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Guildford ‘Will Be More Marginal’ Under Proposed Changes to Surrey’s Constituency Boundaries

Published on: 8 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 29 Jan, 2023

The proposed new boundaries for Guildford parliamentary constituency that would lose a large area to the south around Cranleigh but gain areas to the east that are currently part of Mole Valley.

By Martin Giles

Guildford’s parliamentary constituency would not remain such a safe Conservative seat, according to well placed Tory and Lib Dem sources, if proposed boundary changes revealed today by the Boundary Commission go ahead.

Surrey would gain an extra seat, moving from 11 to 12. All Surrey seats are currently Conservative.

The major change locally would be the removal of a large area south of the North Downs, including Cranleigh and surrounding villages, from Guildford constituency and the addition of villages in the east of the borough including Ripley and the Horsleys currently part of Mole Valley.

Given the popularity dip the Conservatives are suffering in the east of Guildford borough, as shown in the recent county council election, the change is likely to make Guildford more marginal, certainly, local Lib Dems will be hoping that is the case.

Other Surrey constituencies would also see significant changes. Surrey South West would disappear to be replaced by two new constituencies Farnham and Bordon (in Hampshire) and Godalming and Ash.

The South West Surrey Constituency would also see major change, effectively it would be divided into two becoming Godalming and Ash and Farnham and Bordon. The move of Ash and Ash Vale from Surrey Heath and the cross-county boundary constituency of Farnham and Bordon might prove controversial but both seats should remain safe for the Tories.

The Boundary Commission whose review for England is estimated to have cost £2.5 million, said it had “not always been possible to allocate whole numbers of constituencies to individual counties” or to avoid crossing boundaries.

How the current incumbents of Guildford and Guildford South West will decide which constituency they chose will be interesting. Jeremy Hunt might switch to the new Farnham seat while Angela Richardson, a resident of Ewhurst outside the new Guildford constituency, might prefer the new Godalming and Ash seat.

Ms Richardson was remaining tight-lipped today saying she would not comment until Friday. She will know that there are many Lib Dem votes in Guildford town and the Lib Dems took the seat as recently as 20 years ago.

Currently she has the smallest majority in Surrey, 3,317, but one. Along with all affected MPs she will be considering her options and her position on the proposals.

Local party organisations will also be affected. The Conservative and Labour associations are organised on parliamentary constituency lines so the changes would require a major reorganisation for them, old members would be lost, some who might be in key positions, and new ones taken on.

Fundraising is another critical factor. As one local Conservative member said: “Some individual branches raise considerably more than others. No one wants to lose a rich branch to another seat.”

Guildford Conservative Association is likely to be loath to lose the Cranleigh area thought to be very productive in the fundraising stakes.

Details of the 11 existing parliamentary constituencies in Surrey. Source Wikipedia.

The initial proposals will now be subject to consultations and revisions. The first one will run for eight weeks before closing on August 2.

A second consultation with public hearings will then get under way in spring 2022, followed by a final four-week consultation on revised plans in autumn 2022.

Final recommendations are due by July 1, 2023, after which the government has four months to implement the plans.

The changes will only come into effect in late 2023, which could be too late for the next election if the prime minister decides to call it early as he or she might be able to do under The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, if enacted.

If that were to happen before the new boundaries are in place, the election would be fought on the old boundaries.

Some polling experts have suggested the review could hand more seats to the Tories. But the BBC is quoting Martin Baxter, founder of Electoral Calculus, saying it was likely to be a mixed bag.

He said: “People have been moving from Wales and the north of England down to the south, which means fewer seats in the north and more seats in the south.

“That helps the Conservatives overall, but not as much as it might have done since they now hold some ‘red wall’ seats themselves which might disappear, and there will also be more seats in Labour-friendly areas such as London.”

Public feedback to the initial plans set out in the 2018 review changed 50% of the initial plans.

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Responses to Guildford ‘Will Be More Marginal’ Under Proposed Changes to Surrey’s Constituency Boundaries

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    June 8, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    Together with the influx of people from London, who knows what will happen to our politics?

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    June 9, 2021 at 9:09 am

    What would be interesting would be an analysis of the differences between these latest proposals and those of 2018.

    Remembering the machinations of Parliament, the speaker and many “Conservative in name only” MPs of that period, I wonder if those proposals would have been better for genuine Conservatives?

  3. Francis Drossman Reply

    June 9, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Considering the state of the country, the Conservatives deserve less support. But I am afraid party political tribalism (support your party no matter how bad they are) has become the norm.

  4. Christopher Jay Reply

    June 10, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    Consider the state of the country: the vaccination programme is going pretty well, the country’s growth forecasts are good, the Conservatives and the prime minister are doing particularly well in the opinion polls and Surrey Conservatives are balancing the budget and filling in the potholes.

    The weather is also good.

  5. Alan Morris Reply

    July 24, 2021 at 9:29 am

    A fundamental requirement of an election system is to accurately represent the views of voters. This exercise by a Boundary Commission essentially set up to perpetuate the First Past the Post electoral system will perpetuate a flawed system of democratic selection of those that represent is in Westminster.

    The review being conducted by the Boundary Commission is akin to being given a position on the committee tasked with rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

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