Are the Proposed Boundary Changes Designed to hurt the Labour Party?

Yesterday the proposed new boundaries for England and Wales were published by the Boundary Commission. Nationally the total number of constituencies will be reduced from 650 to 600, still leaving Britain with one of the largest number of representatives of any democratic parliament. In England the reduction is from 533 to 501 and in Wales from 40 to 29. The UK Polling Report website reports

The changes in England and Wales result in the Conservatives losing 10 seats, Labour losing 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats losing 4 and the Greens losing Brighton Pavilion (though notional calculations like these risk underestimating the performance of parties with isolated pockets of support like the Greens and Lib Dems, so it may not hit them as hard as these suggest).

The Guardian Reports under the banner Boundary changes are designed to hurt us at next election, says Labour MP

Jon Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister leading the process for Labour, said the party was convinced the proposals were motivated by party politics.

The Manchester Evening News carries this comment

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, accused the Conservatives of ‘old-fashioned gerrymandering’.
I will contest these proposals, because I believe they are a naked attempt to increase the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party at the expense of coherent parliamentary representation,” he said.

This are quite a serious claim to make, particularly as the Boundary Commission clearly states

The Boundary Commission for England is the independent and impartial body that is considering where the boundaries of the new constituencies should be. We must report to Parliament in September 2018.
In doing so, we have to ensure that every new constituency has roughly the same number of electors: no fewer than 71,031 and no more than 78,507. While proposing a set of boundaries which are fairer and more equal, the Commission will also try to reflect geographic factors and local ties. The Commission will also look at the boundaries of existing constituencies and local government patterns in redrawing the map of parliamentary constituency boundaries across England.
In undertaking the 2018 Review, we rely heavily on evidence from the public about their local area. Though we have to work within the tight electorate thresholds outlined above, we seek to recommend constituency boundaries that reflect local areas as much as we can. You can find more detailed guidance in our Guide to the 2018 Review.

I thought I would look at the figures myself to see whether the Boundary Commission has done a fair job overall, or has basically lied, providing a deliberately partisan result, that the UK Polling Report has been complicit in supporting.
For previous posts I downloaded the results of the May 2015 General Election by constituency. I then spilt the results into the regions of England and Wales.
Figure 1 shows the average size of constituency by Region and Party. Spk is the Speaker of the House of Commons.

On average the Conservative held constituencies had 3815 more voters in than Labour held ones. But there are large regional differences. Figure 2 shows the number of constituencies by region and political party.

In the South East and South West, where Labour have larger average constituency sizes they have very few seats. In these regions, the regional average seat size is greater than the England and Wales average, so there will be proportionately less seat reductions. The Conservatives, with the vast majority of seats in these regions do not lose from a reduction in the national total and a more equitable distribution. In the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber, Labour are well represented, but have smaller average seat sizes than the Conservatives. In the North West and in Wales Labour are well represented, the average seat sizes in Labour seats are similar to Conservative seats, but the regional average seat sizes are smaller than the England and Wales average. Smaller average seat sizes in these regions will hit Labour harder than the Conservatives due to Labour’s higher representation.
The only exception to the England and Wales picture is London. The region has larger than average constituencies at present, the average constituency size of Labour constituencies is bigger than Conservative constituencies and over 60% of the 73 constituencies are Labour held. But still the region and Labour lose seats, though proportionately less than elsewhere.
The effect of the revisions in shown in the average seat size. In Figure 3 with less seats the average seat size increases, but in some regions by far more than others, resulting in much less regional variation from the proposed boundary changes.

Figure 4 emphasizes the more even distribution of seat size. Currently, the variation of average constituency by region from England and Wales average is between -14740 (Wales) and +4517 (South East). Under the proposals, the variation is between -1160 (East Midlands) and + 2135 (London).

In London’s case it could be argued for another two constituencies, but this is hardly significant. Also, given that London MPs spend their week far nearer to their constituents than any other region, an extra 2-3% of people to represent is hardly a burden.
Finally I have done my own estimated impact on Labour, Conservative and Green seats based on changes in regional seat average sizes in Figure 5. If though I do not include the Lib-Dems, the results are very similar to UK Polling Report. The much more even (and therefore fairer) distribution of seats, along with a modest reduction in the total, disadvantages the Labour Party far more than the Conservatives, despite having two-thirds of the seats.

