arno of the anti-air pollution One Love Party, achieving just 44 votes. (Adam Knight actually polled an even lower total of 27, but because he stopped campaigning halfway and endorsed Liz Leffman, he is considered to have unofficially withdrawn. Any candidate who is later found to be ineligible for election or who withdraws is disqualified from receiving a wooden spoon award)

Meanwhile in Batley & Spen....

Corby Anti, By-Election Protest, 241 (1.2%)
Tracy Brabin, Labour, 17,506 (85.8%, +42.6%)
Jack Buckby, Liberty GB, 220 (1.1%)
Richard Edmonds, National Front, 87 (0.4%)
David Furness, BNP, 548 (2.7%)
Therese Hirst, English Democrats, 969 (4.8%)
Waqas Ali Khan, Independent, 118 (0.6%)
Garry Kitchin, Independent, 517 (2.5%)
Ankit Love, One Love Party, 34 (0.2%)
Henry Mayhew, Independent, 153 (0.8%).

This was of course the by-election caused by the murder of Jo Cox, and consequently Labour was the only major party to contest this by-election, as they were defending the seat. Their margin of victory was even bigger than Haltemprice & Howden's (when David Davis stood for re-election on civil liberties issues) at 81%, achieved on a very low turnout of 25.8%. For the first time in England in any parliamentary election or by-election since 1979 (in Liverpool Scotland Exchange, which was later merged with Liverpool Toxteth to form the present-day Liverpool Riverside), all opposing candidates lost their deposits with the English Democrats' Therese Hirst coming closest to the 5% mark. Surprisingly, none of the racist right candidates finished last, the wooden spoon award instead going to Ankit Love, who continues his run of terrible performances. Former Coronation Street actress Tracy Brabin may have convincingly held Batley & Spen for Labour, but this seat is likely to be broken apart in the next round of boundary changes and therefore her time in Parliament could easily be cut short.

There were also as many as 12 local by-elections that day; here are the results of those with Green Party candidates:

Braintree DC, Bumpstead: Conservative 350 (64.1%, +2.8%), UKIP 80 (15.5%, -4.1%), Labour 45 (8.3%, -10.3%), Liberal Democrats 40 (7.4%), Green 25 (4.2%).

Braintree DC, Witham North: Lab 339 (37.5%, +6.1%), Con 308 (34.0%, -4.8%), Green 227 (25.1%, +4.7%), Lib Dem 31 (3.4%, -5.9%)

Kettering BC, Rothwell: Con 700 (48.3%, +10.6%), Lab 498 (34.4%, -6.7%), UKIP 108 (7.5%, -8.5%), Green 75 (5.2%, +0.1%)

Medway UA, Strood South: Con 724 (38.4%, +3.4%), Lab 521 (27.7%, +3.5%), UKIP 480 (25.5%, -13.1%), Green 74 (3.9%), Lib Dem 62 (3.3%), English Democrats 23 (1.2%).

St Albans BC, Clarence: Lib Dem 916 (57.0%, +6.1%), Con 388 (24.1%, +3.0%), Lab 193 (12.0%, -5.2%), Green 98 (6.1%, -3.7%), UKIP 16 (0.8%)

Weymouth & Portland BC, Wey Valley: Con 475 (62.2%, +0.4%), Lib Dem 118 (15.5%), Lab 96 (12.6%, -9.8%), Green 74 (9.7%, -6.1%)

If anything, UKIP's woes were even worse when it came to local by-elections that day, by slipping to third in a seat they were defending and polling less than 1% in Clarence. Not only is it in flux due to needing to elect a new leader, but its main raison d'etre has ceased to exist since Britain is firmly on track for exiting the EU despite not having formally done so yet. By comparison, we have been holding up better although it was Labour, not us, who won the by-election in Witham North despite dissatisfaction with the Conservatives in Braintree. Labour's loss in Rothwell happened because their deceased councillor, Alan Mills, was well-respected in the town and thus was able to be elected in an otherwise reliably Conservative satellite town of Kettering.

The two by-election declarations happened on the same morning that marks the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan coal disaster, where 116 children and 28 adults died when a coal tip collapsed due to negligence by the National Coal Board. A memorial garden stands on the school those people stood in at the time of the disaster. I hope those of you reading my blog who stayed up to watch live coverage of each by-election took the time to hear the stories of their surviving relatives.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

My questions about the Witney by-election (and some on the Batley & Spen by-election)

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls for the Witney by-election over in Oxfordshire, caused of course by the resignation of ex-Prime Minister David Cameron.

Despite the fact that Witney is an extremely safe Conservative seat (as was its predecessor, Mid Oxfordshire; before 1974 Witney was in the Banbury constituency), my Green colleagues, as well as the Liberal Democrats have been campaigning hard (meanwhile, Labour and UKIP have been much less visible, and other candidates are only getting online coverage at present), so this will certainly be one to watch, particularly with some poor performances in hustings by Conservative candidate Robert Courts. As for the by-election in Batley & Spen, where out of the five main parties only Labour are standing, little is happening apart from the hardline nationalist English Democrats crowding out the Twitter coverage for that by-election as much as they can and resorting to anything to attack Labour.

