On Tuesday, the Boundary Commission for England published its draft proposals for new constituency boundaries.
Parliament has asked them - and their fellow Boundary Commissions in the other parts of the UK - to review constituency boundaries for two reasons. First, to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - pretty much every other public service is having to make savings and politics shouldn't be immune from that. And second, the current boundaries are unfair - there is a wide variation in constituency size and as a result some areas are over-represented in Parliament and other areas, including Croydon, are under-represented. For example, Croydon has an electorate of just under 245,000 and is represented by three Members of Parliament; the Wirral in Merseyside has an electorate of just under 240,000 but is represented by four MPs. That can't be right. And this unfairness benefits the Labour Party - a report by the scrupulously independent Royal Academy estimated that it gave them an additional 18 seats at the last Election.
The problem is that the only way to get fairer, more equal-sized constituencies is to have more constituencies that cross council boundaries and hence cover two or more communities that may not have a lot in common. Croydon is a case in point – we deserve three-and-a-bit seats and the only way to achieve that is to have a seat that is part Croydon and part a neighbouring borough. Not ideal but in my opinion a price worth paying for a fairer electoral system.
The Commission have chosen to pair Croydon with the London Borough of Sutton. I think this is the right choice - we are already paired together when it comes to our seat on the Greater London Authority and many people in places like Wallington and Beddington look to Croydon as much as to Sutton.
Rather than having three MPs then, we will now have four but two of them will represent parts of Sutton as well as parts of Croydon. The names of the proposed new seats are Croydon Central & St Helier, Croydon East, Croydon North and Purley & Carshalton.
Rather confusingly, only one ward (Fairfield) that is in the current Croydon Central (the seat I represent) goes into the proposed Croydon Central & St Helier seat. It is joined by Broad Green ward from the current Croydon North, Croham and Waddon wards from the current Croydon South and five wards from Sutton. It is a good idea to bring the four wards surrounding Croydon town centre together. Politically, my instinct is that this is a seat that all three of the main parties would have a chance of winning.
The proposed Croydon East seat contains the other 7 wards from the current Croydon Central plus Selsdon & Ballards ward from the current Croydon South. If these proposals are adopted, this is the seat I would therefore apply for. There is a strong case for linking Selsdon & Ballards with Heathfield ward - the Ballards estate used to be part of Heathfield ward and Forestdale and Monks Hill look to Selsdon as their district centre. I am also pleased to see, in the light of the mistaken decision to approve the Menta planning application, that Addiscombe hasn't been treated as a town centre ward but has been included in Croydon East. Politically, It would be a stronger Conservative seat than the current Croydon Central (I would have won it by approximately 5,500 in 2010, compared with my majority of just under 3,000 in the current Croydon Central). Given that New Addington is a town in its own right geographically seperate from the rest of the Borough I think there is a strong case for calling the seat Croydon East & New Addington.
The proposed Croydon North seat is the existing Croydon North minus Broad Green and would therefore remain a safe Labour seat.
The proposed Purley & Carshalton seat is the current Croydon South minus Croham, Selsdon & Ballards and Waddon wards plus four wards from Sutton. It would be a safe Conservative seat, albeit not as safe as the current Croydon South.
You can see and comment on the Commission’s draft proposals for London here. I will be supporting the proposals for the reasons given above (they give Croydon an extra voice in Parliament; if we have to be linked with another borough, Sutton is the right one; it makes sense to put the four wards - Broad Green, Croham, Fairfield and Waddon - around the town centre into the same seat; it also makes sense to have Heathfield ward and Selsdon & Ballards ward in the same seat; Addiscombe is not a town centre ward and it is therefore right that it is in Croydon East not Croydon Central & St Helier) and arguing that the Croydon East seat should be renamed Croydon East & New Addington. I would encourage you to do the same.