The Labour Party MPs who are doubting the independence of the Boundary Commission should apologize. The evidence is clearly against them.

Kevin Marshall

Monbiot and BBC – Accusing an innocent man due to a common prejudice?

Boris Johnson has something spot on about Newsnight’s accusing Lord McAlpine of paedophilia in a children’s home. Morally, it is probably today the worst sort of crime somebody could be accused of. Mass murder is not so bad, as long as you have higher motive. Even though it is meant to inspire terror into ordinary peaceful folk, it will not be called terrorism. The BBC will probably point to an excuse that as Newsnight supressed Jimmy Savile’s paedophilia due to sensitivity to Savile’s family, they did not want to fail in their duty for a second time. But there is something more than this, suggested by the Twittering George Monbiot. He was one of two prominent Twitterers to falsely “finger” Lord McAlpine as the culprit. Monbiot is now profusely apologetic, but I would suggest that his knee-jerk reaction was not out of character. It has some commonality with his take on the Gleick affair.

Earlier this year there was “released” a cache of documents from the Libertarian Heartland Institute. Peter Gleick, a dogmatic climate activist and scientist with a passionate dislike of any opposition obtained the documents by deception, and the released them anonymously. Most were innocuous, except for a “2012 Strategy Document”. Gleick was “outed” as the likely leaker, as this document was in Gleick’s peculiar writing style, not the more polished house-style of Heartland. It also contained a number of errors. George Monbiot praised Gleick’s actions as those of a “democratic hero” exposing the secret funding of climate denial by this right-wing think tank. There is no acknowledgement of the piffling size of this funding compared with government and private funding of alarmism and no acknowledgement of the evidence of forgery. Monbiot has no perspective on figures. If a few million dollars of Heartland “denial” is so effective against the billions poured into the science, Heartland should be chock full of internees infiltrated by every major Ad agency and democratic political party on the planet. Further, if there is a dominant, untenable, ideological position, then democracy is endangered not served by those who seek to confront the dominancy, but by those who seek to obliterate criticism. If the vast majority are on the side of the overwhelming truth, then publicity examining falsities can only serve to strengthen the perception of that truth. But, if it is a falsity, then exposing those who speak out to ad hominem attacks and slander is the thuggish way of silencing opposition. This principle is ingrained in the trial by jury system.

The reactions of the now BBC-departed Richard Black were in a similar vein.

What possible bearing can this have on George Monbiot’s judgement of the (false) allegations that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile? Might it be that Lord McAlpine was the former Treasurer (and very effective fundraiser) of the Conservative Party during the Thatcher years have something to do with it? When a tiny think tank can be so effective in sustaining climate denial, is not Lord McAlpine principally responsible for all that Mrs T inflicted on the Britain? And with the BBC culturally inculcated by similar pro-Guardian views, is it not conceivable that their failure to question the evidence might have something to do with McAlpine’s history?

John Redwood and the BNP

Blogger Ralph Musgrave in comments to John Redwood’s posting “Finding our National Identity” claims that John Redwood and the rest of the Conservatives have been moving towards the BNP. This is my response.

A sure sign of extremism is to point to superficial similarities, over the substantive ones. In this case the use of a word – Identity – over these points of difference with the BNP.


1. Praising the left for making racism unacceptable.

2. “(W)e should also dislike those who think there is a single or pure British way which they wish to enforce.” Sounds like a dig at the BNP.

3. The ideas of Britain having emerged into a tolerant democracy.

4. Anyone who was moving towards the BNP position would not have written this posting:-


I categorize extremism as falling two types. The first is the numerical type – those who hold ideas distinct from the numerical majority, or mainstream. The second is those who hold ideas that cannot be substantiated by rational argument, or who are highly intolerant of others.

I believe that John Redwood has sometimes taken extreme positions of the first type – usually for well-argued reasons. The BNP falls into the second category.

Cameron gets the message on the Legacy of Labour

David Cameron yesterday started blaming the current deficit problems on the last Labour Government.  Benedict Brogan on his Telegraph Blog quotes Cameron

 “I think people understand by now that the debt crisis is the legacy of the last government. But exactly the same applies to the action we will need to take to deal with it. If there are cuts – they are part of that legacy.”

I have been thinking along the same lines for a while now. See for instance.

