Lib Dem chiefs to lose out in latest changes to political map


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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrat leadership is facing decapitation at the next election as the seats held by many of its big names disappear in a sweeping review of parliamentary boundaries.

The proposed constituency cuts: click here to download graphic (127k)

The Boundary Commission yesterday published proposals to cut the number of English constituencies from 533 to 502. Labour is likely to sustain the biggest losses after the political map is redrawn, but proportionately the Liberal Democrats look set to be hit hardest.

Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Tim Farron are among senior Liberal Democrats who will see the seats they occupy abolished in their current form. The Twickenham constituency held by Mr Cable, the Business Secretary, since 1997, will be split, leaving him with a potential showdown with the Tory Zac Goldsmith.

Mr Farron, the party president, appears to be the major loser as Cumbrian seats are trimmed from six to five and his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency is parcelled out to surrounding constituencies. Mr Huhne's Eastleigh powerbase is also being recast, potentially threatening his majority at the next election.

The Deputy Prime Minister's Sheffield Hallam constituency will be abolished. Most of it will be transferred into the new seat of Sheffield West and Penistone but with one predominantly Tory ward added.

The Labour Party has denounced the whole exercise as "gerrymandering" and has vowed to resist it. According to some estimates, Labour could lose 30 seats when the full proposals for the United Kingdom are announced. The changes, designed to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs – the smallest number since the 19th century – will also roughly equalise the size of constituencies to 72,810 to 80,473 electors.

Labour says the move hits it unfairly because its urban strongholds have large numbers who are not on the electoral register.

The clash that party managers will try hardest to avoid is in West Yorkshire, where shadow Cabinet colleagues Ed Balls and Hilary Benn will see parts of each of their seats merged. In south London, the shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, and the rising star Chuka Ummana could find themselves going head to head to win the nomination to contest a merged seat.

The most prominent Tory seat to vanish will be Chancellor George Osborne's Tatton constituency in Cheshire. Much of it will go to a new Northwich seat, which looks a safe Conservative prospect.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, will be less sanguine about the proposal to turn Chingford and Woodford Green constituency into Chingford and Edmonton. The move threatens to cost him more than half his 12,963 majority.

The proposals for Scotland are to follow next month and could leave the senior Liberal Democrats Danny Alexander and Charles Kennedy scrapping it out to represent a giant Highland constituency.

Recommendations for Wales, where seats are being cut from 40 to 30, will be published in January.