Tory plans to redraw electoral map could hit Lib Dem seats hardest
Boundary review to equalise and reduce constituencies by 50 could prompt mutiny, with Tory backbenchers also affected
Polly Curtis and Allegra Stratton, guardian.co.uk
Sunday 5 June 2011 21.44 BST
The Liberal Democrats face losing up to a quarter of their seats when a Tory-imposed plan to redraw the entire electoral map comes into force from September, figures seen by the Guardian suggest.
The issue could force a mutiny in the coalition amid mounting evidence that the Liberal Democrats will fare far worse than predicted and with David Cameron facing further tensions with his backbenchers, some of whom are certain to lose their seats.
“The Liberal Democrats clearly did not know what they were agreeing to. It was extremely naive. It’s like turkeys voting for Christmas,” one Labour source said.
Lewis Baston of Democratic Audit, a research group working from Liverpool University, has devised a model of the new map based on the guidelines set out by the legislation behind the reforms. In his version, the Tories would lose 16 seats – 5.2% of their total; Labour would lose 17 – 6.6%; and the Liberal Democrats a crippling 14 – 24.6%. Ministers including Norman Baker, Sarah Teather, Andrew Stunell and Grant Shapps would be among those most vulnerable.
Baston said: “The Liberal Democrats are likely to lose out more than the other main parties because their seats are yellow islands in a sea of red or blue; changing the boundaries is more likely to bring in hostile territories, their majorities tend to be smaller than Labour or Conservative MPs and their Lib Dems trade a lot on incumbency and constituency service. That is disrupted by a boundary review.”
The new seats will be announced from 6 September, making for a summer of uncertainty for MPs. A lengthy consultation will follow in which the parties can make representations to challenge decisions. The new map will be subject to a vote in both houses of parliament, creating a point of rebellion in 2013. One Tory said: “The question is, if you’re a Lib Dem and there is a Labour rebellion, do you join with them in opposing this? You rely on incumbency – being known to your patch – and then not only do you lose that but, by being in government, you’re more unpopular than you’ve ever been. Their party leadership may have decided they can’t ask their troopers to vote it through.”
Voters keep voting for change and they will continue to until they get some.