The Boundary Commission has just published its proposals for the revision of parliamentary constituencies, and for the rest of this week I’ll be trying to get to the bottom of what this will mean for Norfolk. For those who’ve forgotten, this report was commissioned in the wake of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which legislated to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600 and ensure that all constituencies should have around the same number of voters. While the overall number of seats in Norfolk has stayed the same, there has been a considerable re-jigging of boundaries, so there may be plenty of consequences for both the public and politicians.However, I would stress it is a draft document up for consultation, so far from the finished product.
Today, I will be looking at the changes proposed for the two West Norfolk seats. North West Norfolk, the seat of Henry Bellingham, won’t be changing much at all. It’ll have a new name, King’s Lynn, and will gain three wards, Wiggenhall, St Lawrence and Watlington from what is currently South West Norfolk. This should make hardly any difference to the electoral make up of this constituency though. Although there seems to be a slight bias away from both Labour and the Conservatives in the new wards, at the most it will cost Bellingham 300 votes in a very safe seat.
Of far greater interest is what is happening to Elizabeth Truss’ seat, South West Norfolk, which has been torn apart and formed into two new, separate seats. The one we will look at here is Wisbech and Downham Market. This constituency would take up the wards from the borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk that were previously part of South West Norfolk (except from the three mentioned above), but lose all thirteen Breckland wards. These would be replaced by thirteen from Fenland, meaning that the seat would straddle the border between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. Not only would this bring an unusual cross-county dynamic, but would also make the constituency considerably safer, perhaps giving the Conservatives a 2 or 3% swing, especially when it is considered that it would significantly squash the Labour vote.
The really interesting thing is which Tory would be selected for the seat. The favourite would surely be Elizabeth Truss, as it’s the only real Norfolk seat she could be selected for (as Thetford and Swafham will be taken by George Freeman) but she may face stiff competition from Stephen Barclay, the Conservative MP for Cambridgeshire North East whose seat is also majorly affected. However, he could also stand for Peterborough South. Whichever way, it is likely to lead to a few internal struggles in the Conservative party and a very exciting new dimension to West Norfolk politics, although it looks like the Tories will still be firmly entrenched in safe seats. So, while perhaps there will be little change in the long term profile of these two constituencies, it could do a lot to shake up West Norfolk politics in the short term.