Thursday, June 18, 2015

Boundary changes creating interesting prospects

I attended a meeting of the Gateshead East branch of the Lib Dems on Tuesday evening in Heworth in my role as Leader of the Opposition on Gateshead Council. One of the items on the agenda was a review of the local elections held on the same day as the general election. The report showed, as expected, that our local vote was significantly ahead of our national vote. But the most interesting section of the report was the section dealing with the total votes cast in the constituencies proposed in the last Parliamentary constituency boundary review.

These new constituencies were, of course, not brought into being by the Coalition as we pulled the plug because the Conservatives reneged on Lords reform. But a review will go ahead in this Parliament ready for 2020 and, assuming the the Conservatives stick with the aim of reducing the number of constituencies to 600, the chances are that the Boundary Commission will at least start their review with the one carried out in the last Parliament. After all, the work has already been done and it will be easier to revise existing proposals, taking in to account recent population changes, than to start from scratch. So looking at the proposed boundaries for the Gateshead constituencies was quite an interesting exercise.

It was the proposed Gateshead West constituency that grabbed most attention. It contains all 3 of the wards we held on 7th May - Whickham South and Sunniside (my ward), Whickham North and Low Fell. Also included is Dunston Hill and Whickham East which already has one Lib Dem councillor and which Labour held by a mere 23 votes in May. Other wards which help our cause are in the proposed constituency. In the hazy days of the Blair/Brown years, we were within 50 votes of winning Lobley Hill and Bensham ward. In those same years we also held Winlaton and High Spen.

Add the local election votes up across the proposed constituency and you get the following:

  • Labour 21,194
  • Lib Dem 10,155
  • Conservatives 5,456
  • UKIP 5,636
  • Green 2,649
  • Others 181
In a bad year for Labour, a strong Lib Dem candidate, lots of resources, constant activity, and a solid dose of imaginative thinking, the proposed Gateshead West constituency could be an interesting one to watch! What would also be interesting to watch would be the battle for the Labour nomination. My expectation is that David Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, will retire in 2020. He will be 66 by then. I am told that a certain individual is keen to replace him. Meanwhile, Ian Mearns will be on the lookout for a new seat with the dismemberment of his Gateshead constituency. He could try to be selected for the new constituency that joins up eastern Gateshead with Jarrow but may find it difficult to dislodge the South Tyneside Labour establishment.

So, interesting times ahead.

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