Letter: A closer look at the boundaries

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Sir: We read with interest the report of the work by McLean and Mortimore on the Boundary Commission review of parliamentary seats in England ('Labour could lose 13 seats under boundary review', 19 October). We, too, published two papers on this topic last week.

In one of them, we tackled the topic that McLean and Mortimore only allude to: the representation of London boroughs. If the decision is taken not to cross borough boundaries (as was done at the last review, after consultations with the political parties, who are thus given a privileged position in the procedure) then some boroughs will be seriously under-represented and others significantly over-represented. The degree of under- and over- representation will be much greater than it was after the last review.

We have produced an optimal grouping of pairs of boroughs which eliminates most of the under- and over-representation. This could mean reducing the 32 boroughs to 16 pairs. However, grouping just five pairs and leaving the other 22 boroughs separate would remove most of the serious malrepresentation.

If borough boundaries are not crossed, we estimate that the Conservatives will lose five to six seats, and Labour three to five. If five pairs of boroughs were used, the result would probably be five lost seats for the Tories and two for Labour; if all 16 pairs were used, each party could lose up to nine seats, with a substantial increase in the number of marginals (from nine to 14). We wonder what the parties' responses to an inquiry from the Commission regarding the desirability of grouping boroughs will be.

Yours faithfully,

RON JOHNSTON, University of Essex; DAVE ROSSITER, Oxford University; CHARLES PATTIE, University of Nottingham