Nevertheless, here are my five questions about each by-election:


-Could the Conservatives actually lose this by-election, even though the seat appears so safe?
-My Green colleagues saved their deposit in Witney in last year's general election. Can they do it again if they do not win? (NB: This is the first by-election to occur in the UK in a seat where the Green Party saved their deposit.)
-Will substantial campaigning keep the turnout buoyant?
-West Oxfordshire, which the Witney constituency is entirely coterminous with, narrowly voted to remain in June's EU membership referendum. How much difference will the issue of Brexit actually make to the result?
-Which of the 14 candidates will get the wooden spoon award? (NB: Adam Knight is disqualified because by publicly endorsing Liz Leffman, the Liberal Democrats' candidate, during the campaign, he is effectively considered to have withdrawn even though he cannot actually remove his name from the ballot paper under UK electoral law.)

Batley & Spen:

-Labour is virtually guaranteed to win with no other major parties standing, but how large will their margin of victory be?
-Who will finish second?
-How many non-Labour candidates will manage to save their £500 deposit?
-How much will the turnout decrease by given how poor most of the non-Labour candidates are?
-Which of the 10 candidates will get the wooden spoon award?

Monday, 17 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: North London and Central London

The fact that a cross-Lea constituency between Enfield and Waltham Forest is not viable, as I mentioned earlier, also creates issues with North London, as does the lack of proper connections between Barnet and Harrow. Therefore, just as the Boundary Commission has proposed, Barnet needs to be linked with Enfield via the North Circular Road and with Camden via the Northern line on the London Underground. Naturally, Haringey needs to be included in the North London pair as well.

Generally, the BCE is thinking along the correct lines for this area, although there is no need to put Camden wards into a Holborn & St Pancras seat, and their initial proposal for that seat does not actually contain Holborn. As for Central London, although an argument could be made for having the entire Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea into one seat, the connections between it and Hammersmith & Fulham/Westminster tell a different story. I also believe that Hornsey & Wood Green should remain intact (one of a handful of Greater London constituencies that can be left intact), and that it is Tottenham which should expand upwards into the outer reaches of Edmonton. Also, a Finchley & Southgate seat should actually contain all of Finchley even if for quota reasons it cannot contain all of Southgate. Mill Hill should stay connected with Hendon, not with Barnet/East Barnet.

My alternative 2018 Review constituencies for North and Central London look like this:

Enfield Southgate is abolished.
Chelsea & Fulham is abolished.
Hammersmith & Fulham succeeds Hammersmith.
Kensington & White City succeeds Kensington.
City of London, Westminster & Chelsea succeeds Cities of London & Westminster
Paddington & Marylebone succeeds Westminster North.
Hampstead & Golders Green succeeds Hampstead & Kilburn.
Finchley & Southgate succeeds Finchley & Golders Green.
Enfield East succeeds Edmonton.
Enfield West succeeds Enfield North.
Hornsey & Wood Green is unchanged from its 2010 boundaries.

I will be taking a short break from this series with the Witney by-election coming up this week. But after this short break will come my alternative constituencies for North West London (Ealing, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Harrow and Brent).

Sunday, 16 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: East London

In my opinion, East London (Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Newham) has been badly botched by the Boundary Commission's initial proposals, who have failed for a start to look at the proper transport connections within this area (where public transport is very important) or the community ties between different parts of these four boroughs.

If it were not for the fact that a cross-Lea constituency between Edmonton and Chingford was neither practicable nor wanted by residents of either area (for the aborted review last time, the BCE proposed Edmonton & Chingford but withdrew it from their to-be-finalised 2013 plans over strong objections from residents, as well as a lack of usable links between those areas), I would be able to leave the Hackney and Tower Hamlets constituencies alone, and link the 'North Woolwich' area of Newham with Barking. In the absence of a viable cross-Lea constituency, there will have to be changes to every constituency in this area, although these should be on a lesser scale than what the Boundary Commission has proposed.

Hackney North & Stoke Newington should not be abolished, since the two communities are intertwined even though the constituency was created in 1950, 15 years before Stoke Newington (and Shoreditch) were merged with Hackney within Inner London (the old County of London). Nor is there any need to break off wards from Islington North, particularly not into northern Camden; the transport links within Islington generally go southwest or southeast, not directly east or west. Therefore, it should be the current Islington South & Finsbury that expands eastwards, not Islington North. Care should also be taken not to split natural communities within this area (i.e. do not put Plaistow North and Plaistow South into separate constituencies, and reunite Green Street East with Green Street West)

In any case, it is inevitable that one constituency will be abolished and one 'new' constituency will be created. Tower Hamlets is easier to divide up in terms of creating new constituencies as its predecessor boroughs were smaller and because it has more varying ward sizes due to having single-member, two-member, and three-member wards, which is rare in Greater London.

