Shake-up leaves Yorkshire MPs facing battle to find new seats

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls (left) and Shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls (left) and Shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn
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A STRING of senior Yorkshire MPs face battles to find new seats for the next election as plans to cut four constituencies in the region sparked a angry backlash.

Former Cabinet Minister David Blunkett, whose current Sheffield seat will be split between three new constituencies under the new political map of Yorkshire revealed yesterday, warned that traditional communities would be divided and called for people to fight the plans “tooth and nail”.

Labour’s frontbench couple Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper will both see their current West Yorkshire seats split into new constituencies, while the Leeds Central constituency of Shadow Leader of the Commons Hilary Benn will be splintered into four new seats.

Former Tory frontbencher David Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, could be forced to fight Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy for the Tory candidacy in a Goole and Cottingham seat.

The proposals will also spark controversy as several seats cross historic boundaries between local authorities and North and West Yorkshire. South Yorkshire loses one seat, as does the East Riding, Hull and North and North East Lincolnshire, while two will go across West and North Yorkshire.

Only five of the existing 54 seats in Yorkshire and Humber – Labour leader Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat, Doncaster Central, Don Valley, Rother Valley along with Scarborough and Whitby – will stay unchanged according to the proposals unveiled by the Boundary Commission yesterday.

The map has been redrawn by the independent Boundary Commission as part of Government plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 to save £12m a year and make sure all MPs represent a similar number of voters – within five per cent of 76,641 electors. The plans will now go out for consultation.

Mr Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said: “I can’t think of a bigger insult to the electorate, an undermining of democratic representation or a London-centric approach to local communities than is illustrated by the Boundary Commission’s proposals.”

He said people had been “badly let down by the imposition of this mathematical formula”.

Shipley MP Philip Davies, whose seat is being carved up into five new ones, said he was “bitterly disappointed”, but said the Boundary Commission had been given a “thankless task”.

“I think most of my constituents will be very unhappy about being split into lots of other constituencies they don’t feel such a strong affinity to politically,” he said.

Wakefield will go from having a single MP to being split between three seats, while Selby and Castleford will be put together and a Leeds North West and Nidderdale seat will cover communities from the north Leeds suburbs all the way up to Pateley Bridge.

Sources close to Ms Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said some decisions “make no sense to local communities” but blamed Government “gerrymandering” rather than the Boundary Commission.

Mr Balls – whose Normanton seat was abolished before the 2005 election – finds the Morley and Outwood seat he narrowly won last year divided between a Leeds South and Outwood constituency and a Leeds South West and Morley seat.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat will be abolished, but 80 per cent of it will move into a new Sheffield West and Penistone seat. Three quarters of Foreign Secretary William Hague’s Richmond seat will be contained in a new Richmond and Thirsk seat.

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew said he was “staggered” at the extent of change across the region while Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland said some changes were “not very sensible”.

Simon James, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, said the body had “found a solution that we think best meets Parliament’s rules and now we want to know what people think of our initial proposals”.