Boundary Commission changes: Labour MP Tulip Siddiq could face tough election test
Tories accused of 'power grab' as move to cut number of MPs is published
13 September, 2018 — By Richard Osley
HAMPSTEAD and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq’s “safe seat” status in the House of Commons has been put at risk by proposed changes to parliamentary constituencies.
The Labour MP won a majority of 15,560 at last year’s general election, a lead which would generally be seen by political analysts as a secure seat. But a new electoral map drawn up by the Boundary Commission, aimed at reducing the number of MPs in parliament, could plunge Ms Siddiq back onto the frontline of the next election by cutting out Kilburn wards where her party traditionally polls well.
A new constituency – named only “Hampstead” – would instead take in two wards from Barnet where the Conservatives have more strength: Hampstead Garden Suburb and Child’s Hill.
If adopted by parliament, the suggested changes published by the Commission on Monday could see Ms Siddiq drawn into a showdown with Mike Freer, the Conservative MP in Finchley and Golders Green whose own constituency would be scissored. While Ms Siddiq would still hold a majority based on the last election results, she would be back within Tory crosshairs; the seat was a campaign target for the Conservatives in 2015 and 2017 before Ms Siddiq’s recent landslide win.
Ms Siddiq said plans to reduce the number of MPs were “absurd”.
“These proposals demonstrate a power grab by the Tories,” she told the New Journal. “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of casework I’m receiving every day and the sheer amount of parliamentary scrutiny required during this time of huge legislative change. Reducing the number of backbench MPs is just a means of trying to avoid scrutiny.”
The changes are looking to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, as agreed in principle by the Commons in 2011, and take into account changes to population so that each seat across the country covers a similar number of people. Campaigners spent days in front of the Commission at evidence-taking sessions arguing for and against the changes.
Oliver Cooper, leader of the Conservatives, said: “Labour constituencies have an average of 5,000 fewer voters than Conservative-held constituencies, giving Labour an in-built and unwarranted 20-seat advantage in the Commons. It is grotesquely undemocratic for Labour to oppose equalising those constituencies.”
He added: “The independent Boundary Commission received twice as many responses from residents in Hampstead than in any other constituency in the country: with 88 per cent backing these proposals. By opposing creating a single constituency for Hampstead, Tulip Siddiq is out of touch with local residents.”
Meanwhile, the changes would also affect Sir Keir Starmer’s Holborn and St Pancras constituency which would take in wards around Tufnell Park – currently in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency. The Labour leader’s constituency would be all but wiped out.
With a new “Camden and St Pancras” constituency on the table, Mr Starmer would lose Labour-supporting wards south of Euston Road to a central London constituency which in turn could make long-serving Conservative MP Mark Field’s task to hold his seat in neighbouring Westminster more of a challenge.
Mr Starmer said: “I am deeply concerned about these changes. I have been working closely with Highgate, Bloomsbury and Holborn & Covent Garden wards on a number of important issues, not least the devastating impact of HS2 over coming years. My strong preference would be to continue my work with and for them”