My alternative proposals for constituencies in East London are therefore:

Bethnal Green & Bow is abolished.
Stepney & Isle of Dogs succeeds Poplar & Limehouse.
Hackney South & Bethnal Green succeeds Hackney South & Shoreditch.
Islington South & Shoreditch succeeds Islington South & Finsbury; a Shoreditch & Finsbury constituency did exist from 1950 to 1974 and this is an expanded version of that former constituency.
Bow & Canning Town is a new seat.

Next in this series: North London & Central London.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

My alternative constituencies: North East London

Within the 2018 review, the constituencies of the capital, London, will be some of the most awkward to arrange properly, and this is the easiest region to botch when creating new constituencies.

Some of the problems stem from the natural barriers that exist within London, which cannot feasibly be crossed by any constituency even though mathematically it would make creating constituencies easier, especially without split wards.

There are two important barriers in North London, for example, which are the River Lea (the western boundary of Essex, in effect), a natural barrier, and the A5 dividing Harrow and Barnet. Although you can actually walk from Harrow to Barnet and back (meanwhile, there are only two roads crossing the Lea from Enfield to Waltham Forest, and the River Lea is a clearer dividing line) there are no trains going directly from any part of Barnet to Harrow and only a few bus routes connecting that area, so I think it is best if Barnet and Harrow are kept separate.

Given the considerable variation in ward sizes, especially among boroughs no longer sticking with the 3 members per ward system (most London boroughs still stand by it, although they are departing from it overall with each successive boundary change affecting one or more London boroughs), and the problems this causes when creating constituencies within the narrow range of allowable electorates, it is best to create groups of boroughs to create workable constituencies with at least some viable connections with each other, and to make sure as few cross-borough constituencies as possible are created.

I will start this section with North East London, which covers the London boroughs which were all once in Essex and which are east of the River Lea. This comprises the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham, and Havering. Ward size disparities are an issue, particularly between Barking & Dagenham and Havering, so I believe ward splitting is necessary. If the maps I give on this blog show a constituency which unsplit is over quota or under quota, I will state which polling districts of which wards are added and what those polling districts comprise.

Due to the issues of public transport connections, which most reliably and most frequently go east in these parts, it is necessary to preserve Ilford South and split Ilford North to resurrect Wanstead & Woodford (abolished in 1997), the only part of this area with a reliable north-south public transport connection. The large average size needed for constituencies here also requires ward splitting, but this can be kept to a minimum; if the variance allowed under the 2011 Parliamentary Constituencies and Voting Reform Act was 10% rather than 5% this exercise would be far easier even with the reduction in seats.

My alternative proposals for North East London are:

Walthamstow is abolished.
Wanstead & Woodford succeeds Ilford North in practice. It contains polling districts FA3 and FA5 of Fairthorpe ward which are both west of Fencepiece Road, making its actual electorate 78,210.
Chingford & Walthamstow North succeeds Chingford & Woodford Green. Of High Street ward it does not contain polling district ND which is east of Palmerston Road, meaning its actual electorate is 77,668.
Leyton & Walthamstow South succeeds Leyton & Wanstead. It has polling district ND of High Street ward, making its actual electorate 77,864.
Upminster succeeds Hornchurch & Upminster, and apart from the fact it includes Rainham ward, restores the pre-2010 constituency of Upminster.
Romford & Hainault succeeds Romford. It contains polling districts FA1, FA2, and FA4 of Fairthorpe ward which are east of Fencepiece Road, and in Chadwell Heath ward loses polling district QC, covering the southeastern portion of that ward. This means its actual electorate is 77,274.
Hornchurch succeeds Dagenham & Rainham in practice and reunites the town of Hornchurch to a significant extent. It has polling district QC of Chadwell Heath ward, making its electorate 77,768.
Barking & Dagenham succeeds Barking.
Ilford has the exact same boundaries as Ilford South; as Ilford North no longer exists in this plan and as the entire actual town of Ilford is in the current Ilford South constituency, I believe this name change makes sense.

Next in this series: East London.

Friday, 14 October 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 13/10/16 and other thoughts

Readers, the results of by-elections from this week featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Cumbria CC, Windermere: Liberal Democrats 1009 (52.3%, -9.7%), Conservatives 785 (40.7%, +22.0%), Labour 88 (4.6%), Green 46 (2.4%).

Lancaster BC, Westgate: Lab 443 (41.6%, +10.1%), Morecambe Bay Independents 193 (18.1%, +0.2%), UKIP 183 (17.2%, -7.9%), Con 178 (16.7%, -8.7%), Lib Dem 41 (3.9%), Green 26 (2.4%).

Lewisham LBC, Brockley: Lab 1190 (48.0%, +10.6%), Green 631 (25.4%, -1.7%), Lib Dem 259 (10.4%, +6.2%), Con 195 (7.9%, +0.2%), Women's Equality Party 173 (7.0%), UKIP 33 (1.3%, -4.1%).

