LibDem revolt will block Bearsden boundary change

Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson

PARLIAMENTARY boundary changes which would remove a large swathe of Bearsden from the East Dunbartonshire Westminster seat could be scuppered - thanks to a revolt by LibDem MPs.

Liberals are furious that their Conservative coalition government partners blocked plans to reform the House of Lords - and have promised revenge by voting down proposed changes to boundaries.

The changes, drawn up by the Boundary Commission, would reduce the number of MPs nationally from 650 to 600 - and locally, would mean the East Dunbartonshire seat being re-drawn so that Bearsden North is lumped into a new West Dunbartonshire and Bearsden seat, while a part of Kilsyth is added to East Dunbartonshire.

This could spell trouble for sitting LibDem MP Jo Swinson as Kilsyth is solid Labour, making her seat ultra-marginal.

However, earlier this week at the LibDem conference in Brighton, party members backed leader Nick Clegg’s instructions to his MPs to vote against boundary changes as pay-back for a Tory revolt which saw making the second chamber mainly elected - part of the coaltion agreement - consigned to the dustbin.

If the boundary reforms go ahead, it is projected that around 15 LibDem seats, including Ms Swinson’s, could be at risk.

Ms Swinson said: “Despite the hundreds of responses sent in against the proposed changes the Boundary Commission has decided to stick to their initial wrongheaded proposal for our area.

“I remain disappointed that the commission thinks Bearsden should be cut up with a section of it lumped in with West Dunbartonshire.

“However, given that proposed boundary changes will not now command a majority in the House of Commons, the East Dunbartonshire constituency will remain in its current form for the 2015 election.”

Speaking at the party conference, Ms Swinson’s husband, Duncan Hames, a fellow LibDem MP and a parliamentary aide to Mr Clegg, said the Tories “had it coming”.

He said: “Conservative backbenchers were determined to use every parliamentary tactic they could to scupper the (Lords reform) Bill and the Labour frontbench were determined to let them.

“Tory MPs seemed to think they could break the coalition agreement with impunity. It should have come as no surprise to Tory rebels that we would pull the plug on the boundary review.” Let’s face it, they had it coming.”

Meanwhile, both Ms Swinson and Mr Hames have been touted as future leaders of their party.

In an interview descussing his own potential elevation to the leadership, party president Tim Farron said: “It may well be that we skip a generation to Duncan Hames, perhaps, or maybe his wife, Jo Swinson.”