Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pushing the boundaries

Proposals to change the parliamentary constituency boundaries leaked within a couple of hours of them being released to the denizens of the parliamentary estate. Based upon the leaks, here's some thoughts on what it means for Birmingham.

Aside from the big news that commas have been abolished from parliamentary constituency names, it has some interesting effects on the Birmingham parliamentary landscape, given that the commission has a new mandate to cross borough boundaries in an attempt to equalise the size of constituencies within 5% of a national average.

The headline is that Liam Byrne's Birmingham Hodge Hill is rudely dismembered and disappears. While Selly Oak also vanishes, there is still a constituency that is a recognisable replacement as Birmingham retains seven constituencies entirely within the metropolitan boundary and two that reach out into other boroughs. We also have several wards that belong to Birmingham only at local level.

Here's a quick guide with some very quick and dirty views on the notional winners of last year's election on the new boundaries. I tweeted some other figures last night, but I've refined them to take into account conversion of council votes to parliamentary votes and the willingness of voters to vote for two different parties at parliamentary and local level. I have genuinely tried to be objective in my views on the likely outcome for each new seat, but the discussion is open. Of course, these notional majorities are based on the figures for the last general election and we know that the political landscape has changed massively in 18 months, so this is, as Peter Snow used to say, just a bit of fun. Don't bet your house or your career on these figures.

Birmingham Northfield - Lab HOLD
This retains the current Northfield wards of Kings Norton, Longbridge and Northfield, but brings in Bournville from Selly Oak. Notionally, Labour has a majority of just around 1800 votes in this seat, but the Lib Dem vote would be decisive here. My first pass over this constituency actually gave it an 1100 vote Tory majority, but I've revised my calculations.

Birmingham Perry Barr - Lab HOLD
Handsworth Wood, Lozells & East Handsworth and Perry Barr, but now with added Aston from Ladywood. Sure to be a rock-solid Labour seat, with a majority even on last year's figures in excess of 11,600 - over double the runner-up Lib Dem vote.

Birmingham Yardley - Lib Dem HOLD
This keeps Acocks Green, South Yardley, Stechford & Yardley North, but exports Sheldon - a solid Lib Dem seat, even this year - to boost Lorely Burt's chances of hanging on in Solihull. To maintain the size, it acquires Bordesley Green from the defunct Hodge Hill constituency. Notionally, this is now a 1200 vote majority for the Lib Dems, but I would posit that this is incredibly vulnerable given local shifts in the vote and - even trying to hold back my partiality - would expect this to go Labour under the new boundaries. Losing Sheldon will hurt.

Sutton Coldfield - Con HOLD
Shock horror here. Sutton Four Oaks, Sutton Vesey and Sutton Trinity stay at home, while Sutton New Hall plays away in Erdington. Joining the party is Kingstanding, but this still leaves it as a safe Tory seat with a 12,300 majority.

Birmingham Erdington - Con GAIN
A previously solidly safe Labour seat now crosses the floor, as the safe Tory wards of Sutton New Hall and Solihull's Castle Bromwich join Erdington, Stockland Green and Tyburn to create a notional Tory majority of around 3000 votes. Yet again, though, you would have to question what happens if the Lib Dem vote collapses. Gareth Compton, the former Tory councillor and chair of the local party seems happy with the outcome, as well he might. This could be the first seat to send an Alden to parliament. And not the one you'd expect.

Birmingham Edgbaston - Lab HOLD
Whilst Deirdre Alden is crowing about Gisela's apparent imminent downfall, I'd question that logic.  Only Edgbaston ward survives in the new seat, which is really the new Selly Oak as it has the peculiar combination of Moseley & Kings Heath and Sparkbrook rolling in from Hall Green as Selly Oak loses its eponymous constituency and jumps into the mix as well. I'm predicting a 4400 Labour majority here - possibly more as the Respect vote collapses in Sparkbrook and comes home, as well as the problems for the Lib Dems in Moseley.

