Wednesday, 12 October 2016

My alternative proposals: Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes

Northamptonshire, which like much of the East Midlands has been a key battleground between the Conservative and Labour Parties for decades (Northampton North has been a bellwether constituency since it was created for the February 1974 general election), is a shining example of the disparity between current constituency sizes. Each Northampton constituency only has just over 57,000 electors (57032 and 57389 for North and South), whilst South Northamptonshire has 84,427 electors, nearly 1 1/2 times as many. With Northamptonshire only being entitled to 6.60 constituencies under the 2018 review, it must have a cross-county constituency somewhere-but where?

I personally disagree that it needs to be with Leicestershire. This is because even though there are good road links between the towns of Daventry and Lutterworth, it would cause serious problems for other constituencies in Leicestershire, most of which represent properly connected areas. Due to the awkward rural ward sizes in the majority of Northamptonshire, I have not been able to create a satisfactory 'Kettering & Harborough' seat, and plans for such will be resisted quite strongly even though the towns of Oadby and Wigston (the entirety of this borough comprises over half the Harborough constituency in electorate terms) are closer to, and connect just as well with, the city of Leicester.

Nor should the county of Rutland be paired with Northamptonshire, either via Corby or via East Northamptonshire, to satisfy the quotas the BCE must work under. Rutland does have road links with Northamptonshire but its transport links with Leicestershire are superior in most respects, especially by train. I think relatively minimum change, as the Boundary Commission for England, recommend, is the wisest option here. One must be careful about how far the redrawn Northampton South should extend-it should not extend into any Wellingborough wards, as the BCE has initially proposed, at any rate.

Normally, I would advocate for the large town of Milton Keynes to be treated along with the rest of the South East region. However, there are three good reasons why the town of Milton Keynes does not really belong there:

1. It is in fact north of London geographically, and as it has grown it has become more and more distant from the county of Buckinghamshire where it was situated before it became a new town.
2. Trains from all five of its railway stations will only go to Northamptonshire or to Bedfordshire, not to anywhere in Buckinghamshire. Buckingham no longer has a railway station, and if it were re-opened it would be better connected to Aylesbury anyway.
3. Milton Keynes' road links outside Milton Keynes mainly lead to Northamptonshire or to Bedfordshire. The main road link to Buckinghamshire, specifically Buckingham, only links from the centre of Milton Keynes.

Both of Milton Keynes' constituencies are well in excess of the upper limit of 78,507, and part of Milton Keynes has to go somewhere. I propose that the suburbs of Bradwell, Wolverton and Stony Stratford be linked with southern Northamptonshire (which includes a village called Old Stratford) as there is a good road connection between the two along the M1. This will also lessen the disruption to otherwise sensible constituencies in Northamptonshire. The BCE is fundamentally correct to propose the Newport Pagnell/Bletchley split, but their proposals need some slight modification.

Here is what I believe Milton Keynes' new constituencies should look like:

And what Northamptonshire's new constituencies should look like (NB: the total electorate of South Northamptonshire & Wolverton is thus 75,981)

South Northamptonshire & Wolverton succeeds South Northamptonshire.

The final part of the East Midlands section of my alternative constituencies for the 2018 review will focus on Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

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