Will Matt Pennycook be the last MP for Greenwich and Woolwich?

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It’s just like 1992 all over again, with a Tory victory nationally and a shiny new Labour MP locally in Greenwich & Woolwich.

So it’s congratulations to Matt Pennycook, who scored 24,384 votes – 52.2% of all cast, a little up on predecessor Nick Raynsford five years back. Pennycook was by far the most impressive candidate, neatly placing distance between the records of both Raynsford and the council of which he was a part. Good luck to him, and I’m looking forward to following his progress.

Congratulations too to Matt Hartley, who scored a very impressive 12,438 – at 26.6%, a record for the Tories since the seat was created in 1997. He also campaigned smartly – raising the state of Southeastern trains, for one. I suspect he’ll be feeling the happiest out of all the candidates today…

Ukip’s success will have raised eyebrows – Ryan Acty came third with 3,888 (8.3%), a similar result to other seats in south-east London.

If the Greens are downhearted at coming fourth, they really shouldn’t be. Abbey Akinoshun more than doubled their vote as they notched up 2,991 votes, a deposit-saving 6.4% – pretty good by London standards.

The Lib Dems performed in line with their council election results last year, with Tom Holder picking up 2,645 votes (5.7%) – just enough to hang onto his deposit.

TUSC’s Lynne Chamberlain rounded off the poll with just 370 votes – but will no doubt be pleased with having given her anti-austerity message a wide airing.

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Sitting up all night watching the results doesn’t lead to wise and sharp analysis the following afternoon, but one very local issue deserves an airing.

One of the big jibes aimed at Matt Pennycook is that by being selected he was effectively getting himself a safe seat for life. Now the Conservatives have an overally majority, they’re in prime position to implement a bit of unfinished business from coalition days – boundary changes.

The Tories wanted to cut parliament down to 600 seats – in a proposal that would have given their chances a boost – and that meant London’s constitency map would have to be redrawn. This website featured the first proposals back in 2011.

There was an inquiry after that, but the final recommendations received little attention at the time, because by then the Liberal Democrats and Labour had joined forces to shoot down the proposals.

Now there’s nothing stopping the Tories taking those revised plans out of the drawer – and they’re an odd bunch to say the least.

Pennycook’s hard-fought prize of Greenwich & Woolwich would vanish – leaving him to challenge Lewisham East’s Heidi Alexander (and maybe Lewisham Deptford’s Vicky Foxcroft) for a new seat of Greenwich & Lewisham Central, which would stretch from Greenwich to Catford.

Or he could have to lock horns with Clive Efford for the oddly-shaped Eltham & Charlton seat, which curves round from New Eltham, through most of Charlton to Woolwich town centre.

Don’t be surprised if this issue comes up in the coming months – especially with electoral reform a hot topic once again. See a full map of the proposed constituencies for more.

25 comments

  1. Oh for Goodness sake Daryl. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky has pointed out that our Electoral Quotients have drifted so far without reform that we are *way* outside the EQ standards of all advanced democracies – and even that some banana republics have more equal electoral constituencies than the UK! The last proposals wouldn’t even have have brought us to the +/-3% standard used by nations such as New Zealand, but to the laxer +/-5% standard used by ‘developing nations’.

    Why should my vote be worth only half that of an elector in Scotland? Or a fraction of that of a voter in a dying and declining northern city whose population has halved in the last century? Why should my constituency have 36,000 voters when another elsewhere has only 14,000, both electing one MP? By opposing this electoral reform you are defending the worst kind of democratic fraud and corruption.

    Argue about where the boundaries are drawn by all means, but please don’t devalue your own considerable integrity by defending the current crooked and anti-democratic parliamentary constituencies.

  2. “dying and declining northern city” Tory perchance?

    “Why should my constituency have 36,000 voters when another elsewhere has only 14,000 ” You’re making this up – there are no constituencies that small.

  3. Matt – Why should concern about democratic probity be confined to the Tories? Amongst the 5 largest constituencies are both Manchester Central and East Ham – hardly Tory territory. The figures were illustrative – the actual differences (at 2010 levels – 2015 not yet available) are actually far, far worse. Here are the 5 largest and 5 smallest;

    Isle of Wight – 110,524
    East Ham – 91,531
    Manchester Central – 89,519
    NW Cambridge – 89,419
    Ilford S – 86,401
    *Smallest*
    Aberconwy – 45,407
    Dwyfor Meirionnydd – 45,006
    Arfon – 41,138
    Orkney & Shetland – 33,755
    Nah-Eileannan – 21,837

    When seats should be within +/-5% of eachother?