I believe it is as important for the future to understand the political element of how Labour went so wrong. The Golden Rule and the denial of the problem until it was too late have made a serious recession into a painful period of painful cuts in expenditure and large tax rises. This nation will be poorer for a generation as a result.

UKIP did not lose the Tories the Election

The notion that UKIP lost the election for the Conservatives is erroneous.

This claim originated by Richard North on EU Referendum, and repeated by Conservative Home (with figures), John Redwood and Cranmer.

UKIP cater for a niche of voters who would otherwise (mostly) vote Conservative. However, a mainstream party cannot cater for all tastes. If the Tories became more euro-sceptic to squeeze the UKIP vote, they would most probably have lost more votes to the Lib-Dems and Labour. Any main-stream political party must be a broad church. The problem with our current political opinion is that we had two left-of-centre parties that got over 50% of the vote, a mainstream right-of-centre party that got 36% of the vote and UKIP that got 3%.

The conclusion for the Conservatives is not to try to appeal to a very broad church by merging many different opinions. Rather, they must capture a vision that people can empathise with, as did New Labour and Thatcherism. The time to introduce this was not with the launch of the manifesto, but two or three years before an election. Further that vision should also be an implicit attack on the alternatives.

A positive vision to vote for; and the opposing failures to vote against.

Cutting the Deficit – The PR aspect for the Tories.

There is growing recognition that the job of cutting the deficit will destroy the electoral prospects of those carrying out the task for a generation. Capitalists at work, have (very much tongue in cheek) suggested that a war might be needed to save the next government, much as the Falklands boosted the Tories and helped win the 1983 General Election. A war would certainly help, but such a dreadful circumstance should not be wished upon the nation. The Falklands War was a minor skirmish with a decisive victory that helped topple a dictatorship.

Another way is to encourage the general public to despise Labour – something that Cameron has avoided. There is plenty to go out, for instance:-

  1. The structural deficit (the bit that needs to be closed) is Brown’s fault. I estimate by 2015, around £750bn (over 50%) of the national debt will be as a consequence of the deficits built up in the boom years.
  2. Uncovering the partisan attitudes of the civil service and the political appointees. Encouraging whistleblowers and conducting audits may help.
  3. Launching enquiries and audits into major projects – for instance the widening of the M25, the NHS computer system, GPs pay rises, estimating the cost of Brown’s raid on pensions, why the banks got out of line etc.
  4. Tories emphasising unconditional forgiveness to those who have been taken in by the Labour Spin doctrines that got us in this mess.
  5. Emphasize that Labour have betrayed their core voters.
  6. Launching the initiatives to minimize the pain and maximize the gain from the necessary cuts.
  7. Changing the emphasis from promoting the interests of party/ideology to the government serving the people.


The Tories should do this not only to drive home the contribution that Labour has had in our current crisis, but also to give a positive vision for the future. One where governments will learn from past mistakes and learn the limits of what they can accomplish.

Conservative bloody battle imagery is self-defeating

Centre-Right’s “Labour is down, and its throat is exposed. Finish it.” imagery is quite wrong – it will just drive people away from politics altogether, Much like Foot’s “Thatcher-Tebbitism speech”.

In the final days it is worth emphasising the negatives of the Labour Party and after the election bringing people into a positive image of the challenges ahead.


1. The Raiding of Pensions.

2. Creating a Structural deficit in the Boom years – This is the bit of the deficit that now needs to be cut. Labour has betrayed its core voters.

3. The selling of Gold reserves shows poor judgement.

4. The fact that Labour has only tiny positive things to say, and a huge amount of venom.

5. The poisoning of the civil service, by partisan decision-making and political appointees.


1. Cuts in services must be prioritised.

2. Old-fashioned value-for-money needs to be the core.

3. Government should Serve the people, not the interests of party.

4. Diversity in provision should be encouraged to make the best use of everyone’s talents. (As opposed to constant initiatives from a few inexperienced spin-doctors).

The Conservatives final dash for power should lay the foundation for removing the divisiveness and nastiness of the Brown Premiership, along with sorting the parlous state of the finances created under the Brown Chancellorship. This will only happen if the supporters of this era are encouraged and able to join in a better way.

Education – A small innovation or extra costs?

There have been claims today that the Gove school plan is flawed as school budgets will suffer. (See BBC & ASI Blog). The comments are put out by those who cannot see the twin advantages of such a policy – Of raising standards and raising productivity. Like in Sweden, it will serve to provide better value for the taxpayer and provide local communities with more diversity and innovation.


