Boundary Commission proposes an additional Parliamentary seat next to Cambridge

The new proposed seat of St Neots incorporating rapidly-growing Cambourne may be added to the county, as Cherry Hinton could be moved into a re-oriented South Cambridgeshire with wards now dominated by Liberal Democrat councillors

You can read the essentials from Ben Hatton in the Cambridge Independent. You can also see other constituencies and submit your views to the Commission via

The embargo was released at midnight, and with my continual erratic sleep patterns meant I picked up on it an hour later.

But the problems with the voting system remain the same.

For those of you interested in some of the historical background, see The Victorian Commons here.

Readers of Lost Cambridge will be familiar with the changing shape and nature of Cambridge Borough’s boundaries.

Up until 1911 both the parliamentary constituency of Cambridge Borough, and the municipal/town boundaries were as shaded above in Pink. (From A History of Local Government for Cambridge 1835 – 1958).

Fast forward to 1934 and we find that the area that Cambridge Borough Councillors wanted to expand the town by was even larger than the area added by the Order. (Orders in Council, which are used to implement the final recommendations of Boundary Commissions).

When you look at the historical population data collection for Cambridge on Cambs Insight, you can see that Chesterton ceased to be counted separately as an urban district when it was absorbed after the 1911 census, and Cherry Hinton & Trumpington the same after the 1931 census again due to the expansion of the town boundaries. Cambridge’s municipal boundaries have not changed substantially since then – even though the population of Cambridge (granted “City Status” by Charter of King George VI in 1951) has almost doubled since the 1931 census. (Population 69,000 in 1931, we find out what the 2021 population is later this year – but it’s likely to be around 130,000).

What does it mean for Cambridge?

Chris Rand has had a look from the perspective of Queen Edith’s – currently the only Cambridge ward outside of the parliamentary constituency. Were there alternatives? Chris tried with some.

There is a case to be made for separating Cambridge into two constituencies – as I think will ultimately happen long after I become plant food. (I.e. in the next 50 years). The projected population and housing growth – even accounting for the climate emergency mean that at some stage it will become impossible for the city and constituency to be bound up as one unit. The question then becomes which MP or party will try to present themselves as ‘the representatives of Cambridge University’ – something that numerous Conservative politicians have tried to do despite the electorate vanquishing their party political representation inside the city nearly two decades ago, give or take the unexpected election result here & there.

The Boundary Review should really be an opportunity for electoral & constitutional reform proponents to make the case for a major post-CV19 overhaul of our institutions, conventions, systems & processes. Future generations will ask us why it took so long, and why we ‘allowed’ Boris Johnson to run such a corrupt and incompetent administration in the face of so many avoidable deaths due to the Corona Virus response. It may well be that the Public Inquiry hearings will expose the ministerial shortcomings in a manner that ministers cannot avoid – where their inquisitors are experienced barristers with highly-resourced research teams full of experts, and where ministers have to face follow-up questions live on TV. At present it’s all too easy for them to dodge questions put to them by MPs and TV reporters who don’t have nearly the depth of knowledge nor the time to prepare detailed lines of questioning.

Two MPs into three constituencies?

While East Cambridgeshire – which on the whole replaces South East Cambridgeshire, is likely to remain a safe Conservative seat (despite local MP and Solicitor General Lucy Frazer creating one or two electoral hostages to fortune for her future opponents in recent TV interviews on schools funding, the NHS patient data, and international aid), it’s less clear for the reoriented South Cambridgeshire and the new St Neots.

The scale of recent, current, and proposed house building is the reason why. With so many people moving into this part of the country from elsewhere, and given the industries many work in, they are not the natural voting demographic for a political party broadcasting a strong nationalist rhetoric while playing fast and lose with rules on propriety in public office and accuracy & truthfulness in statements to Parliament and the media. It is highly educated, internationalist in its outlook – used to working with people from all over the world and co-operating with people and institutions from all around the world. That does not mean it’s easy pickings for Labour, the Liberal Democrats and The Greens. Ultimately whoever rises to defeat the Conservatives will have to show that they are a worthy ‘government in waiting’. And that may have to involve a level of formal co-operation between the parties if they are to get into office and make the changes to the voting system that at present gives both Labour and the Conservatives a number of ‘safe’ parliamentary seats that significantly discourages opposition parties from contesting them.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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