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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Lib-Dem threat could boost Labour's Carlisle hopes

Labour's hopes of winning back Carlisle at the next General Election have been boosted by a spat in the Coalition Government.

Eric Martlew photo
Eric Martlew

Liberal Democrat MPs are threatening to vote against plans to redraw Parliamentary constituency boundaries after a Conservative back-bench rebellion scuppered proposals to reform the Lords.

The boundary changes would add a rural and mainly Conservative-voting area to the Carlisle constituency.

If they are dropped, the 2015 General Election will be contested on existing boundaries.

John Stevenson became the Carlisle’s first Conservative MP since 1965 when he won the seat in 2010.

But his majority over Labour was only 853 votes.

Eric Martlew, the previous Labour MP who stood down in 2010, said: “The repercussions are very interesting.

“Mr Stevenson will fight the next election on boundaries that gave him a majority of just over 800 when Labour’s popularity was at its lowest ebb.”

He says it is not in the Liberal Democrats’ interests to support boundary changes.

Mr Martlew added: “The changes would give the Conservatives an extra 20 seats but I don’t hear anyone saying it would give the Liberal Democrats any more seats.

“It doesn’t seem a good deal for them.”

Mr Stevenson believes there is a good chance that the coalition partners will patch up their differences, allowing the boundary changes to be approved by Parliament in time for a 2015 election.

He said: “Who knows what the political situation will be next year?

“At the end of the day you fight the election on the boundaries that are there at the time.

“You stand on your record and put forward your views about what you would do in the next Parliament, and it is up to local people to judge.”

The proposed changes would cut the number of constituencies in Cumbria from six to five as part of plans to reduce the number of MPs at Westminster from 650 to 600.

The new constituencies would be called Carlisle, Barrow, Workington and Keswick, Copeland and Windermere, and Kendal and Penrith.

All three main parties say it would be better to have a single west Cumbrian constituency and separate seats based on Penrith and Kendal.

The Boundary Commission is considering whether to alter its initial proposals in the light of consultation responses.

An announcement is expected this autumn.

There will then be a further eight-week consultation before the Commission publishes its final report by October 1 next year.

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