Today’s proposed new electoral map of Britain, set out by the Boundary Commission, has provoked much speculation about the likely impact at the next election. It also inspired us in the health team to take a look at how the big health names in British politics may be affected.
To start with the Health Secretary seems appropriate, though the outcome is fairly mundane. Under changes to Andrew Lansley’s South Cambridgeshire constituency, his projected majority over the Liberal Democrats would fall by about 1,000 to 6,785. Larger swings are certainly possible, but Lansley is unlikely to be losing much sleep as a result of the announcement (that’s not to say that he has nothing else to worry about in the coming months).
The fate of his opposite number, however, is less certain. John Healey’s Wentworth & Dearne seat is due to be broken up. The drama of this announcement is somewhat nullified, however, with the creation of the Rawmarsh constituency, which includes most of Wentworth & Dearne’s wards (and a couple from Rotherham). It is likely that Healey will just be dropped into this new seat, which has a solid projected Labour majority of 13,565 over the Conservatives.
Health Select Committee Chairman Stephen Dorrell’s Charnwood constituency is also due to be broken up, though the new Mid Leicestershire constituency that rises from its ashes will yield a projected Conservative majority of 12,899 over the Liberal Democrats, so, once again, he has little to worry about. Health ministers Simon Burns and Anne Milton have projected majorities of 4,840 and 7,472 respectively, each taking a gentle knock of only about 300 on where they currently stand. They will, nonetheless, be hoping that the controversy around the health reforms does not translate into a strong campaign against them at the next election.
A knock of about 300 would seem far less gentle to Paul Burstow, the only Liberal Democrat in the Department of Health, and afflicted with a precarious majority of 1,608 over the Conservatives. Changes to his seat at Sutton & Cheam would slash his majority to one of the thinnest in Parliament at – cue wincing intake of breath – 426. Given the Liberal Democrats’ current travails in the polls, Mr Burstow’s constituency will be one to watch at the next election.
The effect of these changes will obviously not become apparent for some time – and will largely depend on the fortunes of each of the political parties over the coming years. The key players in the Department of Health have nominal majorities ranging from as low as 426 to 7,472. We can’t help but recall the 2010 General Election, when the team of ministers at the Department of Health (with majorities ranging from 7,533 to 1,517) were wiped out.
These boundary changes, then, mean little in themselves. But they do nudge a few key figures just a little closer to the precipice.