Monday, September 12, 2011

Norfolk Boundary Review: "Coalition Stitch-Up"?

On my way home from work tonight I met one of Norwich Labour's hardest workers, standing on the street corner visably fuming. Little did I know that the Boundary Review had been leaked and if Guido is correct then Labour have a lot to worry about. My angry socialist friend went off on one about a "coalition stitch-up" which sees all the Tory and LibDem held seats get safer and thus more difficult for Labour to gain. Here in Norwich South there are no changes whatsoever, but Labour's view is that no matter where the boundaries took him Simon Wright is a (political) dead-man walking.

Not so long ago Labour held 3 seats in Norfolk - Norwich N, Norwich S and Yarmouth - with an outside chance of NW Norfolk in a very good year (e.g. 1997). In that year they also got very close to taking SW Norfolk it should be remembered but never actually achieved it.

And now what? With Great Yarmouth taking in the staunchly Conservative areas around the southern tip of North Norfolk, Tory MP Brandon Lewis will have even more blue-backing rural areas to "overwhelm" the Labour folk of GY. In addition, those changes would make North Norfolk safer for LibDem Norman Lamb - and even more so when the strongly LibDem (at General Elections, anyway) area around Fakenham are put back in the seat. That leaves just Norwich North where Chloe Smith will see her majority soar as she takes safe Tory territories of Drayton and Taverham back into her patch.

Despite changes, the new "Kings Lynn" seat is still well out of reach for Labour and "South Norfolk", "Broadland & Dereham" and "Thetford & Swaffham" equally so.

So for Labour their best case scenario of a Norfolk with 3 winnable seats is shot to pieces - just 1 (Norwich S) remains.

My Labour friend seethed and sweated. He believed that this is all a stitch-up to guarantee coalition seats in the county and deny Labour representation. Labour, I am told, will fight this all the way. He argued that Norfolk will have 8 safe seats and 1 marginal and so politics could become very boring indeed in the future.

We'll see. But this Boundary decision, I sense, is far from over.


Comrade said...

Norwich North returns to the same boundaries as 1997-2005. It should still be a swing seat. However, Chloe Smith is a far more formidable candidate than anyone the Tories fielded in 97,01 or 05

Anonymous said...

Safe Tory Taverham ? Lib Dem majority in Taverham North is 667 votes !

Antony said...

Anon - 2 ways of looking at that fact. Either you are correct that Taverham N is very LibDem in which case that won't disturb the balance in a Con/Lab marginal. Or, like me, you believe that Taverham N votes very differently in GEs than LEs and Smith will benefit disproportionately.

Comrade - agreed.

Paul said...

you're back Antony !

Antony said...

Back and more awkward than ever before ;-)

Comrade said...

A key issue in Taverham & Drayton is the near total absence of Labour since 2005. Prior to then Labour did hold their own and even won District seats in Taverham in the mid 90s. In contrast Labour didn't stand in Drayton or Taverham South this year.

By my estimate Lib Dems did win a majority in Taverham North at the GE but as this year's results show have strenghtened since. Curiously in Taverham South the Tories poll a little bit better in local contests than the GE.

On balance the changes do shift the Tory/Labour balance in favour of Chloe Smith. I have a sense of deja vue as I was on the Norwich Labour Exec when Taverham & Drayton were added to Norwich North post 1992. Some were convinced it made the seat unwinnable but results proved otherwise.

At present Labour are right to be gloomy - all through the 1990's Labour were comfortably holding the city wards and competing very well in the Broadland suburbs. Indeed at that time they had victories in every ward in Sprowston, TSA, 2 out of 3 in Hellesdon, Taverham and only missed Old Catton by 60 votes. This year they scraped one seat in Sprowston.

For fans of electoral history - 1987 was last time Labour were attempting to win back both Norwich seats. They anticipated a comfortable gain in Norwich South but only just got it by 300 votes, in Norwich North they lost votes to the Alliance and only just held onto 2nd place.

Antony said...

What an interesting analysis. I fear Labour views might match those previously held Comrade. I understand that whilst the public line is that they fight to win Norwich North, privately they accept these changes will give Miss Smith a safe political berth until the Tories are nationally and decisivly swept from office. In such circumstances Norwich S is the only horse in town for Labour across Norfolk. Hence the trench warfare against these plans begins.

Personally I believe it'll all come down to the North Norfolk wards currently heading for GY. If the local population there fight the changes, which they *might* be able to then the whole county unravels.

Comrade said...

Probably not - Fakenham fought hard to stay in North Norfolk last time but to no avail. Even if the North Norfolk villages did succeed there would be some sort of trade off with villages to the east of Broadland (Acle, Lingwood, Reedham, Freethope etc) going into Yarmouth and North Norfolk villages currently in Broadland staying where they are.