REVISED proposals to cut the number of North East MPs from 29 to 26 were published yesterday. The amended plans from the Boundary Commission for England follow a backlash against its original proposals, which were required by the Government.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to slash the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make constituency sizes more uniform in time for the 2015 general election.
But Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democrat deputy, renewed his determination to block the changes in the wake of Conservative MPs scuppering House of Lords reform. And the coalition row was last night reflected by the political reaction in the region.
If the plans do go ahead, the following seats could in effect disappear or be merged into new seats – Wansbeck/Blyth, Stockton North/Sedgefield and Blaydon/Gateshead.
There would be several new constituency names, such as Washington, although many others would be maintained to reflect the revised proposals.
Sunderland Central would remain the same as it is now. Hexham MP Guy Opperman welcomed the revised proposals, saying they keep Northumberland whole. South Tyndale and Haltwhistle were to go into a new constituency of Consett and Barnard Castle focused around County Durham.
But Mr Opperman campaigned to keep those areas in his constituency – and 950 of the 1,950 North East representations about the proposals related to the Hexham constituency.
The new proposals would keep Ponteland East in Hexham with the rest of Ponteland and put Rothbury back into Berwick. The commission had originally suggested attaching it to Hexham.
The Hexham seat would still take on the Gateshead wards of Ryton, Crookhill and Stella, along with Greenside and Crawcrook. But it would no longer include Chopwell and Rowlands Gill, which would go to a revised North West Durham seat that would not cross the county boundary.
The Berwick seat’s borders would take in Morpeth and be renamed Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth to recognise that. A seat of Blyth and Ashington would also be created.
Labour’s Newcastle East MP Nick Brown has had his proposals for his city and North Tyneside’s seats accepted by the Boundary Commission. It would mean the existing Newcastle Central and Newcastle East seats remaining in the same constituencies – with Wallsend added to the latter – with a new Newcastle North and Cramlington seat.