Major changes to constituencies in the EastLondonLines area are proposed in a report issued today by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE).
The report outlines where the constituency boundaries across England would be re-drawn subject to the final approval of Parliament. These proposals implement the coalition government’s new policy on parliamentary boundaries which was enacted in February 2011.
The government aims to reduce the total number of constituencies from 650 to 600, and to ensure that the majority of seats is within 5 per cent of the average size (measured by the number of people on the electoral register as of December 2010).
Arguably, the borough of Lewisham would see one of the most controversial series of changes. The proposals would alter the deep-seated political landscape in the area, which includes Greenwich and Blackheath. The Commission proposes a Lewisham and Catford constituency containing eight wards, including one (Lewisham Central) from the existing Lewisham, Deptford constituency and one (Bellingham) from the existing Lewisham West and Penge constituency. The four remaining Lewisham wards would be included in a Dulwich and Sydenham constituency with the four Southwark wards.
These proposals would fundamentally alter Lewisham and Greenwich’s electoral map, leaving just five MPs instead of six. Current Lewisham Deptford Labour MP, Joan Ruddock criticised the plan, which would organise constituencies to have the same approximate number of voters. She said on her website today:
“My constituency boundaries were changed only last year, adding Lewisham Central walk with 10,000 electors. Now they want to remove it and Crofton Park (to the newly proposed constituencies of Lewisham & Catford and Dulwich & Sydenham respectively) and add 2 wards from Greenwich. I’m sure people in Greenwich will have the strongest objections to the way in which their historic area has been split up by the Boundary Commission.”
Hackney would see its two constituencies shaken up under the proposals. A new ‘Hackney North’ constituency would contain much of the existing area covered by Hackney North and Stoke Newington plus Chatham, King’s Park and Wick wards, which are currently in Hackney South and Shoreditch and one ward, Seven Sisters, which is part of the London borough of Haringey. Diane Abbott, the current Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, tweeted: “I will welcome Seven Sisters to the Hackney family” [if the plans were to go through].
The other Westminster seat in Hackney would be called ‘Hackney South’ and would comprise most of the current constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch, represented by Labour MP Meg Hillier with the addition of the three wards of Clissold, Stoke Newington Central and Dalston that currently form part of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
The Commission considered the electorate in Croydon to be too large for three constituencies and the proposal is that Croydon would have four constituencies, with two wholly within the borough and two overlapping into Sutton.
Croydon North constituency – currently represented by Labour MP Malcolm Wicks – would remain unchanged but on account of its large electorate, the Commission would remove the Broad Green ward.
The Commission proposes to rename Croydon Central – Conservative MP Gavin Barwell’s seat – as Croydon East, with the addition from the old Croydon South constituency of Selsdon & Ballards ward from the existing Croydon South constituency.
Further proposals in Croydon include a Croydon Central and St Helier constituency containing four Croydon wards (Broad Green from Croydon North; Fairfield ward from Croydon Central; and Croham and Waddon wards from Croydon South) and five Sutton wards. Another merger is proposed in the creation of “Purley and Carshalton”, using Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West. Kenley, Purley and Sanderstead wards (from the current Croydon South represented by Conservative MP Richard Ottaway), alongside four Sutton wards.
Constituencies in Tower Hamlets would be left unchanged,
Political analysts are speculating about the electoral consequences of the proposed boundary changes and Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Conservatives of ‘gerrymandering’ – manipulating boundaries for political advantage. However, the BCE is in fact an impartial body which has to establish areas within constituencies to accommodate the requisite number of electors. The proposals are by no means set in stone. The public as well as the political parties have a chance until December 5 to tell the Commission what they think of the plans through the consultation it has launched in its website. The whole process will end in October 2013 when the package of final recommendations will return to the House of Commons for a vote. If the boundaries are voted through, these will set the constituency map for the 2015 election.
Public hearings on the proposals will be held at Lewisham Town Hall on October 24 and 25; at East Ham Town Hall on 27 and 28 October; and at Wandsworth Town Hall on October 31 and November 1.