6 Jan 2012

Tim Farron vs Rory Stewart’ quashed by cross-party deal

A fascinating fight at the next election between two of Cumbria’s most colourful MPs – the Lib Dem’s Tim Farron and the Conservative’s Rory Stewart – looks to have been averted. Under the new boundaries proposed by the English boundary commission last September it looked like the two MPs – both considered rising stars at Westminster – would be pitted against each other in what was being heralded as one of the most interesting constituency contests of the 2015 election.

But that fight-to-the-death has now been averted it seems, thanks to a cross-party agreement between the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour. Following the boundary commission announcement last September, Cumbria’s six existing MPs met at Westminster, sat round a map, and agreed an alternative carve-up amongst themselves.

Although the MPs accepted that Cumbria would have to lose one of its six seats under the new law, since nationally the number of seats at Westminster is being cut by 50 (and constituency sizes made more equal in terms of population). But MPs representing all three parties in Cumbria agreed a plan which they think better reflects the geography of the county. And it will mean that both Farron and Stewart can still fight seats at the 2015 election which are roughly similar to their existing constituencies.

The cross-party deal would overturn the boundary commission’s controversial plans to create a new seat which would have joined Windermere with Whitehaven. Most Cumbrians thought the plans were crazy, since the new seat would have been a geographical nightmare in terms of transport links, straddling England’s highest mountain range.

Under the alternative cross-party plan, two of Cumbria’s five seats would be centred around its biggest urban areas – Carlisle and Barrow. Another would take in the industrial towns of West Cumbria – Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport. A fourth, likely to be Stewart’s seat, would include Penrith, Keswick and Cockermouth. And Tim Farron, the president of the Liberal Democrats (and possible next leader) would be left with a Westmoreland seat around Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and the southern Lake District.

The three main parties have submitted broadly similar plans to the boundary commission along these lines, with small variations. The commission is not obliged to accept what they say, but a decision to reject the almost unanimous views of the three main parties (as well as important local groups such as the national farmers’ union) would face a strong risk of being overturned in a judicial review.

Drat! That Farron-Stewart punch-up would have made a lovely constituency film in 2015.

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4 reader comments

  1. Aoin says:

    Perfectly sensible.

    The Boundary Commission chose to create one Cumbrian seat which took no notice of the 1st, 3rd and 4th highest mountains in England, nor the most inaccessible mountain pass.

    Better for parties to work together than snipe when it comes to making representation fairer and more equal.

  2. David Jones says:

    The plan had the only direct access between the proposed Copeland and Windermere seat would have been inaccessible (for virtually all the year) Hard Knott Pass. The people who drew up the proposed boundries have no idea about Cumbria. This plan is more sensible and has the backing of the NFU, councils and virtually every submission by the public.

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    Good to see when it comes to important things – safeguarding their jobs – politicians from all parties are able to compromise and reach agreement.

    Much the same happened between lib dems and tories when there was a sniff of power.

    Now let’s see what they can do over the minor issues like curbing executive excess and tax dodging.

    1. Mudplugger says:

      As I’m sure you’ve spotted, Sam, Cameron’s claim of ‘handing power to the shareholders’ is quite ineffective.
      As most shares in those major companies are held by investment institutions, the leaders of which just so happen to be part of the same game of musical-boardroom-chairs with their non-executive directorships, I think we all know what the result will be. No change.

      Tax dodging is a different matter but when even the owners of left-leaning organs such as The Guardian are playing that game, what hope is there ?

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