The Tories’ plan to lock themselves into power indefinitely is under threat, from their own MPs

Tracy Keeling

The Conservatives’ plan to ensure they retain power indefinitely is under threat. In order to be successful, the plan depends on the Conservative government succeeding in redrawing constituency boundaries. But the party’s own MPs now look set to fight against these boundary changes to save their own skins.

Making the 2020 election count for the Tories

A boundary review was promised by the Conservative government two days after winning the 2015 general election. It is billed as a cost-cutting exercise, and was formally launched in February of this year. Its stated aim is to reduce the number of constituencies, and therefore MPs, from 650 to 600 – by equalising the number of voters in each area. The new arrangement will be put before parliament for approval in 2018.

The government’s suspected motive for the changes is to increase the number of Conservative constituencies, so it can try to garner a stronger majority in parliament in the 2020 general election. According to research by Conservative peer Robert Hayward, the changes may affect 200 Labour Party seats. He says Labour may lose 30 seats completely.

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Ruin Labour by all means, but don’t come after us

But the review would also affect some Conservative seats. And Tory MPs are now starting to speak out against the changes.

In the Commons, Conservative MPs seized on the lack of any reform in the House of Lords to challenge the plans. Broxbourne MP Charles Walker, who chairs the Procedures Committee, said:

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It seems perverse to reduce the number of elected representatives in this place while the Lords continues to gorge itself on new arrivals.

Mr Speaker, I believe in an appointed upper House but not at the current price and not at the expense of this elected and therefore accountable chamber.

We in this place must guard against bringing this country’s democratic settlement into disrepute.

Shipley MP Phillip Davis, the notorious Commons filibustering expert, commented:

We also have the situation whereby the Government are proposing to reduce the number of MPs by 50 but not reduce the number of ministers by an equal proportion, thereby giving the Government more control over the House of Commons, which clearly has to be an outrage.

Commons Speaker John Bercow agreed with Davis’ comment that the number of government ministers should be reduced if the boundary changes go ahead.

Laying down barriers to the boundary review

These demands, reducing the number of Lords and government ministers, are not likely to be met easily. Reforming the House of Lords has always been a hot topic, but any real action to tackle it has often fallen flat. The 2010 Coalition government vowed to reform the Lords, by making it an elected house, but plans were scuppered by Tory MPs.

Furthermore, even if these conditions could be met, the process would be lengthy. Theresa May’s government would struggle to ensure it can commit to these changes before the parliamentary vote on the boundary review in 2018.

Now that Conservative MPs are speaking out against the government’s proposals, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the boundary review will be implemented any time soon. Ensuring these demands are met, and constituencies redrawn, by the 2020 general election would be no small feat.

A failure to do so would certainly please Labour MPs facing the electoral chop or reselection. As it would the Conservative MPs facing the same fate.

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Featured image via Chatham House/Flickr

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