HomeEuropeOne more headache for Liz Truss: Britain’s new political map

One more headache for Liz Truss: Britain’s new political map

Press play to listen to this article

LONDON — Liz Truss’ enemies are circling — and plenty of them will soon have one less reason to back her.

The U.K. prime minister is hosing down multiple fires after a disastrous mini-budget sparked market turmoil. Yet MPs who might normally be expected to rally to Truss’ defense could soon be out of the game. A major redistricting headache looks set to scupper their electoral chances no matter what.

MPs are braced for Britain’s constituency map to be redrawn, in a process that will leave politicians of all stripes scrambling to claim and reclaim electoral territories.

The reforms are an attempt to equalize U.K. parliamentary constituencies and rebalance representation towards London and the south of England, where the population has grown faster than the rest of the country.

But the changes will result in a crop of Tory MPs — many of whom are already deeply unhappy with Truss’ premiership — being shunted from safe to marginal seats, or in some cases left with no seat at all. It’s a shift that could weaken the bonds of loyalty that normally support a prime minister.

The Boundary Commission for England will publish its new constituency map on November 8. “That’s the point at which there will be a whole number of colleagues left without much incentive to support the PM,” said a leading Tory rebel MP.

Another rebel Tory said: “Colleagues will be hoping that their frantic appeals to the commission will have been heard — no doubt many are in for a nasty shock.”

Outta here

Redistricting scalps could be sizable. The seat held by Ben Wallace, the defense secretary who has led international calls to support Ukraine, is among the worst affected. His sprawling Wyre and Preston North constituency would be effectively abolished and its area carved up between five other seats.

Another Cabinet minister, Robert Buckland, could lose southern Tory-voting parts of his already marginal South Swindon constituency to a new rural seat. Treasury Minister and Truss loyalist Andrew Griffith’s seat is effectively abolished. Constituencies in the Black Country are being redrawn in a way that could set up a battle between Chief Whip Wendy Morton in Aldridge-Brownhills and backbencher Eddie Hughes in Walsall North. Both their constituencies are being carved up into new areas.

Britain’s Wales Secretary Robert Buckland | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Backbencher Andrew Percy faces losing chunks of his Brigg and Goole seat to neighbor David Davis, a former Cabinet minister. Mike Wood’s constituency of Dudley South could be axed with the number of seats in the area reduced from four — all currently held by Tories — to three.

High-profile ex-Cabinet ministers already left out in the cold by Truss are also affected by the changes. Dominic Raab — the former deputy prime minister whose constituency is under siege from Liberal Democrat challengers — would lose a solidly Tory ward. Ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s seat in West Suffolk is set to be abolished and his area split between two other constituencies.

MPs have been lobbying feverishly for alterations that preserve the integrity of their constituencies, before the proposals published next month undergo a final public consultation.

Many of those left without seats will be forced to jostle with colleagues over newly-drawn areas bearing little resemblance to the ones they have represented for years. The final constituency map will be presented to parliament next summer and is due to take effect in late 2023.

If a general election is called before that, it will be contested along the old constituency map. Some Tories believe the government has an incentive to wait for the new boundaries to come into effect, because they are projected to help them gain between five and ten more seats. So while the changes reduce support for the prime minister from sitting MPs, the Conservatives at least have reasons to be hopeful in future.

Like the English one, the latest iteration of the Scottish political map will be published on November 8, while the Welsh one will come sooner on October 19.

Rob Hayward, a Tory peer and pollster, said: “Although there is one final stage when you can make representations post these revised proposals, the history is that actually the Boundary Commission makes very very few changes after this stage. So we will know pretty clearly what the seats are going to be.”

“At that point there will be pressure on people to say whether they are going to retire or contest the next election.”

The next generation

If you are not yet an MP but want to become one, chances are your fate lies in the hands of someone called Matt.

Dominic Raab’s constituency is already under siege from Liberal Democrat challengers | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Tory selections are run by Matt Wright, chair of candidates at Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ); Matt Lane, director of candidates; and Gareth Fox, a veteran of Conservative candidate selections.

On the Labour side, the key figures are Matt Pound, Keir Starmer’s head of political organizing, and Matt Faulding, appointed earlier this year to oversee selections.  

Both Labour and the Tories have overhauled their processes for selecting candidates since the last general election and are getting candidates ready for the next vote, currently due in 2024.

Both parties believe that rushed selections before the 2017 and 2019 snap elections meant that some unsuitable candidates slipped through. Several MPs elected in 2019 have since lost the party whip following allegations of impropriety and, in some cases, criminal convictions.

The Tories revamped their selection process in 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades, introducing amore intensive screening and interview process. Though prospective candidates are being lined up, the party is waiting for the Boundary Commission’s final proposals before selecting in most seats.

Labour has also overhauled its process for selecting MPs. The party launched what it dubbed a “Future Candidates Programme” around a year ago, which involves intensive training to identify strong candidates and fast-track them into key target seats.

Labour is going ahead with selections, despite the constituency map not yet being known, and had chosen around 40 candidates by the time of its annual conference in late September, according to a senior party official. More key selections are due to take place before the end of the year.

It is a crucial set of selections for the opposition party, which reckons — given the major challenges facing Truss — that it can win many dozens of its target seats and form the next government. Chris Curtis, head of political polling at Opinium, said: “The dramatic shift since the mini-budget means that Labour would almost certainly win upwards of 400 seats on current polling, possibly even besting Tony Blair’s 1997 result. This will include a wide range of places the party has never won before.”

“While it is more likely than not that the Labour lead shrinks before the next election, there will still be lots of winnable seats that the party needs to find candidates for.”

Tim Bowden, secretary to the Boundary Commission, said: “While we are required in law to take into account a number of factors when drawing constituencies, the Commission does not have regard to voting patterns or political outcomes.

“We have listened to the many invaluable comments we received on our initial proposals, which were published last year, and developed new suggestions for constituency boundaries. On 8 November, we will publish these revised proposals on our website and launch our third and final consultation.“



Source by [author_name]

- Advertisment -