Jeremy could soon be bagging new ground and Angie’s patch ‘Will Be More Marginal’ Under Proposed Changes to Surrey’s Constituency Boundaries.
Guildford’s parliamentary constituency would not remain such a safe Conservative seat, according to well placed Tory and Lib Dem sources, if proposed Boundary Commission changes go ahead.
Surrey would gain an extra seat, moving from 11 to 12. All Surrey seats are currently in a Conservative stranglehold.
The major change locally would be the removal of a large area south of the North Downs, including Cranleigh and surrounding villages. A seat formerly held by MP Anne Milton and retained by MP Angela Richardson at the last election with a reduced majority. If the new arrangements go ahead the Guildford constituency will include villages in the east of the borough including Ripley and the Horsleys currently part of Mole Valley.
Given the popularity dip, the Conservatives suffered in the borough of Waverley and in Guildford during the recent Surrey County Council elections, the changes are likely to make both Waverley and Guildford more marginal. Certainly, local Lib Dems are pinning their hopes on that being the case.
The South West Surrey Constituency would also see a major change. effectively it would be divided into two becoming Godalming and Ash and Farnham and Bordon. The move of Ash and Ash Vale from Surrey Heath and the cross-county boundary constituency of Farnham and Bordon might prove controversial.
The Boundary Commission whose review for England is estimated to have cost £2.5 million, said it had “not always been possible to allocate whole numbers of constituencies to individual counties” or to avoid crossing boundaries.
How the current incumbents of Guildford and Guildford South West will decide which constituency they chose will be interesting. Very interesting. Jeremy Hunt might want to switch to the new Farnham seat while Angela Richardson, a resident of Ewhurst outside the new Guildford constituency, might prefer the new Godalming and Ash seat?
As we post. Ms Richardson remains tight-lipped. She well knows that there are many Lib Dem votes in Guildford town and the Lib Dems took the seat as recently as 20 years ago. However, there is now a very strong Lib Dem contingent in Godalming and villages backing wannabe MP Paul Follows. A man who cut his teeth at Godalming town council made his name in Waverley where he is now the leader and has recently been elected as a Surrey County Councillor. Plenty of experience going under his belt?
Currently, Mrs Richardson has the smallest majority in Surrey, 3,317, but one. Along with all affected MPs, she will be considering her options and her position on the proposals. Mrs Richardson, a former Cranleigh parish councillor who failed to nab a seat at Waverley BC will go anywhere in the country, and did so, to find favour.
Local party organisations will also be affected. The Conservative and Labour associations are organised on parliamentary constituency lines so the changes would require a major reorganisation for them too. Older members would be lost, some who might be in key positions, and new ones taken on.
Fundraising is another critical factor. As one local Conservative member told The Guildford Dragon:
“Some individual branches raise considerably more than others. No one wants to lose a rich branch to another seat.”
Guildford Conservative Association is likely to be loath to lose the Cranleigh area thought to be very productive in the fundraising stakes. Mainly due to the huge efforts of Mrs Richardson, one of the party’s biggest fundraisers.
The initial proposals will now be subject to consultations and revisions. The first one will run for eight weeks before closing on August 2.
A second consultation with public hearings will then get underway in spring 2022, followed by a final four-week consultation on revised plans in autumn 2022.
Final recommendations are due by July 1, 2023, after which the government has four months to implement the plans.
The changes will only come into effect in late 2023, which could be too late for the next election if the prime minister decides to call it early as he or she might be able to do under The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, if enacted.
If that were to happen before the new boundaries are in place, the election would be fought on the old boundaries.
Some polling experts have suggested the review could hand more seats to the Tories. But the BBC is quoting Martin Baxter, founder of Electoral Calculus, saying it was likely to be a mixed bag.
He said: “People have been moving from Wales and the north of England down to the south, which means fewer seats in the north and more seats in the south.
“That helps the Conservatives overall, but not as much as it might have done since they now hold some ‘red wall’ seats themselves which might disappear, and there will also be more seats in Labour-friendly areas such as London.”
Public feedback to the initial plans set out in the 2018 review changed 50% of the initial plans.