Lewisham LBC, Evelyn: Lab 1028 (53.4%, -1.9%), People Before Profit 314 (16,3%, -3.2%), Con 183 (9.5%), Independent 173 (9.0%), Green 119 (6.2%, -6.2%), Lib Dem 107 (5.6%, -2.1%).

Poole UA, Broadstone: Lib Dem 2184 (69.3%, +28.2%), Con 733 (23.3%, -15.4%), UKIP 132 (4.2%, -9.2%), Green 57 (1.8%, -5.0%), Lab 45 (1.4%).

South Lakeland DC, Windermere Bowness North: Lib Dem 441 (60.1%, +11.1%), Con 256 (34.9%, -4.1%), Green 37 (5.0%, -0.9%).

I hoped that the current Green Party Chair, Clare Phipps, would win in Brockley but it was not to be, partly due to TUSC and PBP not contesting the election and with Labour determined to prevent my colleagues gaining group status on Lewisham Borough Council and thus forming a real opposition to Labour. In Lewisham, Labour recently cut £1.3 million from its social care budget, and this cut hits people with disabilities and developmental conditions like myself the hardest. Meanwhile in Poole, we were relentlessly squeezed by the easily victorious Liberal Democrats, whose newly elected councillor, Vikki Slade, had clearly failed to defend Mid Dorset & North Poole last year following Annette Brooke's retirement. Our saving grace is that we beat Labour, who have received their worst local by-election result in months.

Six days from now, the Witney by-election will take place, and if you are reading this blog and can help Green candidate Larry Sanders this weekend in his bid to be Witney's next MP, please come if you have time and can make it to West Oxfordshire.

Contrary to what has been posted here:
the Great Barrier Reef is not quite dead, but it is dying and we are undoubtedly running out of time to save what remains of it. Inaction on damage to our coral reefs, melting of Arctic ice, and acidification of our oceans is not an option; we must do more to stop more plastic and chemicals filtering into our seas, and do what we can to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

My alternative proposals: Rutland, Leicestershire & Nottinghamshire

Technically, as long as Rutland stays paired with Leicestershire, it should be possible to avoid a cross-county Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire constituency. However, I do not believe this is possible in practice for two reasons:

1. Awkward ward sizes, especially in the east of Nottinghamshire around Newark-on-Trent. Adding the best fit non-Mansfield ward would put the constituency of Mansfield's electorate in excess of the quota limit, for example.

2. Space-there is not enough room in the west of Nottinghamshire, particularly the 'Greater Nottingham' area, to create sensible constituencies with more electors than average but which would still be in quota.

And clearly, the only crossing such a cross-county constituency can be really placed is between Loughborough and the western parts of the Rushcliffe district.

Nevertheless, it is possible to improve substantially on the Boundary Commission's initial proposals, for both Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Many seats do not actually need any real change, and those that do should only receive sensible changes.

The links within the 'Greater Nottingham area' (including the city of Nottingham, the district of Broxtowe, the town of Hucknall, most of the district of Gedling, and to a lesser extent the town of West Bridgford) must be considered carefully, given that Broxtowe is more integrated with Nottingham than the surrounding districts. The tram line's southern terminus is at Toton, in the southwestern corner of that district, and from there it goes through Beeston and into the city of Nottingham, and its northern terminus is at Hucknall. As this line runs northeastwards, the boundaries of Nottingham's constituencies should reflect this.

The Gedling constituency is much more coherent and compact than Sherwood, and therefore it should not be broken up but rather expanded into rural areas it lost to Sherwood in previous boundary changes.

My alternative proposals for Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire constituencies are therefore:

Hinckley has the exact same boundaries as the current Bosworth constituency. Hinckley is by far the largest town in the Hinckley & Bosworth district, comprising over 40% of the district's electorate as of December 2015. Market Bosworth, meanwhile, is not large enough to even have a ward to itself. To reflect the realities of the constituency, the historic Bosworth name should be retired.

Leicester West & Braunstone succeeds Leicester West; although the BCE has also proposed this constituency (an expansion of the existing Leicester West) they have not recognised within the constituency name the fact that Braunstone is not actually part of Leicester.

Mid Leicestershire succeeds Charnwood.

Loughborough & Leake succeeds Loughborough.

West Bridgford succeeds Rushcliffe; see my comments about Hinckley if you wonder why I have proposed a name change.

Nottingham West & Beeston succeeds Nottingham South in practice.

Broxtowe & Hucknall succeeds Broxtowe in practice even the Broxtowe part only contributes around 53% of Broxtowe & Hucknall's electorate; this is in reality a new seat.

Carlton & Arnold succeeds Gedling.

Worksop & Retford succeeds Bassetlaw. Like Bosworth and Rushcliffe, the Bassetlaw name should only be applicable to the local authority, and should no longer be used as a constituency name particularly when it does not cover the entirety of the council area.

Rutland & Melton, Harborough, North West Leicestershire, Leicester East, Leicester South, and Mansfield are unchanged from their 2010 boundaries.

