Published on 29 Jan 2013

Clegg makes sure Tories heading for boundary review defeat

The latest tally suggests the Conservative wing of the government will lose this afternoon’s vote on the boundary review. They do not have the support of the DUP despite efforts in the last 72 hours to get it. Using Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers as the intermediary, the prime minister offered to exempt Northern Ireland from the boundary review.

The DUP is concerned that it will reduce its representation at Westminster. The bill being debated at this moment is also about lowering the number of seats in the Commons from 650 to 600 – Number 10 offered the DUP to reduce the number of seats to 602 instead. It was quite clear where the extra 2 would come from.

The DUP could see that this was only deliverable if the Tories could be sure their coalition partners would go along with it. The Lib Dems were adamant they would oppose such concessions but I understand that for the avoidance of doubt Nick Clegg made contact with the DUP himself yesterday to spell out in clear terms that his party would not support such an arrangement.

It must have been quite a conversation, along the lines of “I don’t know what that coalition partner of mine promised you but don’t necessarily believe him.”

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have opted to avoid the debate. They both want to keep emotions under control, particularly on the Tory backbenches. But Nick Clegg couldn’t risk an understanding between the Tories and the DUP blowing a hole in his strategy, which is to fight the Westminster seats on the same basis as the last election, he hopes advantaging his sitting MPs with incumbency and avoiding them having to get to know entirely new wards and streets in rejigged boundaries.

Labour strategists are ¬†excited about what today’s vote means. This story may seem insignificant but all main parties think it goes to the heart of who can win the next election and who can’t. One Labour figure pointed out that elections tend to see swings under 5 per cent¬†and the changes if passed could’ve been worth a critical 1.8% to the Tories.

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3 reader comments

  1. Sean Blake says:

    And it came to pass….with 4 Tories and the Democratic Unionists voting with the Lib/Labs to give a larger than expected majority of 42 to the Lords’ amendment.
    I’m afraid this was bound to happen after the onslaught inflicted by Conservatives during the referendum campaign on AV which meant the loss of a fairer voting system than the one we’re still left with at Westminster. So it wasn’t just the abandonment of Lords’ reform that saw the Conservatives’ attempt to redraw boundaries doomed until after the next election which they may have just lost.

  2. Andrew Dundas says:

    Lord Snooty wanted to draw constituency boundaries around numbers of registered electors, not the recent census count of actual population. Given that an higher proportion of potential Conservative voters are on the electoral register, that would give Snooty the sort of gerrymandered advantage that US Republicans have just engineered for themselves.

    It was a dishonest plan that Parliament – including David Davis MP – was right to reject!

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Even the recent census count substantially understates the actual population, especially in ‘sensitive’ areas.

      That said, there is nothing preventing all those people from registering to vote – indeed in some ‘sensitive’ areas, dead people and those who have already gone back to their home countries still have postal and proxy votes cast on their behalf. I fear that this aspect actually has a greater impact on election outcomes than missing registrations of a few folk who probably wouldn’t bother to vote anyway.

      But all that aside, it is indefensible to sustain electoral constituencies with the scale of difference currently seen in voter populations – this was a key demand of the Chartists over 150 years ago and has still not been delivered. For their hypocrisy on this issue, the Lib-Dems may suffer.

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