MP Norman Baker’s seat in question

THE FUTURE of MP Norman Baker’s seat is in question after proposed changes to constituency boundaries were revealed this week.

The Lib Dem, who serves the Lewes area, will see major changes to his constituency under the new shake-up which would see the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600 by the next general election. The potential move is to ensure all constituencies are roughly the same size.

Polegate, East Dean and Seaford are among towns Mr Baker serves but under the new proposals he would ‘lose’ two-thirds of his current constituency.

If it gets the go-ahead then a new Lewes and Brighton East constituency would be created, with only a third of the current Lewes voters forming part of that area. The change would likely see a battle between Mr Baker and Simon Kirby, who is MP for Brighton Kemptown.

A new Uckfield constituency would stretch from the coastal towns of Seaford and Newhaven to Forest Row.

Referring to the changes James MacCleary, leader of the Lewes District Council Lib Dem group, said the Boundary Commission appeared to have ignored its own rules when making up the new constituencies.

He added, “They laid down rules including that they would observe local links, I’m not sure Seaford and Uckfield can be seen to be locally linked.

“Brighton being paired up with Lewes doesn’t make any sense, I think there have been surprises across the political spectrum as to how they [boundary changes] have been worked out.”

On a positive note he said the Lib Dems were confident they could win the Uckfield constituency, which includes Seaford.

Mr Baker’s Lib Dem colleague and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd is likely to retain his seat because the boundaries of his constituency, which include the Willingdon area, remain unchanged.

However, Tory MP Greg Barker’s Bexhill patch which currently includes Pevensey, Pevensey Bay, Westham, Stone Cross, Hankham and Herstmonceux is set to change under the proposals.

Mr Barker will lose Battle from his constituency but will gain Polegate North and South from Lib Dem Norman Baker and Hailsham from Conservative MP Charles Hendry.

Mr Barker said, “Reducing the number of MPs to 600 and ensuring that the numbers of voters in each constituency are more evenly balanced to make our voting system fairer was never going to be easy.

“Clearly, this will mean some major adjustments to the constituency boundaries in our area but the essential link between MPs and their constituents will remain.”

Mr Barker’s proposed new boundary will form part of the commission’s proposed new division called The Weald, which would cross the Sussex and Kent border and include the towns of Battle, Wadhurst, Crowborough and Frant. Charles Hendry said he was disappointed to see his Wealden constituency split up to create The Weald.

He told the Herald, “I am inevitably disappointed that the Boundary Commission is proposing breaking up Wealden in this way.

“The Boundary Commission will of course look at alternative proposals, which achieve the objective of equalising constituency sizes, in a way that better reflects shared community interest.”

A 12-week consultation on proposals will run until December 5. A final report will then be delivered to Government in October 2013 ahead of the next general election, earmarked for May 2015.