Sherwood is abolished.

Before I move on to the London section of my alternative constituency proposals, I will of course say at this point that no matter how equal you try to make each constituency in terms of electorate or population, first past the post will fundamentally never be capable of delivering fair votes or representation; this review is no exception. Proportional representation, either by list of by Single Transferable Vote, is what is really needed to modernise British elections and bring actual fairness into Parliament.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

My alternative proposals: Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes

Northamptonshire, which like much of the East Midlands has been a key battleground between the Conservative and Labour Parties for decades (Northampton North has been a bellwether constituency since it was created for the February 1974 general election), is a shining example of the disparity between current constituency sizes. Each Northampton constituency only has just over 57,000 electors (57032 and 57389 for North and South), whilst South Northamptonshire has 84,427 electors, nearly 1 1/2 times as many. With Northamptonshire only being entitled to 6.60 constituencies under the 2018 review, it must have a cross-county constituency somewhere-but where?

I personally disagree that it needs to be with Leicestershire. This is because even though there are good road links between the towns of Daventry and Lutterworth, it would cause serious problems for other constituencies in Leicestershire, most of which represent properly connected areas. Due to the awkward rural ward sizes in the majority of Northamptonshire, I have not been able to create a satisfactory 'Kettering & Harborough' seat, and plans for such will be resisted quite strongly even though the towns of Oadby and Wigston (the entirety of this borough comprises over half the Harborough constituency in electorate terms) are closer to, and connect just as well with, the city of Leicester.

Nor should the county of Rutland be paired with Northamptonshire, either via Corby or via East Northamptonshire, to satisfy the quotas the BCE must work under. Rutland does have road links with Northamptonshire but its transport links with Leicestershire are superior in most respects, especially by train. I think relatively minimum change, as the Boundary Commission for England, recommend, is the wisest option here. One must be careful about how far the redrawn Northampton South should extend-it should not extend into any Wellingborough wards, as the BCE has initially proposed, at any rate.

Normally, I would advocate for the large town of Milton Keynes to be treated along with the rest of the South East region. However, there are three good reasons why the town of Milton Keynes does not really belong there:

1. It is in fact north of London geographically, and as it has grown it has become more and more distant from the county of Buckinghamshire where it was situated before it became a new town.
2. Trains from all five of its railway stations will only go to Northamptonshire or to Bedfordshire, not to anywhere in Buckinghamshire. Buckingham no longer has a railway station, and if it were re-opened it would be better connected to Aylesbury anyway.
3. Milton Keynes' road links outside Milton Keynes mainly lead to Northamptonshire or to Bedfordshire. The main road link to Buckinghamshire, specifically Buckingham, only links from the centre of Milton Keynes.

Both of Milton Keynes' constituencies are well in excess of the upper limit of 78,507, and part of Milton Keynes has to go somewhere. I propose that the suburbs of Bradwell, Wolverton and Stony Stratford be linked with southern Northamptonshire (which includes a village called Old Stratford) as there is a good road connection between the two along the M1. This will also lessen the disruption to otherwise sensible constituencies in Northamptonshire. The BCE is fundamentally correct to propose the Newport Pagnell/Bletchley split, but their proposals need some slight modification.

Here is what I believe Milton Keynes' new constituencies should look like:

And what Northamptonshire's new constituencies should look like (NB: the total electorate of South Northamptonshire & Wolverton is thus 75,981)

South Northamptonshire & Wolverton succeeds South Northamptonshire.

The final part of the East Midlands section of my alternative constituencies for the 2018 review will focus on Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

My analysis of the 2016 Lithuanian elections

Lithuania recently held its 2016 Parliamentary elections, and they were a real turnaround politically.

Lithuania, like Germany and Hungary, uses Mixed Member Proportional representation, with an almost equal division of single member constituency seats (71) and list seats (70). A lot of the Lithuanian SMCs, especially in the capital of Vilnius, had to be redrawn or broken up because of major disparities in constituency size back in 2012; the Lithuanian Constitutional Court (their Supreme Court) ruled that each constituency's population must not vary more than 10% from the average (relatively tight given Lithuania's small population, but certainly much fairer than a 5% variance limit). However, unless one candidate receives at least 50% of the votes initially in an SMC, there has to be a second round of voting with the top two candidates in the poll. This year in Lithuania, only three candidates have been elected in the first round; the other 68 SMCs will go to a second round of voting later on.

