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Boundary Commission: what’s in it for Labour?

THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION has radically revised its proposals for new parliamentary boundaries in East London – and in doing so it has given sitting Labour MPs a relatively easy ride.

At the moment, the six MPs in the key East London Boroughs of Tower HamletsNewham and Barking & Dagenham are all Labour (two per borough). With the Boundary Commission carving up the parliamentary seats into a new cross-borough configuration, each sitting MP will be looking for a new constituency in which to continue their parliamentary career.

All six local MPs are from the Labour Party – and Labour has strong support in these three boroughs. The Labour Party is currently selecting candidates for marginal seats but is expected to move on to its safer seats in a matter of months. Jim Fitzpatrick (currently MP for Poplar & Limehouse) has already announced that he will not contest a seat at the next scheduled General Election, so the remaining five Labour MPs will have been hoping the changes would leave them five parliamentary seats to share out between them.

The two MPs in Barking & Dagenham, Margaret Hodge and Jon Cruddas respectively, will be able to choose one of the two new seats to go for: Barking & Beckton, or Dagenham & Rainham. The Barking seat will take in two wards from Newham and the Dagenham seat will take in three wards from Havering. This will be irksome for the two sitting MPs, but still gives them clear seats which are mostly in the borough of Barking & Dagenham.

It is not clear whether Margaret Hodge – the Right Honourable Dame Margaret Hodge DBE MP, that is – will wish to continue. She is currently 73 and if the next General Election is at the scheduled time and elects a Parliament which sits for five years, she could expect to be in Parliament until she is 83 – which is no age at all for a Member of the House of Commons, especially now that seats in the House of Lords are not so easy to come by for retiring Members of the Commons.

However, Hodge was the anti-Corbyn stalking horse in the last Parliament: it was she who asked the Parliamentary Labour Party to hold a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn just after he was first elected Leader of the Labour Party. It is possible she will wish to call it a day rather than continue to represent a Labour Party which he leads, as her coup attempt just made her look rather foolish and lacking, as many had long suspected, in political judgement.

If Hodge does retire, we can expect to see a great deal of interest from Labour Party members wishing to inherit her relatively safe seat.

The two MPs in Newham – Lyn Brown (West Ham) and Stephen Timms (East Ham) – will have a slightly more difficult decision. Stephen Timms would be the best fit for the new seat of East Ham, which contains nine wards, all of which are in Newham (two wards in East Ham are being shunted into Barking & Beckton).  This would leave Lyn Brown to choose between the new seat of Leyton & Stratford (only four wards from her old West Ham seat, plus five from Waltham Forest) and the new seat of Poplar & Canning Town (five wards from her old West Ham seat, plus six wards from Tower Hamlets).

Sitting Labour MP Jon Cryer may be aiming to fight Leyton & Stratford, as his Leyton & Wanstead seat has been divided into Leyton and Wanstead – each half being teamed with other wards to make a new seat – so he will have to choose one of them. Lyn Brown will not want to take him on if it is not necessary, so she is more likely to opt to pursue the Poplar & Canning Town option, where her selection would not be contested by the retiring Jim Fitzpatrick.

This would leave Rushanara Ali (sitting MP for Bethnal Green & Bow) to contest the remaining seat in Tower Hamlets, having lost four wards to the new seat of Shoreditch & Bethnal Green.

For more information about the Boundary Commission’s proposals, or to comment on them (comments must be made before 11th December) go to:

•Read more about it:
Boundary Commission carves up the East End
Boundary Commission plans for East London
Boundary Commission throws Rushanara a lifeline


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