Sunday, June 05, 2011

British Tories Burying Their Coalition Partner?

Lib Dems to suffer in district re-draw

When Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg secured the Alternative Vote referendum -- already disastrous for his party -- as a condition of joining the Conservative Party in a governing coalition, there was one thing he himself had to give up:

He had to agree to the withdrawing of electoral boundaries, one in which the size of Parliament would be reduced by 50 seats.

After suffering an embarrassing defeat in the AV referendum, it seems the LDP may suffer further.

According to modelling conducted by Liverpool University's Lewis Baston, the Liberal Democrats stand to lose nearly 25% of their seats (14 of 67 seats). The Labour Party would lose 17 of 256 seats while the Tories would lose 16 of their 306 seats.

"The Liberal Democrats are likely to lose out more than the other main parties because their seats are yellow islands in a sea of red or blue," Baston explained. "Changing the boundaries is more likely to bring in hostile territories, their majorities tend to be smaller than Labour or Conservative MPs and their Lib Dems trade a lot on incumbency and constituency service. That is disrupted by a boundary review."

Yet Baston notes that nearly no seat would be safe under this proposed re-distribution. Among the Tory MPs who could face stronger challenges for their seats are Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady. Both are of vital importance to the party politically.

Unless Prime Minister David Cameron is committed enough to this re-distrubtion to attach Parliamentary confidence to it -- although it's hard to see why he would do such a thing -- it's entirely possible that worried Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs may team up to defeat the proposal.

In other words, it could be the Tories suffering their own versin of the Alternative Vote defeat. If enough disconcert is stirred up, it's not unthinkable this could be the end of the coalition altogether.

For the Liberal Democrats, it proposes them with what may very well be a distinct non-choice: either bury the electoral re-distribution, and the coalition with it, or risk being buried themselves.

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