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Boundary change threat to big names

Big names on both sides of the Commons face seeing their powerbases wiped from the constituency map under changes aimed at culling MPs' numbers by 50 to 600.

However some may find boltholes under the newly published provisional proposals.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as forecast, is set to see the disappearance of Sheffield Hallam under the axe wielded by the Boundary Commission for England. However he may have the last laugh as the net result could be two new Liberal Democrat seats in the city.

On the basis of the 2010 council elections - fought on the same day as the 2010 Westminster polls - his party would have won both Sheffield South West and Sheffield West and Penistone. Even in this year's Lib Dem council contest rout in the city, they were still ahead in the second constituency.

The most prominent Tory casualty is Tatton in Cheshire, represented by Chancellor George Osborne, but much of the constituency will go into a new Northwich seat.

In the Labour ranks, shadow chancellor Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) and shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) see their neighbouring seats on the condemned list but they may avoid a fierce party selection battle as two new ones are born in the area.

They are Leeds South and Outwood, and Leeds South West and Morley. Both would have much bigger majorities for the party than Mr Balls's current 1,101.

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Conservatives of "gerrymandering" the electoral system, although the party said it would "engage constructively" with the commission's consultation process. "We have serious concerns about the Government's decision to change the boundaries, which we believe was an act of gerrymandering by the Conservative Party," Mr Miliband said.

The Government insisted that the review was about "equality and fairness" - ensuring all constituencies had roughly the same number of voters.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had sympathy with MPs who were facing the loss of their seats due to the reform, his spokesman said: "We believe the policy is the right one. It is Government policy to ensure this happens. That was set out in the coalition agreement."


From Belfast Telegraph