In Depth

Constituency boundary shake-up: everything you need to know

Labour says plans to slash Britain’s 650 MPs to 600 are part of Tory ‘power grab’

The political map of Britain may soon be redrawn, following the publication of the final recommendations for new parliamentary boundaries.

If approved, the proposal from the independent Boundary Commission would see the number of MPs reduced from 650 to 600 and make constituencies more equal in size.

The changes would trigger a major shake-up in seats, with some disappearing altogether, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North seat in London.

The Labour Party has accused the Conservatives of orchestrating an “undemocratic power grab”, but the Government insists the current boundaries, decided by population figures, are out of date.

So what difference would the proposed changes make and which parties have the most to lose?

Why are boundaries changing?

Under UK law, the size and shape of parliamentary boundaries must be periodically reviewed in order to keep up with changes in population size.

The Government says the changes are long overdue, with large variations in the number of voters in different seats that puts the Tories at a disadvantage.

The changes were “meant to happen while the coalition government was in power between 2010 to 2015”, but the plan was abandoned in 2013 after the Lib Dems withdrew their support, reports the BBC.

What difference will it make?

Under the latest proposals, the number of constituencies would be cut from 650 to 600, and constituencies would contain between 71,031 and 78,507 voters each.

As well as Corbyn’s Islington North seat, former Brexit secretary David Davis would also see his Haltemprice and Howden seat disappear.

Political analysts agree that the planned changes are likely to benefit the Conservatives the most, while putting Labour at a disadvantage.

Under the new system, the hung parliament of the 2017 election would probably have resulted in a safe Conservative majority, says The Guardian’s Peter Walker.

However, some big-name Tories, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, “could face a tougher battle due to changes to the composition of their seats”, the BBC reports.

Will the shake-up go ahead?

The proposals will need the backing of MPs and peers, but according to Sky News election analyst Michael Thrasher, winning Commons approval for the changes is likely to prove tricky.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru are all against the proposals, meaning the Conservatives will have to rely on their Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) bedfellows, Thrasher says.

“Previously, this was thought unlikely, but the final report may be slightly better for the DUP,” he continues, but adds that the vote “may become more complicated still if individual MPs defy their party whips”.

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