Plans to rip up the political map of Bradford in an attempt to reduce the number of MPs across the country would see EIGHT politicians representing voters across the district – instead of five.
There was outcry last year when the Boundary Commission published its first proposals to carve up the electorate and wipe out the Shipley constituency and have four main MPs with other parts of the district being covered by Calder Valley and Yeadon.
But yesterday’s new proposals go further and create four main Bradford seats but also places parts of the district in four other areas across West Yorkshire.
The remaining parts of the district are split between another four MPs, with Wyke and Royds being represented by Spen Valley, Tong being grouped with Leeds West, Pudsey and Tong, Wharfedale moved into Otley constituency and Queensbury represented by a Halifax MP – creating eight MPs representing Bradford.
The controversial proposals also might never happen as Liberal Democrats MPs have pledged to scupper the changes, as revenge for the demise of their Lords Reform hopes.
But David Cameron has vowed to hold a Commons vote, and the Boundary Commission is legally bound to carry on with the project – which will end up costing taxpayers £15 million.
Mr Cameron wants equal-sized constituencies and the number of MPs reduced from 650 to 600.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg slapped down Tory co-chairman Grant Shapps over suggestions that a deal over party funding could save plans to re-draw constituency boundaries.
The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that all Liberal Democrat MPs would vote against the proposals to cut 50 MPs from the Commons.
It comes after Mr Shapps said the Tories had not given up hope of securing the constituency changes which could boost their chances of victory in the next general election.
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab), Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem), Bradford West MP George Galloway (Respect) and Shipley MP Philip Davies (Con) will vote against changing the current status quo.
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins (Con) supports the changes.
Mr Sutcliffe said: “These proposals are a completely arbitrary attempt to gerrymander constituencies to benefit the Tories.
“It is scandalous that a city the size of Bradford, with a growing population, is losing a whole constituency.
“Bradford South has existed as a parliamentary constituency since 1918 but the Government is scattering people in Bradford South into Leeds, Batley and Halifax. It’s ludicrous.
“Labour will be campaigning against these proposals and we will be calling on Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dems to keep their word and join with us to defeat these unnecessary and costly proposals.”
Mr Ward said: “I have argued against the changes and chopping up the natural boundaries and my position has not changed.
“The electorate is being treated as blocks rather than communities. Politically the changes could benefit me but that is not what is important. I will not for a second be voting for boundary changes.”
Shipley is now included in the latest plans but is significantly different to the current ward make up of the constituency.
Mr Davies said: “I am genuinely delighted that the Boundary Commission listened to the recommendations that we made in relation to Shipley and I am delighted that they have come to the conclusion that a Shipley constituency which has a great deal of history should be retained.
“I am delighted that they have agreed that Shipley, Windhill and Baildon wards should stay together but disappointed they did not feel Bingley and Bingley Rural Ward shall stay together. I am perfectly clear, the existing boundaries are far better and I will vote to retain the existing boundaries when the votes takes place next year.”
Mr Galloway said the changes would not happen.
He said: “I’m committed to fighting again in Bradford at the next election and while the prospect of a new Bradford Central constituency is interesting it isn’t going to happen, unless Nick Clegg performs a policy backflip even more outrageous than that on student fees.
“No doubt there will be Tory blandishments and inducements. Clegg and the Lib Dems have sold the jerseys on just about everything that matters – on the devastation of welfare and public services, the austerity measures which are killing growth and hiking unemployment – so it isn’t beyond them. But if they did that then it would be suicidal and there wouldn’t be enough of them left in parliament to raise a first 11, far less coalesce with any other party”
But Mr Hopkins believes all MPs should support the changes and have a duty to ensure the “scarce public resources are not frittered away.”
He said: “I am very pleased that Worth Valley is back in its natural home of Keighley as a result of the changes. I received a lot of correspondence from local residents on this matter and I made my own submission to the Boundary Commission making clear that the proposal to move the ward to Calder Valley was ill-conceived. Credit to the Commission for listening to reason.
“A significant amount of public money has already been spent in an effort to equalise constituency numbers across the country, making sure everyone’s vote counts equally. There will also be a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. As democrats, I believe that not just the Liberal Democrats but politicians in all parties have a duty to ensure that these improvements are made and scare public resources are not frittered away.
“If they fail to do so, I have no doubt that a majority Conservative Government will see the process through in 2015 when a new Parliament is elected.”
Bradford Councillor, Vanda Greenwood, who is chairman of Shipley Labour Party, said she was “delighted” that the Shipley constituency would be spared under the new proposals.
However, she also accused the Conservatives of seeking to “gerrymander” the political map in their favour.
Coun Greenwood (Windhill & Wrose] said: “Shipley is unique. We have got the Saltaire World Heritage Site and the place has its own identity. I have lived in Shipley all my life and I don’t think they should have ever considered abolishing the constituency.
“It is gerrymandering of the worst kind for the Tories.”
Conservative Councillor Michael Ellis, whose Bingley Rural ward would be shifted from the Shipley constituency to Keighley under the proposals, questioned why Fairweather Green and Clayton would be included in a new Shipley constituency.
He said: “Bingley Rural is probably the strongest Conservative ward in Bradford and, wherever it moved, it would have an effect on the vote.
“It moving to Keighley would certainly upset the Shipley constituency, where Philip Davies got in last time with a 10,000 majority. Whilst it is to be welcomed that the boundary commission is not doing away with Shipley, they seem to be mixing it up with places like Thornton and Fairweather Green to which it does not have a natural affinity.”
There will be a further round of consultations by the commission before the proposals have to be submitted to Parliament next October.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said taxpayers’ money was being wasted carrying out the boundary review now that the Lib Dems had withdrawn their backing.
At A Glance Guide To The Proposals
Under its revised proposals, the Boundary Commission suggests the district should be be represented by eight MPs with four main Bradford constituencies, Bradford Central, Bradford East and Horsforth, Shipley and Keighley. The size of the constituencies and the Council wards they contain are as follows:
Bradford Central 74,104
Bowling and Barkerend 11,258;
City 9,891; Great Horton 10,905;
Little Horton 10,457; Manningham 10,678; Toller 11,050; Wibsey 9,865
Bradford East and Horsforth 80,005
Bolton and Undercliffe Bradford 11,029; Bradford Moor Bradford 11,395; Eccleshill Bradford 10,865; Idle and Thackley Bradford 11,714; Calverley and Farsley 17,515; Horsforth 17,487
Baildon 11,452; Bingley 13,205; Clayton and Fairweather Green 10,868; Heaton 10,133; Shipley 10,695; Thornton and Allerton 10,805; Windhill and Wrose 10,578
Bingley Rural 13,087; Craven 12,213; Ilkley 11,224; Keighley Central 11,163; Keighley East 11,588; Keighley West 10,479; Worth Valley 10,304
- Two Bradford Council wards, Wyke and Royds, become part of the Spen Valley constituency;
- Queensbury becomes part of the Halifax constituency;
- Tong becomes part of Leeds West which also includes Pudsey
- Wharfdale becomes part of the new Otley constituency.