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.

Fawkeswit strikes again . . . but he’s got a point

Tory blogger Guido Fawkes probably doesn’t remember much about university. His spell at Humberside College of Higher Education (formerly Scumbag Polytechnic) was largely spent trying to build an alliance between the Tory students (in their hang Nelson Mandela days) and the BNP. All the ecstasy and LSD the then-Paul Delarie-Staines shoved down his throat as a rave organiser probably didn’t help, nor did his drinking.

But that doesn’t forgive his (and some of his more simple-minded commenters) decision to dub my alma mater, the fantastic University of Lancaster, a ‘third-rate university in a comment about its takeover of the think-tank the Work Foundation.

For the record, it’s in the top 10 UK universities in all four major higher education surveys (sixth, according to The Guardian). A minute on Google would’ve done the trick.

But, on a wider point, Staines (who knows a thing or two about bankruptcy himself) is right – if for all the wrong reasons.

The Work Foundation and its leader, Will Hutton, undoubtedly have the potential to make a contribution to Lancaster – but not from London. This country is unbalanced enough as it is. Universities like Lancaster are one of the few counterweights, bringing jobs, investment, education and innovation to the regions. But if Lancaster’s got a spare £27 million knocking about, it needs to stay in the North-West. With spending cuts shafting higher education (and especially students), putting money into an organisation with posh offices in the capital is not only a poor investment, but a betrayal of the mission of universities like Lancaster to build up the regions.
And yes, there’s an arguments that London is where the people at the Work Foundation need to do their business – but that’s the problem. Everyone thinks they need to be in London because everyone thinks they need to be in London. But three hours away on the train doesn’t exactly put you on the dark side of the moon. And seeing the places where 80 per cent of the British population live might give Hutton and co a whole new insight on the world of work,
By all means do it – but make sure that Hutton and the bulk of his staff bring their work north with them. We’ve got electricity and everything now, tha knows.