With regards to the 70 list seats, it was a wonderful comeback for the agrarian Lithuanian Peasant & Greens Union; back in 2012 they had no list seats and only one seat at all via an SMC; this time they managed to win 19 list seats and 42 of their candidates in SMCs are in the run-offs. However, despite their wild surge in popularity they did not quite top the list poll, finishing only 0.11% behind the Christian democratic Homeland Union (Lithuania's equivalent of Britain's Conservatives albeit more moderate). Despite fluctuating ratings, the Liberal Movement achieved 8.94% of the vote in the end meaning it will be in more or less the same position as 2012; however it will be able to have a greater influence given that the Homeland Union and Peasant and Greens Union parties are now likely to lead formations of a new government as they combined will now have the most seats. Meanwhile, the 'Labour Party' (in actuality, a typical centrist oligarch party) only achieved 4.69% of the list vote, losing all of its list seats; with only 5 of its SMC candidates in the run-offs it could lose all representation in the Seimas. The Social Democrats did not fare much better, since despite only losing 5 of their 18 list seats they will now also lose a majority of their constituency seats. Like Poland, Lithuania has a tighter threshold for coalitions in that the requirement for coalitions to gain list seats is 7% as opposed to 5% for individual parties; the new Anticorruption Coalition fell foul of this tougher threshold by only polling 6.06%, not quite enough to gain representation. The hardline nationalist Order and Justice Party meanwhile only just got through on 5.33%, its support declining further from 2012, and its long-serving leader Rolandas Paksas has consequently resigned.

Sadly, the Lithuanian Green Party despite expectations and greater national recognition than ever before failed to win any list seats, securing just 1.94% of the list vote. However, their current MP, Linas Balsys, has a chance in the second round of voting in his constituency, New Vilnius, to give the Greens representation in the Seimas for the first time in modern Lithuanian history. The second round of constituency voting will also give the Centre Party, Political Party 'List Lithuania' and the classical liberal Freedom Union at least an outside chance to get into the Seimas.

Lithuanian party politics is one of the most fragmented in Europe by far, as demonstrated by the fact it is rare for even the leading parties to poll 25% individually in the list vote or in a constituency vote. In the SMCs, it was not uncommon for more than four candidates to receive at least 10% of the votes cast apiece or for a candidate to finish first in the first round with less than 20% of the valid votes cast.

In spite of fair proportional representation and two rounds of voting for single member seats, the turnout in the 2016 Lithuanian parliamentary election was dismal: nearly half of the eligible electors of Lithuania did not vote! The number of invalid or blank votes was also astonishingly high at 4.12%, despite the wide array of candidates available for voters of Lithuania to choose from. By comparison, the lowest turnout in a British general election so far in modern times is 59.4% in 2001, and we are still stuck with first past the post.

UPDATE: The second round of voting in Lithuania's SMCs has now finished, and I am pleased to say that the Lithuanian Green Party will be in the Seimas after all, since Linas Balsys won his run-off.

Monday, 10 October 2016

My alternative constituency proposals: Derbyshire

The Boundary Commission's initial proposals for Derbyshire are quite botched, which is why I come to this county next in the East Midlands section of my alternative constituency proposals for the 2018 review.

Their 'Derby South' is really Derby East and the city of Derby should generally be kept in a North/South split, even if for electoral quota purposes it has to donate wards to one non-Derby constituency. This is because the road links within Derby link mainly east to west rather than north to south. 

Generally speaking, it is better to keep to local authority boundaries especially if the seat entitlement of a county or city decreases, and this holds true for Derbyshire (although the district of North East Derbyshire does not have particularly good transport connections). Therefore, instead of abolishing North East Derbyshire, that constituency should instead cover the entire district of North East Derbyshire and donate its non-NE Derbyshire wards to other constituencies. There is an area known as the Derbyshire Dales but that area alone is not enough to form a valid parliamentary constituency, so it should revert to its former name of Derbyshire West.

My alternative constituency proposals for Derbyshire thus look like this:

Mid Derbyshire is abolished.
West Derbyshire succeeds Derbyshire Dales.
Ilkeston & Long Eaton succeeds Erewash.
Belper succeeds Amber Valley in practice.
High Peak retains its current boundaries.

Next in this series: Northamptonshire.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

My alternative constituency proposals: Lincolnshire (both parts)

I now move on to the East Midlands section of my series of alternative constituency proposals to those the Boundary Commission has proposed. Lincolnshire is overall the least changed of the East Midlands counties so I will start there. I will also include North Lincolnshire, which is technically in the Yorkshire & The Humber region but should not be, for the purposes of reuniting Lincolnshire.

Because this is a key battleground area between the Conservative and Labour parties, and has been for decades, changes in this region are where alterations of constituencies will start to have a more significant effect.

Due to the quota limits, restoring the pre-1983 constituency of Rutland & Stamford (more on the county of Rutland later in this series) is not possible without violating the 5% deviance limit. Lincolnshire is entitled to almost exactly 7 constituencies under the rules of the 2018 review, and Rutland is entitled to 3/8 of a constituency in terms of electorate numbers. In transport links this is rather problematic for the town of Stamford, whose railway station only goes to the city of Peterborough or to Rutland's county town of Oakham. Therefore, it will be necessary to keep the Grantham & Stamford constituency intact, even though getting from Grantham and Stamford except via Rutland is not that easy.

