Here come the new seats (same as the old seats)

Details have emerged (care of Guido Fawkes – see, he ain’t all bad, even if he has blocked me on Twitter) of the boundaries review which follows the coalition’s decision to get rid of 50 mps.

There’s a midnight media embargo on it, but it’s midnight where I am, so here’s an early look at how it lines up in Lancashire.

In Blackpool, it’s a case of back to the future – Blackpool South and Blackpool North and Fleetwood will be pretty much as they were from 1997 to 2010.

Fylde gets Poulton-le-Fylde, which strengthens its Tory credentials even further, while Lancaster inhertits much of rural Wyre – again, just as it did before the last review, as well as a few Trough of Bowland towns, including Chipping and Ribchester, which have about as much in common with Lancaster as Fleetwood did. Morecambe and Lunesdale stays much as it ever did, with a bit more Lune Valley added in for good measure.

Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancashire stay much as they were before 2010.

In east Lancs, it all starts getting a bit more bizarre and unfamiliar. While Blackburn stays largely the same, Rossendale and Darwen is squeezed into Darwen and Haslingden, with Rochdale North and Rawtenstall taking the rest (and knocking a few grand off property values in the leafy Rossendale valley, no doubt).

Burnley is split down the middle, with half of it joining with Accrington and the other merging with Pendle. The fag end of Pendle becomes part of a Ribble Valley mega-seat, stretching from the Yorkshire border to the edge of Preston.

But even that doesn’t compare to the megaseat of Penrith and Kendal which stretches, in the commission’s own words, ‘From the outskirts of Carlisle to the Lancashire border.’

The consultation excercise will continue until 2013, after which you’ll see an epic bunfight between existing Tory MPs, not many of whom are ready for the knackers yard just yet, for the choicest morsels.

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‘Thank God I don’t have to vote Tory’

Were those the words echoing in the ears of millions of voters on Friday morning? Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems appear to have the initiative, taking advantage of a collpasing Labour vote and pinning the Tories back to a total that’s barely better than they managed in 2005. It’s not quite a ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government‘ moment, but Clegg’s party looks to be on the threshold of a major breakthrough to compare to its 1997 success, guaranteeing them seats at the next cabinet table, regardless of who is at its head.
I’ve long sensed that the Tories, just like Neil Kinnock in ’92, hadn’t sealed the deal with the electorate. Cameron’s Eton background and lack of real political pedigree, combined with the lumbering collective memory of the 90s ‘nasty party’ suggested that, while they may have enough votes for an overall majority, many of those casting their ballots would be holding their noses and hoping for the best. The more viable the Lib Dem alternative looks, the more likely it is to pick up votes – and with the way the latest polls are looking, could it be that the rise will be self perpetuating and the Lib-Dems getting towards the magical 40 per cent their polls say would vote Lib Dem if they thought the party could win?

More likely, in my opinion, is a slide back towards the main parties, leaving the Lib Dems perhaps targetting an extra 20 seats and getting within two or three points of Labour. So here goes. First prediction of the election;

Conservatives – 34 per cent
Labour – 29 per cent
Lib-Dems – 26 per cent

Most likely the Lib Dems will take seats where they’re currently second to Labour rather than surging through from third (look for Pendle as a possible, interesting exception). Also there would be a small Con to Lib swing, so a handful of tight seats could fall.

According to the excellent BBC election calculator, that leaves Labour as the largest party with 282 seats, 44 short of a majority, the Tories on 260 and the Lib-Dems on 79. And we’re into hung parliament territory with a vengeance…

Quick word on the previous post; Still no sign of Labour in Blackpool South, one leaflet from Ron Bell (couple of pics of David Cameron, tiny Conservative logo well below the fold and an oblique reference to Kensingtongate). The Lib Dems also remain conspicious by their absence.