As I wrote in response to Hopi Sen’s article.

The claim that LEA schools budgets will suffer if schools go independent is only valid for fixed costs.

For instance, suppose an existing school 2 class per year primary school, loses 50% of its pupils to a start-up next door. Leaving aside the one-off costs of redundancies etc, the major costs are variable – the teaching staff. However the fixed costs (heating, maintenance, LEA admin) will go unchanged, so cost per pupil will rise. A 10% drop in pupil numbers may cause a 3% to 5% rise in costs per pupil.

However, this could be offset by three things.

1. Efficiency savings / productivity increases. Given that we have had 13 years of a government who throws money at problems, there should be plenty of opportunities for this.

2. Start-up schools being given tighter budgets from the outset.

3. In the long run, all fixed costs are variable. In other words, unpopular schools will close, LEAs will shrink their staff etc.


Hopi – You are right when you say that the education budget will be cut, like much else. The structural deficit created in the boom years will not be eliminated by a strong recovery. The best way to minimise the impact on public services is to first understand the nature of the costs and then find ways of improving productivity. Like in many areas of the private sector, this is by allowing for different types of solutions to a particular issue, initiated by people on the ground.


This country needs change, not because the Labour Government has run out of ideas, but because their top-down ideas do not exploit the real changes brought by utilising the best and most innovative talents in improving their own circumstances. In education, the Gove plan makes a start in this direction.

Ken Clarke is right on the IMF

Ken Clarke is correct to state that there is a risk of the UK having to call in the IMF if there is a hung parliament. The reason is simple. The Budget Forecast was that the National debt would reach £1400bn in 2014. This will be around 85% of GDP. For this to be a peak the following has to happen.

  1. The economic recovery has to be rapid. Yet IMF thinks Darlings forecasts too optimistic.  
  2. Most of the deficit reductions come from this strong economic growth, not from expenditure cuts and tax rises.
  3. A hung parliament would mean including the Liberal-Democrats. Their tax increases rely on cutting tax avoidance and increasing taxes to the rich. Such tax rises are unlikely to generate the necessary revenue AND they would be a disincentive to invest in the UK.
  4. Labour sharing power might be worse than Labour on their own for indecision. They have put off a comprehensive spending review, despite a huge change in the Government’s finances. Further they may further put off starting cutting expenditure. It will be damage a party who has said for so long “Labour Investment or Tory cuts” to start cutting.
  5. Further, if they sincerely believe £6bn (0.5% of GDP) cut in waste might tip the economy into recession, then they would also baulk at real cuts necessary to make the deficit peak at 85% of GDP.
  6. The main spending cuts are unspecified. A coalition government might dither at signs of protests from much of the state sector. The IMF could be called in the muscle through the necessary cuts.
  7. There could be another external shock. If interest rates rise, then consumer spending will fall. Also house prices could resume their downward path. Also interest rates rising will also mean an increased deficit. By 2014 each 1% rise in the average level of interest on the debt will add £14bn to the deficit.


Extending the period of cutting the deficit, has a compound effect. If each year the target deficit is missed by 1% of GDP, then after 5 years it is over 5% of GBP extra.

Will Labour be kicked out by voters in the marginals?

Mike Smithson  of has posted the results of IPSOS-MORI analysis, which shows the swing to the Tories is greater in the LAB-CON marginals than in the country as a whole.

Unlike Smithson, I do not find this surprising. It is not due to an anti-Labour bias (though I confess, indeed proclaim this), but due to a simple analysis. There is considerable resentment of the current Labour government, that may surpass in the polls that of the Tories in the late nineties. That is, where they are able people will vote to get the government out. In a Tory or Lib Dem seat this will not matter. In a solid Labour seat, there is a de-motivating factor. But in a Labour marginal seat – and that can include seats with greater than 10% majorities, voting against the Labour candidate may help remove the government.

This is why I do not believe it when pundits say the Tories getting 40% of the vote against 30% for Labour will result in a hung parliament. We may not get a reverse of 2005, where Labour were on 35%, just 2% ahead of the Tories and still with a working majority. But the resentment factor is now mostly directed at Labour, and they will get punished accordingly, with the Tories being the principle beneficiaries.