The Boundary Commission is largely on the right track with its (south) Lincolnshire proposals but tweaks are needed to make them more workable. For example, Boston & Skegness does not need to expand westwards to the villages near the town of Sleaford, and whilst it is correct for the city of Lincoln to incorporate the town of North Hykeham for parliamentary constituency purposes, a slight adjustment is needed.

As regarding North Lincolnshire (the unitary authorities of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire that were created upon the abolition of Humberside in 1996, not that Humberside should ever have been created in the first place) the Boundary Commission needs to accept that Humberside is no more and finally reunite the Humber coast part of Lincolnshire. Splitting up Great Grimsby is a bad idea-Grimsby is all one community and should be kept together as much as possible. The 'Grimsby South & Cleethorpes' constituency is on the right track, because Grimsby and Cleethorpes are now as intertwined as Brighton and Hove or Lancaster and Morecambe, which is why I have not recommended recreating the old Louth constituency (which had Cleethorpes in it). It should however be just 'Grimsby & Cleethorpes' with one outer ward left out to be in quota. The parts of the Cleethorpes constituency that are not actually the town of Cleethorpes can then form 'Brigg' and Scunthorpe can absorb the Isle of Axholme as planned. This area should not extend to include any part of Yorkshire, as it has no connection with it other than via the Humber Bridge, which has only been around for 34 years.

My alternative constituency proposals for Lincolnshire look like this:

Brigg & Goole is abolished, and with its abolition the ghost of Humberside can finally be laid to rest.
Grimsby & Cleethorpes succeeds Great Grimsby.
Brigg succeeds Cleethorpes.
Sleaford succeeds Sleaford & North Hykeham.
Lincoln & North Hykeham succeeds Lincoln.
South Holland & The Deepings and Grantham & Stamford are unchanged from their 2010 boundaries.

NB: This post has been updated to include North Lincolnshire as well as (south) Lincolnshire.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Results of by-elections from 06/10/16

Readers, the results from this week's local by-elections were as follows:

Basingstoke & Deane BC, Basing: Conservative 1051 (67.5%, +3.7%), Liberal Democrats 323 (20.7%, +8.3%), Labour 184 (11.8%, -0.1%). All changes are since May 2016.

Bolton MBC, Rumworth: Lab 2215 (76.9%, +4.6%), UKIP 251 (9.1%, -0.9%), Con 167 (6.0%, -4.4%), Green 126 (4.6%, -0.5%), Lib Dem 96 (3.5%, +1.2%). All changes are since May 2016.

Caerphilly UA, Gilfach: Lab 254 (57.9%, -28.0%), Plaid Cymru 150 (34.2%, +20.0%), UKIP 28 (6.4%), Green 7 (1.6%).

Caerphilly UA, Risca East: Lab 400 (58.9%, +2.9%), Plaid Cymru 120 (17.7%, +0.4%), UKIP 117 (17.2%), Lib Dem 42 (6.2%).

East Devon, Exmouth Brixington: Con 425 (41.1%, +5.5%), East Devon Independent Alliance 324 (31.3%, +2.5%), Lib Dem 286 (27.8%,+8.4%)

Glasgow UA, Garscadden/Scotstounhill (1st preferences): SNP 2135 (42.6%, +15.6%), Lab 1944 (38.8%, -22.8%), Con 510 (10.2%, +7.6%), Green 242 (4.8%, +2.1%), Lib Dem 97 (1.9%, +0.8%), UKIP 83 (1.7%,+0.8%). SNP elected at stage 3; SNP gain from Labour.

Haringey LBC, St Ann's: Lab 1177 (63.7%,+11.7%), Green 323 (17.5%, -1.7%), Lib Dem 189 (10.2%, +3.0%), Con 106 (5.7%, -0.9%), UKIP 54 (2.9%, -3.9%).

Hartlepool UA, Headland & Harbour: UKIP 496 (49.2%, +3.4%), Labour 255 (25.3%, -20.0%), Putting Hartlepool First 155 (15.4%), Con 41 (4.1%, -4.6%), Patients Not Profits 36 (3.6%), Independent B 26 (2.6%). UKIP gain from Labour.

Highland UA, Culloden & Ardersier (1st preferences): SNP 753 (27.2%, -0.1%), Lib Dem 467 (16.7%, +2.9%), Con 439 (15.9%, +11.4%), Independent R 315 (11.4%), Independent MacP 274 (9.9%), Green 180 (6.5%, +1.9%), Lab 165 (5.9%, -8.0%), Independent McG 158 (5.7%, +0.9%), Independent L 23 (0.8%). Lib Dem elected at stage 8; Lib Dem gain from Labour.

Recently, UKIP leader Diane James resigned after 18 days in that post, citing not really wanting the position and claiming in Latin that she was under duress on her nomination form. This had little effect on UKIP in the end, as their easy gain in Headland & Harbour and their fair results elsewhere (except in Haringey, although there as in the majority of London they have little appeal at all anyway) proved.

