Now that we are well into the consultation periods over the Parliamentary boundary changes, how are the proposals going down with MPs? The answer to that we know thanks to new polling of MPs published by ComRes.
A reduction in the number of MPs and a more uniform constituency size means many MPs are facing up to the likelihood of their seat changing or even going, throwing them into a selection contest against neighbouring fellow MPs for the best seat.
Therefore, although reducing the number of MPs was a firm Conservative policy, it is no surprise that 22% of them are now opposed to it. However, only 3% of them think the boundary changes and reduction in number of seats will not go through in time for the 2015 election (with another 18% saying ‘don’t know’). But even if the Conservatives are returned to power, the proposed once-per-Parliament future reviews look unlikely to survive as already 51% of Conservative MPs are opposed to having regular reviews quite so regularly.
The views of Labour MPs are neither surprising nor hard to describe: they don’t like what is going on. 91% are opposed to equalising boundaries and reducing seats, and 85% do not want once-per-Parliament reviews in future. However, even 60% of Labour MPs expect the changes to go through in time for the 2015 election.
The most sceptical are Liberal Democrat MPs, with only 43% of them thinking the changes will go through. Another 43% say they don’t know, a sign perhaps that Liberal Democrat MPs have at the back of their minds the thought that if Conservatives do not deliver on key Liberal Democrat demands (such as reform of the House of Lords), the changes to Parliamentary boundaries may end up being what Liberal Democrat MPs vote down in response.
With only just under half (48%) of Lib Dem MPs supporting the boundary changes, defeating them would not be met with widespread Liberal Democrat anguish.
Certainly, party strategists I have spoken to expect the threat of a rebellion over Parliamentary boundaries to be a significant negotiating factor if the Conservatives do try to walk away from any of the central commitments in the Coalition Agreement, Lords reform included.
Labour MPs may well therefore be unduly pessimistic about the chances of heading off a reform they do not like.