Parliamentary Boundary Changes Could Bring Labour Gains in Somerset

Monday, 2 August 2021
The new Bridgwater Constituency

Proposals put forward by the Boundaries Commission, currently out for consultation, suggest a major redrawing of constituency boundaries and the creation of 2 new MPs. And what’s more the new boundaries look favourable for Labour with Bridgwater, Taunton and Frome all losing largely Tory voting rural areas. Speaking on BBC Radio today Cllr Brian Smedley , Labour Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, welcomed the proposals but urged a very slight amendment which would see Hinkley Point brought into the proposed Bridgwater Constituency and not tacked on to the large cross border Minehead-Tiverton one saying “A major nuclear power station being built ten miles from us clearly affects Bridgwater more than it does Tiverton.”

The new Bridgwater constituency would see the loss of the West Somerset area, where traditionally Tory votes have been wheeled in by the barrowload and makes the new seat, which just includes the wards around Labour voting  Bridgwater itself plus the neighbouring towns of Burnham and Highbridge, a target seat for Labour. Cllr Smedley says “Within the new boundary there is a major change of voter dynamics and people can see that their vote really does count. Bridgwater is the major population centre and traditionally has voted Labour and so has Highbridge and Woolavington. This now swings the chances of a Labour gain massively in our favour and will inspire floating voters who historically might not have thought their vote would make a different now take a different view.”

The closeness of the vote can be seen by this chart comparing the vote of the 2019 Parliamentary election based on the old boundaries juxtaposed against the 2019 council elections in the wards within the new boundaries. Even on figures from a good election for the Tories it shows a loss of up to 20% points.

Comparative figures showing how Bridgwater becomes a ‘marginal’

As for the rest of Somerset the prospects for breaking the Tory shires is given a boost by the creation of 3  stronger urban wards in Bridgwater, Taunton, Frome and Yeovil and the seperation of largely rural wards -Glastonbury and Somerton, Wells and Mendip Hills plus Minehead and Tiverton.

Brian Smedley ‘Getting in campaign mode…”

Frome Green councillor Martin Dimery, also speaking on the same radio show, helpfully pointed out that the last time Frome fought an election on these boundaries it returned a Labour MP – in fact, Walt Farthing, a Bridgwater Borough councillor.

Cllr Brian Smedley said “Bridgwater has long been a small red dot in a sea of Tory Blue but these boundary proposals could change all that and we could finally get the Labour representation in Parliament that this town has been needing for years.”

“Of course it’s not guaranteed and it will be a massive battle between ourselves and the Tories but the odds have been narrowed  and when people realise a change is within our grasp then seeing ‘Bridgwater Labour Gain’ on election night could be a reality.”

Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council have both submitted responses supporting the proposals but with the minor addition of the Quantock Vale ward which includes Hinkley Point.

Proposed Changes across the County

The boundaries commission consultation can be found here.

The proposed changes across the county