Boundary change ‘could make city seats marginals’

Mike Hancock MP, member for Portsmouth South
Mike Hancock MP, member for Portsmouth South

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PLANS to change Portsmouth’s parliamentary constituencies could make the winners of the city’s two seats far harder to predict, according to politicians.

And some have welcomed the possibility of Portsmouth West and Portsmouth East as ‘marginals’ in the next election.

Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt

Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt

As The News reported earlier this week, the Boundary Commission, which has been asked by the government to draw up plans to cut the number of UK MPs from 650 to 600, has proposed two new city seats to replace Portsmouth South and Portsmouth North.

If agreed, the plans would be in place for the next General Election, scheduled for 2015.

They have led to concerns from some city councillors and residents, who disagree with the division of Southsea.

But others believe they may be good for the city’s political outlook.

Tory Councillor Luke Stubbs, who represents Eastney and Craneswater, said: ‘The city will be a more interesting place at the next General Election.

‘There will be two close seats, marginals in both cases.

‘It will mean everyone in the city’s vote will count, when they stand up to make judgments on the government.

‘It will mean the city will get national attention, too.’

Lib Dem council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson agreed, adding: ‘I think both seats will be close. On a good day, we could win both. On a bad day, we might lose them.’

The Lib Dems, who hold Portsmouth South, where Mike Hancock is MP, believe their stronger chance will come in the Portsmouth West seat, which would include St Thomas, St Jude, Paulsgrove, Nelson, Hilsea, Cosham, Charles Dickens, and the former Fareham ward of Portchester East.

Although Portsmouth City Council does not keep ward-by-ward voting details from General Elections, local election voting patterns indicate strong Lib Dem support in St Thomas, St Jude, Nelson and Charles Dickens.

Mr Hancock said: ‘Both seats are winnable for the Lib Dems, though the stronger constituency for us is Portsmouth West. The East would take more work. But we have a lot of support in what would be Portsmouth East.’

The Portsmouth East seat would include Copnor, Drayton and Farlington, Baffins, Eastney and Craneswater, Fratton, Milton, Central Southsea, and the former Havant ward of Purbrook.

Portsmouth North’s Tory MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘I think the best use of our time is to be the best MPs we can for our current areas. But the seats look interesting, politically, putting together lots of different groups who’ve traditionally voted in different ways from one another.

‘But Portsmouth is the only place I want to represent, so I’d happily stand in either constituency, if chosen.’