An It’s Up The Poll Special Report
So to quote Ashton-under-Lyne’s (and possibly, Dukinfield’s future MP in 2020) “the cat has been let out of the bag”. Setting the news agenda lately has been the Boundary Commission’s proposed changes to our constituencies. Part of the plans will see fifty job losses by 2020.
In other words, the Boundary Commission, and the parties in power that made the initial decision have decided to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Taking the biggest hit could be the North West of England, and Scotland. Greater Manchester could lose three MPs with a dozen constituencies abolished and redrawn by newly created seats. Tameside could see all three of its constituencies redrawn.
Greater Manchester could lose more MPs than the whole of South East England. The South East could lose two seats, but the loss of three MPs in Greater Manchester is a more tangible difference than the South East (which has three times our city region’s population). If you add East Anglia to the mix, 14.7 million people would see a loss of three MPs – a drop in the ocean. With 2.8 million in the Greater Manchester area, their drop in the ocean is our whirlpool.
The 2011 proposals
In our earlier article from the 07 June 2011, we found that the Dukinfield ward (in the Denton and Reddish constituency since 1997) could join the new Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne seat, along with Dukinfield/Stalybridge, Mossley and all of Ashton-under-Lyne’s wards. We also stated that Failsworth (in Angela Rayner’s Ashton-under-Lyne constituency) could join a redrawn Oldham West and Royton seat. We also stated that Oldham East and Saddleworth will take in the Medlock Vale ward, which covers Fitton Hill and Bardsley.
The 2016 proposals for 2018
With the exception of changes to the Ashton seat, the plans are wide off the mark of Democratic Audit’s proposals in 2011.
With the Ashton-under-Lyne constituency, it has been proposed that both Dukinfield wards (Dukinfield and Stalybridge/Dukinfield), and the Mossley ward would become part of Angela Rayner’s seat. Likewise with the Stalybridge North and Stalybridge South wards.
From an Ashton point of view, it is an improvement on previous plans which would have seen the town centre being omitted from its own ward. Attracting the most ire is the omission of Stalybridge from the proposed constituency name. For the first time since 1868, we could no longer see ‘the beautiful town with the newish canal’ mentioned in the General Election results. For the people of Dukinfield – affected by 1997’s boundary changes, having the whole town in a constituency could make life easier for its voters.
The same feelings of remoteness expressed by some Dukinfield constituents could rear their ugly head in another constituency. Using the cast off wards of other constituencies could be the proposed Failsworth and Droylsden constituency. At its most northerly point could be a chunk of Waterhead, Springhead, Holts Estate, and Fitton Hill. Along the Medlock Valley, the seat could take in Daisy Nook, the whole of Droylsden, and the Audenshaw ward. Perhaps Gerald Mander thinks this could be a marginal seat. I pity the future MP who would spend the best part of their time waltzing to Audenshaw from Lees along slow roads.
Hyde, part of the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency since many of our readers were in short pants could form the northerly part of a future Marple and Hyde constituency. This could take in the Longdendale ward, Marple, Romiley and – believe or not – a very small part of Dukinfield: The Fairways estate which backs onto Dukinfield Golf Course. Perhaps they should rename the constituencies as Tameside, Medlock, and Etherow being as they respect the Mersey Basin rivers better than established local boundaries. (I sincerely hope not – and omitting Stalybridge from the name of the expanded Ashton seat is a joke!)
In 2020, Tameside could have four constituencies within its boundaries. The borough’s fourth seat could be the Stockport North and Denton constituency. Prior to boundary changes in advance of the 1983 General Election, the Denton wards and the Audenshaw ward were part of the Manchester Gorton seat since 1955. The future constituency will take in the whole of Stockport town centre, plus the southern part of the Denton and Reddish constituency.
There could be one hell of a carve up within Oldham Council boundaries. The Oldham West and Royton seat could be abolished. Royton could form part of an expanded Littleborough and Saddleworth constituency. The remainder of Jim McMahon’s seat could be a newly formed Oldham constituency. Tandle Hill – a popular assembly point for dissenters at one time – could be part of a potential Tory marginal seat!
Why the changes?
Official sources state that Britain’s constituencies needed to have an equal number of electors. The recommended range was between 71,000 and 75,000 voters. This has been affected by its biggest change, the arrival of individual registration to the Electoral Roll. In the past, university students have been encouraged to sign the roll at their own campus. With the switch to individual registration, this has meant two million fewer voters, affecting students and tenants.
Last year, the Boundary Commission recommended basing the electorate numbers on registration figures leading up to December 2016. Instead, the Conservatives declined their recommendations and stuck to last December. Since then, there had been a marked increase in registrations with the EU Referendum a prime mover behind the upsurge.
If this coming December’s figures were considered, well, we could be reading a different story. Though Tameside could return three MPs in 2020, there are three wards shared with other boroughs (that could be akin to 2.5 MPs in the borough then). The loudest noises could be made by the people of Stalybridge, where the omission of the town’s name is a sore point writ large. Seeing the whole of Dukinfield (well, apart from that part on The Fairways) in its own constituency could be a welcome change.
As with the loss of three MPs in the South East and East of England, the changes to Dukinfield are a drop in the ocean. In the greater scheme of things, it is a grubby little gerrymandering scheme created to reduce opposition to the present incumbents in power. If any seats had to have an equal number of constituents they should have: 1) stuck to the same number of MPs as at present; and 2) equalised the constituency numbers. A secondary modern/grammar school or academy division exercise has been complicated by a problem which Pyongyang’s head of state would have been proud of.
With Greater Manchester more or less solid Labour territory, it is clear that our city region has been hit the hardest by the Boundary Commission’s latest recommendations. Oh, and don’t get us started on the omission of Stalybridge from the name of a future expanded Ashton seat.
- Supposing they are still running in 2020, the 340 and 343 bus services could pass through five constituencies: Oldham, Littleborough and Saddleworth, Failsworth and Droylsden (at Lees and Grotton), Ashton-under-Lyne, and Marple and Hyde. At present it passes through four, with the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency passed twice.
- The Stalybridge and Hyde constituency was formed in 1918, taking in both the Lancashire and Cheshire wards. From 1885 to 1918, Stalybridge and Hyde had their own constituencies with the former town having its own seat since 1868.
- The Hyde constituency from 1885 to 1918 – formally known as Cheshire Division, Hyde, included most of the wards proposed for the 2020 General Election. The Offerton is the only exception.
- The Ashton-under-Lyne constituency in its various forms has been in place since 1832. From 1910 to 1918 it was held by Conservative MP Max Aitken (better known to us as Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express fame).
The Boundary Commission are planning a series of consultation events as well as online forms of participation. We recommend attending the Manchester events on the 11 and 12 October, which shall take place in the Trafford Suite of the Midland Hotel. The 11 October date shall take place between 10am to 8pm, with the following day’s soiree on from 9am to 5pm. As well as your participation in this process, there’s also a plausible excuse to use the new-look St. Peter’s Square tram station.
Plus, the Electoral Reform Society has some excellent resources on the subject. Their site is well worth seeking out. They also recognise how an incomplete register has been used to draw the future boundaries.
S.V., 13 September 2016.