Monday, December 11, 2017

Theresa May has been told to “stop wasting money” on plans to axe 50 MPs and create a slimmed-down Commons, because she is too weak to force them through.

Fresh proposals for new constituency boundaries are published today – but were immediately declared a “dead duck”, after the Prime Minister lost her majority.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has voiced opposition, fearing the knock-on effect from the loss of one seat in Northern Ireland will cost the party and boost Sinn Fein.

But some Tory backbenchers are also worried that their own seats will disappear – despite a previous promise that every sitting MP would be given a new seat to fight.

The Government has insisted the vote needed to trigger the changes will be held “in due course”, but has not set out a timetable and will not go ahead if a defeat appears likely.

Meanwhile, The Independent has been told that the review process – which began four years ago – has cost almost £10m in England alone.

David Cameron repeatedly defended cutting the number of MPs on the grounds that it would save £10m a year.

But Labour said shrinking the Commons was a wrong move when MPs will be confronted with the daunting task of implementing Brexit for years to come.

It “risks leaving the UK Government struggling to keep up with the day-to-day requirements of legislation”, said Cat Smith, the party’s voter engagement spokeswoman.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, demanded that the Government “stop wasting money on a dead-duck boundary review”.

“The DUP will not wear this review. Nor will many Tory backbenchers. The Government should stop wasting public funds and bow to the inevitable,” he said.

The proposals would see Jeremy Corbyn’s north London seat disappear, potentially triggering musical chairs with other top party figures scrambling for new seats.

Likewise, the East Yorkshire constituency of Brexit Secretary David Davis would go – but those of Theresa May and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary would be unchanged.

As well as “cutting the cost of politics”, the shake-up is intended to ensure all Commons seats have broadly the same number of voters, between 71,031 and 78,507.

But the Prime Minister is expected to back away from confronting MPs who would lose their seats, when she needs their support to push through controversial Brexit legislation.

Furthermore, the Conservatives are not now expected to be the overwhelming winners from the shake-up, nor Labour such a clear-cut loser.

One post-election analysis found the Tories would still not have won a majority had the new seats been in place in June – and that Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith would have lost their seats.

It also found that, under the new boundaries, the DUP would have dropped from 10 seats to seven, while Sinn Fein would have won two more seats, to gain a total of nine.

The rejigged proposals, which make changes to more than half the proposed new constituencies after a public consultation, will now be studied for their political impact.

Under the plans, the number of MPs in England would be cut from 533 to 501, from 59 to 53 in Scotland, 40 to 29 in Wales, and 18 to 17 in Northern Ireland.

If they are scrapped, it will follow numerous U-turns since the election debacle, including over expanding grammar schools, overhauling social care and a free vote on fox hunting.