The Boundary Review: Round-up

September 13th, 2016


The Boundaries of Wales : 1950 – 2010

September 12th, 2016

Where the total seats are being slashed from 40 to 29

The boundary changes to be announced tonight (and to the MP’s from England and Wales today) will see the first reduction in the number of seats in Wales since the Great Reform Act of 1832 and see Wales be reduced from forty seats to just twenty nine (it’s lowest number since the Great Reform Act) and will the be fifth set of boundary changes since true democracy (one elector, one vote) was introduced in 1950

Wales 1950 – 1970
Welsh Constituencies 1950 - 1970

The boundaries that were introduced for the 1950 general election saw the number of seats in Wales remain unchanged at 36, but saw the abolition of the University of Wales seat and the sole remaining borough seat in Caernarfon (made up of the towns of Bangor, Caernarfon, Conwy, Pwllheli and the Nefyn) making each constituency elected by everyone in that constituency. Amongst the constituency changes, the Caernarfon county seat was split into two (Caernarfon and Conwy), Flint was split into a Flint East and Flint West and there were some cosmetic changes to the South Wales valley seats.

Wales 1974 – 1979
Welsh Constituencies 1974 - 1979

The 1974 boundary changes were more a tidying up operation compared to the 1950 changes. Newport met with up Pontypool (leaving an enclave of Monmouth sandwiched between Newport and Cardiff), the Rhonddas were merged into a single Rhondda and Neath lost some land to the Gower as did Llanelli.

Wales 1983 – 1992
Welsh Constituencies 1983 - 1992

The 1983 boundary changes were ruthless. The Denbigh seat was carved up into Clwyd South West, Conwy was shrunken to accommodate the new Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (hived out of the old Merioneth), Flint East was reunited with it’s partner the other side of Wrexham and the two became the new Wrexham and Alyn and Deeside. Cardiganshire dived into Pembrokeshire and became Ceredigion and Pembroke North. Newport was split into two allowing Monmouth to become whole again and the South Wales valleys were put into some semblance of order.

Wales 1997 – 2005
Wales Constituencies 1997 - 2005

For the 1997 boundary changes it was Clwyd and Dyfed that felt the Boundary Commissioner’s force. Clwyd South West and Clwyd North West were craved up again into Clwyd West, Vale of Clwyd and Clwyd South. In Dyfed Carmarthen was split into two (East and Dinefwr, West and Pembrokeshire South) as was Pembrokeshire (Preseli) with Ceredigion returning to it’s pre 1983 shape.

Wales 2010 – present
Wales Constituencies 2010 - present

And in 2010, it was Gwynedd’s turn as the arrangement of Ynys Môn, Conwy, Meirionnydd and Caernarfon was scrapped and replaced by Ynys Môn, Aberconwy (diving deep into Meirionnydd), Arfon (the area around Bangor) and Dwyfor Meirionnydd (which combined Caernarfon with the remainder of Meirionnydd).

So seeing how much Wales has changed upwards since 1950, what will the Boundary Commissioners do now? Well, one thing is for sure. Eleven seats have to go and according to the electorate date published at the start of this process, of the top twenty five smallest electorates in the United Kingdom twenty of them are in Wales (Arfon, number 3, 37,915, Carmarthen East, number 24, 54,357). The map of Wales from 2020 onwards will be completely unrecognisable to anyone bar those time travellers from 1832!

Once the Boundary Commissioners have made their initial recommendations for England and Wales , I will publish a link to a my Google Drive which will contain a spreadsheet that will list every ward in England and Wales, their electorate and what constituency they are in at the moment. I am hoping that in a mass effort of crowdsourcing, members will fill in what constituencies the wards are proposed to be in and make a note of how many electors from each old seat are in which new seat and the proportion of the old seat (for instance 27,000 electors from Birmingham, Edgbaston (% of Birmingham, Edgbaston) and 16,000 electors from Birmingham, Yardley (% of Birmingham, Yardley) can be found in the new constituency of Birmingham, Handsworth) so that by the time Scotland announces on October 8th, it should be possible to create a whole new map of Britain by the end of October

Harry Hayfield


Cameron quits the Commons sparking off the first by-election in a CON seat since GE2015

September 12th, 2016


Hard to see anything other than comfortable CON hold

Cameron has announced this afternoon that he’s going to follow Tony Blair – the last former successful general election winner to stand down as an MP shortly after stepping down as party leader and PM.

So we now have the first Westminster by-election in a CON held seat since the general election. The numbers from May 2015 are above.

Although the overall outcome is hardly in doubt it does raise some questions. Who will be the CON candidate? This is a seat that had had done big beasts in the past and there will be a massive fight to get the blue selection.