The strong Labour surge in St Ann's is not a swing from the Greens to Labour-it mainly occurred because the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition did not stand in that ward's by-election as they did in 2014, where they achieved one of their best local results. Despite slipping back slightly we crucially retained second place; being the main challenger (and a challenger who actually offers something different) is increasingly important locally and nationally with local areas of Britain becoming more politically polarised, as another SNP gain in what was traditionally a very safely Labour part of Glasgow proved. This point was also reinforced in Plaid Cymru's 24% swing against Labour in the former mining village of Gilfach, following on from excellent PC swings against Labour in rural Welsh constituencies; the May 2016 Welsh Assembly election is the closest they have come so far to winning Caerphilly from Labour. Back in England, the East Devon Alliance was able to make no headway against the Conservatives in that Exmouth by-election, apart from continuing to remain the main challengers.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

My alternative proposals: Cambridgeshire & Norfolk

The final part of the East Anglia section of my series of alternative proposals for new constituency boundaries to the initial proposals of the Boundary Commission for England, finishes at an area where a cross-county constituency is needed under the parameters the BCE must work with. The two urban constituencies of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge and Peterborough) are under-quota, but all the rest are at least 2000 voters over quota (and 11,452 over quota in North West Cambridgeshire's case!) The question is, where should it be?

The abandoned 2013 review placed it as 'Wisbech & Downham Market' and I was initially tempted to place it there, but I now know why the BCE was right not to create it for this review: Wisbech is poorly connected to Norfolk except via King's Lynn, and even then that would cause unnecessary disruption; it is on the other hand much better connected with the 'Isle of Ely' area, including the towns of Chatteris, March, and Whittlesey, and of course the city of Ely itself. Since the Isle of Ely contains too many electors for one constituency and too few for two constituencies (approx.101,000), part of it must cross into Norfolk. The Wisbech part (Wisbech was a parliamentary constituency from 1885 to 1918, and covered a similar area to the current North East Cambridgeshire) should remain entirely in Cambridgeshire for ease of connectivity and community links.

The BCE is on the right track with their Norfolk South West (and Littleport) proposal, but it needs to be expanded further to be workable, and Thetford, having no proper links with Downham Market and not even being in the same district as it, should be moved into a new constituency. Also, the North Norfolk area should be covered as much as possible by a North Norfolk constituency (it has a few thousand too many electors for one valid constituency) and none of it should be covered by any constituency largely based in the Breckland or Broadland districts.

The Huntingdonshire issue was a notable problem in creating revised Cambridgeshire constituencies; the Cambridgeshire-Huntingdonshire connection is much poorer than the Hereford & Worcester connection, except from the city of Peterborough. It is easier to reach the eastern half of Northamptonshire from Huntingdonshire, in fact. The size of the Huntingdonshire constituencies (89.959 for North West Cambridgeshire, which is really North Huntingdonshire and was in fact drawn to be entirely within the old county of Huntingdonshire, and 81,303 for Huntingdon), necessitated moving one small part of Huntingdonshire into a southern Cambridgeshire constituency. My attempts to move just Fenstanton and Gransden & The Offords yielded no success in creating in-quota constituencies due the ward sizes in the western and eastern parts of South Cambridgeshire, but moving the small town of St Ives into the area is a useful compromise. If the allowed deviation was 10% instead of 5% (as is allowed for local government boundary changes), this particular problem could have easily been avoided.

The BCE's initial proposal for Cambridge (to also include Milton, now effectively a suburb of the city), and expansions of Norwich North and Norwich South are based on sound thinking and reflect the fact that the current local government boundaries of the cities of Cambridge and Norwich are at least 10-20 years out of date in terms of reflecting what is really a part of the city and what is a separate village/town. However, it is not fully clarified how much the 'Greater Cambridge' area covers, and there are not enough electors in it for two constituencies and too many for one. Nor I have been able to find a solution which can include every Norwich suburb in two in-quota Norwich constituencies, particularly due to the ward sizes of the city of Norwich. I therefore believe that the current Norwich constituencies should merely be expanded to cover more suburbs of the built-up area, and since the city of Cambridge has enough electors for one in quota constituency, Cambridge should only gain the orphan Queen Edith's ward.

I therefore believe the new boundaries for Cambridgeshire and Norfolk should look like this:

Ramsey succeeds North West Cambridgeshire.
Huntingdon & St Neots succeeds Huntingdon.
South West Cambridgeshire & St Ives succeeds South Cambridgeshire.
Wisbech succeeds North East Cambridgeshire.
Ely & Downham Market succeeds South West Norfolk despite the Norfolk part containing only 60% of that constituency's electorate.
King's Lynn succeeds North West Norfolk.
Thetford & Wymondham succeeds Mid Norfolk in practice despite really being in the south of Norfolk. It is in a way a new seat.
Dereham succeeds Broadland despite a large proportion (44%) of the current Mid Norfolk's electorate being in it.
South East Norfolk succeeds South Norfolk.

The next section of my alternative constituency proposals for the 2018 boundary review will focus on the East Midlands, a key election battleground.