Birmingham Harborne - Lab HOLD
Colour me surprised - and Deirdre needn't get excited either. She gives this a notional Tory majority, but I think that's wrong. My initial figures also gave this a 2000 Tory majority, but refining them reverses that to a 2100 Labour lead. This new seat is made up of Bartley Green, Harborne and Quinton from Edgbaston with the addition of Weoley from Northfield and Old Warley from Sandwell, which imports a net 400 or so Labour votes. I've classed this as a hold, as this really replaces the current Birmingham Edgbaston, but I think that this one could absolutely go either way and is a classic marginal. As with many, the Liberal Democrat vote will be crucial and if Gisela were not to stand, then the loss of the incumbent personal vote could wipe that majority out at a stroke. Realistically, this one is in play.

Birmingham Ladywood - Lab HOLD
Holding on to Ladywood and Nechells and bringing in Hodge Hill and Washwood Heath, this should have a virtually indestructable Labour majority of over 8000 - assuming that the Lib Dem vote is maintained. Which it won't be.

Birmingham Hall Green - Lab HOLD
This keeps Hall Green and Springfield, but brings in Brandwood and Billesley from the disappearing Selly Oak. I'm giving this a 5500 Labour majority, but there's a notional 10,000 Lib Dem votes up for grabs here, so again, if they transfer to another party, they could be decisive.

So, Liam Byrne will be looking for a new seat, whilst all the other Birmingham MPs should be able to shuffle round a bit without too much of a fist fight. Of course, Liam has an option - he just needs to follow Bordesley Green and look to Yardley, raising the possibility of an entertaining bout between him and Hemming. I know where I'd put my money. Additionally, the loss of Erdington to the Tories leaves Jack Dromey in trouble.

And of the wards that drift off into other orbits? Sheldon goes to Solihull, which might help Lorely Burt, but I rather doubt it, given the general mood of the country. Some of the southern Solihull wards now slope off into an elongated Kenilworth & Dorridge seat, bringing it up to the borders of Birmingham in Shirley. Shard End drifts off into a peculiarly revised Meriden seat, which I suspect could be rather closer for the Tories in future than it is now. Soho moves over to a Smethwick seat and Oscott goes to Walsall South.

This whole proposal is dependent on the single round of consultation and a final vote through parliament. Given the axe that will fall on a number of seats - Chris Huhne, Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and John Leech all look very vulnerable to these changes and even Vince Cable could find himself fighting Zac Goldsmith - there is no guarantee that it will be put into place in time for the next election, so this might yet prove to be a colossal waste of time. Rumour has it that some government supporters are already looking for something to sweeten their parliamentary retirement in return for a vote for Christmas.

UPDATED: Adjusted position on Harborne slightly and corrected an oversight on Erdington - I forgot that the safe Tory seat of Castle Bromwich crossed the border.

UPDATED AGAIN: I may have misread Cllr Alden's post on her not-a-blog site.... She's added another one now *waves*. I haven't checked the rules on boundary moves for sitting Labour MPs, but I don't think she's far wrong. She does make the assumption that all MPs currently sitting will be seeking re-election - it is quite possible that Roger Godsiff may decide to call it a day and Steve McCabe would actually seem to have a reasonable claim on Hall Green, as it will contain two of his wards, rather than the one that falls into Edgbaston. Oddly, Roger would have a reasonable claim  Edgbaston only contains one of his. Don't let the names confuse you. She has a point about why Edgbaston continues to be called that, when it only contains the Edgbaston ward and bears no real relation to the makeup of the current constituency although I don't think University is an awful lot better. You could say the same about a number of constituency names, in fairness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The really funny part of Councillor Alden's original blog entry is her opening line: "who'd want to be in Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart's shoes tonight?".

I think that Councillor Alden still very much wants to be in Ms Stuart's shoes, regardless of whether it's last night, tonight or indeed any other night. Bless.