How are LAB going to do? Will they hold onto 2nd place or could we see them squeezed by either UKIP or the LDs. The yellows have done reasonably well here in the past and have been having an excellent run in council by-elections.

This should be seen by Farron as a big chance to build some momentum following their dismal GE performance.

It will also be the first by-election for UKIP’s new leader who’ll take over later in the month. Could the hot favourite for that post, Diane James, put herself forward here?

Whatever it is great to have a by-election in a non LAB seat.

Mike Smithson


“We can get through this”: Don Brind looks at how coffee cup diplomacy could help Labour MPs work together.

September 12th, 2016


When I joined the BBC in the 70s one of the senior writers was regarded a bit of legend for having spotted the start of Ping-Ping diplomacy – what the US official historian describes as “fraternization” between table tennis players from the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China during an international competition in Japan. It led eventually to the 1972 meeting between Nixon and Mao.

Not quite on the same epic scale but there are signs that a rapprochement might be possible at the top of the Labour party. The good news comes courtesy of a Twitter account Labour Friendliness.

It reports “They disagree on the leadership but @GloriaDePiero and @johnmcdonnellMP always ask if the other wants a coffee if they are doing a Costa run” De Piero confirms the story saying “never miss it.”

Labour activist Thelma Walker, former head teacher in Yorkshire liked this coffee cup diplomacy – she tweeted “We can get through this- both good people.”

Then on Sunday came talk of a truce with McDonnell saying nice things about Owen Smith. Speaking BBC Radio Five he said: ‘I have always looked upon him as a mate, I have always looked upon him as someone who is incredibly talented and someone who could, I think, make a major contribution.’

This is the same McDonnell who in the New Statesman, in August was accusing Smith of copying “cheap attacks made by Tory-supporting newspapers” of “smear tactics” and of a “Project Fear” approach of talking up a split”. His coffee mate De Piero is one of the most scathing critics of Jeremy Corbyn contributing to a Smith campaign video by former front benchers who resigned in frustration at his leadership failures.

McDonnell said his hopes that people will come together hang on the the phrase “what’s said on tour, remains on tour”
According to the Mail and the Telegraph the price of a truce for Corbyn, assuming he’s re-elected (an assumption I’ve made clear I don’t share) is the acceptance of elections to the Shadow cabinet.

Then, of course, the question would be not whether anti Corbyn big hitters would seek places on the front bench but whether McDonnell himself could get elected in a PLP where only one in five support Corbyn.

In my view, McDonnell on the front bench would be good for the party but it would take some intensive coffee cup diplomacy to make it happen.

Don Brind


It’s time to take a Trump presidency seriously – it could happen

September 11th, 2016

Events this weekend remind us that the conditions are there for Trump to win says Keiran Pedley. The Clinton campaign needs to get back on the front foot and fast.


Whether you call it a stumble, collapse or storm in a teacup, Clinton’s apparent fainting as she left this weekend’s 9/11 memorial service reminds us that her victory in November is far from certain. (UPDATE: With it now confirmed that she has been diagnosed with pneumonia it is inevitable that her health will be a key issue in this presidential campaign).

Many will ask how it has come to this considering that Donald Trump is arguably the most inadequate Republican nominee in a generation. A recent Gallup poll showed 62% of Americans have an unfavourable view of him. However, as I said on this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast (which you can download below), the truth is that many of us observers have misjudged this race for a while. As with Brexit, the underlying conditions are there for a Trump win if we choose not to ignore them. An average of 66% of Americans think the country is on the ‘wrong track’. The question is whether he has the discipline to take advantage.

Clinton the unpopular favourite

The main reason that Trump stands a chance is that Clinton is basically as unpopular as he is. Far from being a contest between a credible ‘president-in-waiting’ versus, well Donald Trump (as I must confess I had long seen it) to most Americans this race is a choice between ‘the lesser of two evils’. The same Gallup poll mentioned above that showed 62% of Americans with an unfavourable view of Trump also showed 57% with an unfavourable view of Clinton.

This is important. Much of the analysis to-date has focused on Trump’s dreadful numbers among African American and Hispanic voters. However, there has been far too little analysis of Clinton’s deep unpopularity with other groups of voters. A recent Bloomberg poll for example gave Trump a 25 point lead among white men with no college degree. YouGov shows 53% of Whites and 51% of those aged 65+ VERY unfavourable to Clinton. The reality is that Trump is toxic to many Americans but so too is Hilary Clinton.

