Monday, 21 September 2015

Read My Lips: No Seat Reduction

I just got back from two days at the Conference in Bournemouth. The absence of discussion of strategy was deafening. However, no less than three people either said to me, or mentioned from the dais, the reduction of seats from 650 to 600 "which the Tories are going to do".

I have bemoaned the lack of psephological nous in the party before but really some members seem to like to wallow in misery and fantasy.

It is true that the seat reduction as proposed WAS to disadvantage us and Labour at the Tory benefit. That is a given. However time and events have moved on.

Let me make this clear. A reduction of 50 seats would take:

  • probably ten in Wales with nine from Labour and one from Tories (where previously the loss would have been one from us)
  • take around five from Scotland which would now be all SNP (and before would have been mainly Labour)
  • the other 35 seats lost would be in England and a very large number of them would now be Tory seats, with a skewing of new seat creation to London (which would favour Labour)

Ergo, with a skinny 12-seat majority (likely be to be reduced over the term via by-elections by 3-5 seats), the Tories would be insane to move towards a net reduction in seats because it would endanger their narrow majority and worse, set off an internecine battle for selection in seats that had been merged or substantially altered.

There WILL however be a boundary redraw as it’s now massively overdue. This is a process that we can master if we get smart. The Boundary Review Commission staff are not Tory lackeys. I met an IOW councillor who said that the division proposed by the Tories and Labour for the Isle was North/South and he argued for East/West and it was his suggestion that was adopted. Interestingly one of the few relics of the ditched review will almost certainly be a division of IOW into two seats (the one seat currently has 110,000 voters).

My point here is that members need to GET INFORMED about matters psephological and not leave it to Tories to dominate the consultative sessions for the redraw. We can throw a major spanner in the Tory works and advantage ourselves by arguing for a level playing field. The BRC WILL accept logical boundaries if someone argues for them. If we leave it to Tories (and Labour) we will get more (or less) of what we currently have. There is more to electoral reform than quixotic pursuits of AV, STV and PR.