Boundary changes could give Blair election boost

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair could oust John Major from Downing Street with a lead of only 1 per cent in the popular vote at the next general election, according to a survey of seats after boundary changes.

The Tories will require a lead over Labour of 4 per cent for Mr Major to hang on to office and it could be as high as 8 per cent, according to the survey by two academics, Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, of Plymouth University.

The Tories have gained about six seats from the boundary changes. But the report, for ITN, BBC, SKY News and PA News, suggests that the concentration of voters in small constituencies gives Labour the edge over the Tories.

It also suggests boundary changes will help Labour to win "middle England" where Mr Blair's modernised Labour must gain Tory voters to stand a chance of victory.

In several cases, the reworking of constituency boundaries within the Tory shire counties has created seats which Labour can win.

In London, where 10 seats will disappear, the Tories will lose 7 seats compared with 3 lost by Labour. Labour's lead over the Tories has been narrowed in a recent Gallup poll by 7 per cent, but Labour still has a commanding 28 per cent lead over the Tories.

The figures are certain to be studied closely by the Cabinet at its political session on Thursday. However, they still support Mr Blair in his warning to his party against complacency about a Labour victory.

If Labour does not perform as well as the opinion polls suggest, there could be a hung parliament with Mr Blair depending on Liberal Democrat support. Labour will need a swing of 4.3 per cent and 57 extra seats for outright victory. It needed only a 4.1 per cent swing at the last election.

The report says the Tories are in second place in a higher proportion of Labour marginal seats than Labour is in Tory ones. As a result, Labour will get a lower return of seats for each 1 per cent swing in its favour than under the old boundaries.

The target Tory seats Labour need for victory by region are: EAST ANGLIA - Norwich North (swing to gain 1.9), Waveney (3.6); EAST MIDLANDS - Corby (0.3), Leicestershire North West (0.7), Amber Valley (1.0), Derbyshire South (1.5), Loughborough (3.4), Northampton North (3.5), Derby North (3.7), High Peak (4.0); LONDON - Hayes & Harlington (0.05), Croydon North (0.1), Edmonton (0.6), Brentford & Isleworth (1.4), Mitcham & Morden (1.7), Eltham (1.9), Ilford South (2.4); NORTH - Middlesborough South & Cleveland East (1.2), Tynemouth (3.1); NORTH WEST - Rochdale (Lib Dem) (0.12), Blackpool South (0.3), Bury South (0.6), Chester (2.0), Chorley (2.0), Warrington South (2.4), Bury North (4.0), Bolton West (4.1); SOUTH EAST - Luton South (0.5), Dover (0.7), Harlow (1.5), Crawley (1.8), Basildon (2.19), Brighton Pavilion (2.5), Stevenage (2.6); SOUTH WEST - Plymouth Sutton (1.0), Exeter (2.4), Kingswood (2.5), Falmouth & Camborne (3.8), Gloucester (4.3); WEST MIDLANDS - Halesowen & Rowley Regis (0.1), Coventry South (2.5), Worcester (2.8), Redditch (3.3), Burton (3.5), Birmingham Hall Green (3.9); YORKSHIRE AND HUMBERSIDE - Batley & Spen (0.8), Elmet (2.8), Keighley (3.2), Calder Valley (4.0), Leeds North East (4.29); SCOTLAND - Stirling (0.2), Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber (Lib Dem) (1.9); WALES - Vale of Glamorgan (0.02), Preseli Pembrokeshire (0.6), Vale of Clwyd (2.4), Cardiff North (3.1), Monmouth (3.15).