A campaign fought on Trump’s terms

Given the unpopularity of each candidate it is vital to their respective campaigns to fight the election on their terms and ultimately to make November a referendum on their opponents weaknesses. Until very recently the Clinton campaign was doing this, aided largely by a series of unforced errors from Trump. However, the tide appears to be turning. In the past couple of weeks Trump has been resurgent. The news cycle has focused on immigration, his visit to Mexico and Clinton’s apparent weaknesses over her emails, the Clinton foundation and now her health. Her post-convention poll bounce has all but evaporated. We shouldn’t overdo it though – she still maintains a healthy poll lead of around 3-4 points nationally. She is still the favourite (for now).

Clinton needs to reassert control

But the Clinton campaign does need to take back control of events (pardon the pun). Right now it seems to be slipping away from her. It is for this reason that this weekend’s fall is so damaging. It makes sure that the coming days will focus on her apparent weaknesses and questions about her health rather than whether or not Trump is a credible occupant of the Oval Office. Clinton desperately needs to get out there, answer these questions over her health decisively and then turn public attention back to Trump.

Looking ahead to the debates

The coming presidential debates offer both candidates the opportunity to define the terms on which Americans vote in November. For Clinton, they will be an opportunity to focus minds on the prospect of a Trump presidency and why she is the safer choice. However these debates are also fraught with danger for Clinton. If Trump is able to surpass (low) expectations – much as Romney did in his first debate with Obama – then Clinton could be in trouble.

Of course we still have two weeks until the first debate. The next fortnight will be vital for trajectory of the campaign and will set the tone for how each candidate approaches the first debate. For Clinton, the task is to get her campaign back on track after a tough couple of weeks so she can use the presidential debates as a means of cementing her advantage over Trump. For Trump, he has to maintain the media focus on Clinton’s weaknesses and to define her as ‘yesterday’s woman’. If he can do that and then surpass expectations in the debates then he has a real chance of winning in November.

It is worth remembering that this is Donald Trump we are talking about. The likelihood that he can go the final 8 weeks or so of this campaign without making any more mistakes seems slim. However, the fact Clinton seems to need him to shoot himself in the foot to win is worrying. Right now, this campaign feels like the EU referendum where a struggling Leave side refocused on immigration and Remain didn’t have an answer. If Clinton mirrors the Remain campaign and fails to reassert herself she is in trouble. Forget the Electoral College and state polling – if Trump ends up taking a 4-5 point lead nationally it won’t matter. The Electoral College will take care of itself.

Clinton still favourite (for now)

On balance, Trump’s inadequacies still make a Clinton victory more likely than not. The balance of probabilities says we still get one or two more media cycles focusing on Trump’s flaws that could prove decisive as we approach Election Day. Clinton is still the more experienced politician with an awful lot of money and organisation behind her. However, having previously seen a Clinton victory as inevitable I am now not so sure. It’s time to face the fact that Trump can win.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast. He tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley.

You can listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast below


5% of voters show they shouldn’t be allowed out of the house unsupervised or be left alone with sharp implements

September 11th, 2016

Occasionally polling throws out a result that really does make you go wow. Today’s Opinium poll for the Social Market Foundation contains a doozy. 5% of voters think Jeremy Corbyn is right wing, channelling my inner Sheldon Cooper, whilst I subscribe to the “Many Worlds” theory which posits the existence of an infinite number of Jeremy Corbyns in an infinite number of universes, I assure you that in none of them is Jeremy Corbyn right wing.

I quite like this kind of polling, it allows you see where the political mood is, looking at the below chart, Labour’s floor at a general election might be 25%, although I do acknowledge this is a very simplistic analysis on my part, as the chart below shows 25% of voters identify themselves as left-wing or centre-left. But look at those 45% in the centre, is a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party really going to win them over? I have my doubts.

What might alarm Labour is the following chart, which shows the demographic that usually votes, those aged 65 and over is the age group with the highest share of those identifying themselves as right-wing or centre-right.



Meet the new boss – what TMay’s first 60 days tell us about how she’ll govern

September 11th, 2016


Theresa May has now been Prime Minister for 60 days.  It’s never too soon to start forming judgements.  So what have we learned so far about our new Prime Minister?  Actually, rather a lot says Alastair Meeks.

Her new slogan is her manifesto

Theresa May’s conversion to grammar schools has attracted a lot of attention.  Her speech is worth reading because it sets out her philosophy. She delivered it in front of the slogan: “A country that works for everyone” and said the following:

“It means putting government firmly on the side of not only the poorest in our society, important though that is and will remain, but also of those in Britain who are working hard but just about managing. It means helping to make their lives a little easier; giving them greater control over the issues they care about the most.

This is the change we need. It will mean changing some of the philosophy underpinning how government thinks and acts. It will mean recalibrating how we approach policy development to ensure that everything we do as government helps to give a fair chance to those who are just getting by – while still helping those who are even more disadvantaged.”

