Finally, after what feels like eight hundred years of consultation, the Boundary Commission have published their final proposals for new parliamentary constituencies across the UK. The intention of this is two-fold: reduce the number of MPs in parliament from 650 to 600, while also equalising the size of constituencies.
Obviously, being The Political Medway, we are only interested in what difference this will make to the electoral map in Medway. To which the answer is not very much really. Sorry if you were hoping for something more dramatic.
Rochester and Strood will retain the exact same boundaries as it does now, after an initial proposal to move Higham into the constituency was rejected. The Boundary Commission accepted that Higham had historically closer ties to Gravesend than Medway, and thus left it where it was.
The same cannot be said for the kerfuffle over what to do with Lordswood and Capstone though. Initial proposals put forward the case for moving it from the existing Chatham and Aylesford constituency and into Gillingham and Rainham. This led to a widely supported campaign for Lordswood to retain it’s historical links with Walderslade, Princes Park, and the wider Chatham constituency. Indeed, one would struggle to find anyone that would associate Lordswood with Gillingham and Rainham, as transport and infrastructure lead to very little interaction between the two areas.
Following the campaign, the Boundary Commission listened closely, and has decided to proceed with moving Lordswood and Capstone into Gillingham and Rainham. While this decision may seem questionable, when thousands are homes are built between Hempstead and Lordswood, the area will be considerably more joined up, so maybe the Boundary Commission are just ahead of the curve here.
The loss of Lordswood and Capstone is one of many changes to befall the Chatham and Aylesford constituency, starting with it’s name. After an attempt to rename the area Chatham and The Mallings, the final proposal sees the area named Chatham and Malling after a realisation that no one anywhere has ever referred to West Malling and East Malling as The Mallings. As well as, er, the Mallings, the constituency also gains Kings Hill and the surrounding area, leading to a somewhat bizarre layout where the residents of that new town, Snodland, a collection of villages outside Maidstone, Chatham, and Luton all share the same MP.
All of this assumes that the new proposals are accepted in the first place, something that is far from certain in the current political climate. Previous proposals in 2013 failed to make it through parliament, and it’s only going to take another sudden general election or any kind of serious opposition to these plans forming to see the whole thing come crashing down, leaving us with our existing boundaries for years to come. Given how insignificant the changes are to Medway though, would anyone even notice if they did?
None of these changes make any difference to the layout of Medway Council, though the local boundaries for the council are also overdue a review too. On a local level, these changes only raise somewhat trivial party political issues. The always fractious relationship between local Conservative Party associations will see their current leader, Cllr Alan Jarrett, he of Lordswood and Capstone, suddenly becoming part of the Gillingham and Rainham association. Does any of this this matter? Who knows. But it’ll be interesting to see the reaction from the local party regardless. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as it develops.