On a superficial reading, the new slogan could be interpreted as trying to heal the rifts caused by the EU referendum.  As the speech made clear, it goes deeper.  Theresa May is repudiating a focus exclusively on redistribution to alleviate poverty and is seeking to help more directly the battlers and strivers.  Conservatives win overall majorities with such voters, as Margaret Thatcher, John Major (first time around) and David Cameron (second time around) could attest.  Things are less rosy when they lose those voters, as John Major (second time around) and William Hague could attest.  Theresa May has taken note.  From a Conservative perspective, she’s on the right track.

Disloyalty is fatal

Theresa May’s Cabinet is conspicuous by some absences.  Despite needing to accommodate the Leave camp, she felt unable to include either Michael Gove or Iain Duncan Smith in her Cabinet.  The second most senior Remainer, George Osborne, also ended up on the cutting room floor.  The common thread seems to be their love of political machinations.  Evidently Theresa May wants to be surrounded by people that she trusts and is not prepared to give houseroom to those she regards as unscrupulous, no matter how clever they are.

She’s an interventionist Prime Minister

Theresa May has gathered power into her hands.  She unravelled the decision on Hinkley Point, not hesitating to embarrass her newly-appointed Chancellor.  She was equally quick to correct David Davis’s comments at the despatch box about Britain being unlikely to stay in the single market.  She is apparently keeping a tight rein on media comments by ministers.

This control-freakery is very reminiscent of Gordon Brown and represents a stark contrast with David Cameron, who conspicuously gave his ministers their head.  That wouldn’t necessarily matter were it not for the fact that it seems that…

She dithers

Having embarrassed Philip Hammond over Hinkley Point, Theresa May has left the project in limbo two months on.  She has deferred (yet again) the decision on a new runway at Heathrow, having chosen to chair the committee considering it.  She will rarely be more powerful than the moment when she became Prime Minister.  That was the time for clearing the decks.

Gordon Brown showed that dithering micromanagement is not a successful strategy for a Prime Minister.  Theresa -May is going to need to loosen up a bit.

She identifies her political constraints and develops policy backwards from that

That said, the Prime Minister is right to keep close control of how Brexit will develop.  Brexit is going to be the dragon in the gate of her government.  The central decisions are going to be hugely controversial and the outcome will define her administration.

She has correctly identified that she needs to give a high priority to securing restrictions on immigration in negotiations.  The public expects this and she is going to need to show that she has delivered enough on this.

Often policy formation is not about what might be best in the abstract but about what is politically achievable.  Theresa May held on as Home Secretary for 6 years understanding that.  Those skills will stand her in good stead when dealing with Brexit.

But she isn’t a tactician

The Prime Minister has already managed to create a powerful group of enemies within her party that will be willing to work together when the occasion arises.  The Notting Hill set now sit on the backbenches and are no doubt discontented.  With a government majority of 12, they will strike whenever they think appropriate.  They might even do so over the Prime Minister’s flagship policy on grammar schools.  The Prime Minister has more or less ruled out an early election.  Soon enough she will come to realise what David Cameron already knew – a small majority enervates any government.  A government with so much to do needs all the dynamism it can muster.  She should change her mind about that early election.

Alastair Meeks



Meet Liam Fox, the 21st century Gerald Ratner

September 10th, 2016

The Guardian reports on a Times story

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has been attacked by businesspeople and politicians for suggesting British executives would rather play golf rather than export their goods and services, in an extraordinary attack on the country’s “lazy” business culture.

Fox, a former GP and staunch Eurosceptic, told a reception for the Thatcherite group Conservative Way Forward that the UK had grown “too fat” on the successes of previous generations.

Think about it, Liam Fox’s role is to promote UK business in the post Brexit world, and he’s describing those businesses in less than complimentary terms. It is all reminiscent of Gerald Ratner calling his products crap which turned out to sub-optimal for his business. Fox could have couched his words, and said something along the lines of, freed of the yoke of the European Union, UK businesses were going to be the best in the world.

Downing Street has already said ‘Liam Fox’s comments are his personal views, not policy’, I get the feeling Theresa May isn’t the sort of person to suffer fools gladly, I suspect Liam Fox’s latest contribution will not endear him to her. He’s currently 6/1 to be the first to leave the cabinet, I tipped Liam Fox at 10/1 last month to be the first cabinet minister to leave the cabinet, he’s now 6/1, I don’t think he’s value at 6/1. I’ve asked a few bookies to put up a market on Liam Fox not being in the cabinet on the 31st of December 2017, as I expect Mrs May will reshuffle him out of the cabinet when she gets the opportunity.