    Darryl – If I’ve misread your meaning, I must apologise. Democrats of all colours must rightly condemn the iniquity of the present boundaries – and new boundaries must be drawn to equalise constituencies. I don’t think this is a party political issue, whatever the result, but a vital matter of our democratic health. And by all means let’s argue about where the boundaries are drawn.

    Ignoring the two out-liers, why should a vote in East Ham only be worth 37% as much as a vote in Orkney?

  4. Darryl may well be right about Pennycook being the last MP for Greenwich and Woolwich. He’s also right to draw attention to the ridiculous last set of proposals from the Boundary Commission. The only way to resolve this conundrum is a sensible change to the electoral system (such as Alternate Vote rather than STV, which is complex to count – see http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems for a balanced summary). Sadly, the referendum on moving to a more representative system was soundly defeated only a few years ago due to powerful vested interests funding the “No” campaign, helped along by old-guard forces from the rump of ‘New’ Labour! Not helped by arguably poor organisation on the “Yes” side. “You reap what you sow” as the saying goes!

  5. With regard to implementation of the ‘shelved’ boundary reforms proposed in 2011. Somebody on the BBC election programme yesterday morning ( Grant Shapps ? ) stated that these changes were set to automatically come into force in 2018 and that nothing further needed to be done. I am absolutely sure that said person stated this. I remember pricking up my ears and thinking, ‘really ?’ You might like to dig around and see if you can find any validation of this statement. I don’t normally mis hear things !

  6. Worry not Mr Chas, you’re not going nuts. You’re quite right. I heard it too.
    The trouble is I had become ‘de-sensitised’ to political news! But that comment about it coming in automatically did register as I remember thinking, “I didn’t realise that.”

  7. I had been thinking about adding a posting here about change in Greenwich brought about through ‘regeneration’ – I decided in the end that it isn’t relevant here. But I do want to flag up that it is an important subject and something that we in Greenwich and Woolwich have to look at. I am also aware that it might be construed as racist – although I think the issues lie around economic activity and cultural perceptions and that race is nothing to do with it at all. It is about finding a way of identifying the potential for Ukippery from all quarters, facing up to it and dealing with it.

  8. Whilst numbers and demographics are important – and particularly at present bearing in mind the massive shift upwards here and in London generally – surely administrative aspects need to be taken into account too. For example, in the east of the borough, Plumstead is currently split between three constituencies (one of which straddles Greenwich and Bexley boroughs/Inner and Outer London/London and Kent) and Eltham includes, Eltham, a bit of Plumstead, a bit of Charlton and a bit of Kidbrooke. This results in constituents, in certain areas, feeling neglected. There is also a difference, from borough to borough, in how much information they share with their MPs. The 2011 proposed divisions seem to suggest similar fragmentations and crossing of local authority boundaries. Now, I haven’t checked the population levels closely, but suspect that Plumstead would be around 50,000, with similar figures found by keeping other towns fully within their boundaries too, either singly or in small groups – eg. Eltham (Avery Hill, New Eltham, Eltham and Mottingham); Woolwich and Charlton or perhaps Charlton, Blackheath and Kidbrooke; Greenwich; Thamesmead (bearing in mind planned housing). Perhaps all of Deptford could fall within the borough of Lewisham and all of Blackheath within RBG or vice versa. Perhaps I am out of kilter, but it seems more practical, to me, to be consistent in terms of administrative units – towns, wards, constituencies and boroughs – whilst still having approximately equal population numbers.

  9. My twitter feed informs me that The Sunday Times is reporting that boundary reforms will go ahead but NOT the reduction in MP’s from 650 to 600 to ‘stop infighting’ ! Mr Pennycook may be safer that it seemed at first. Sadly I cannot find the link.

  10. Mary – of course, there’s also the likelihood that Greenwich’s ward boundaries will have to change sooner or later to accommodate new residents (maybe Lewisham too) which would likely mean redrawing constituencies once agin. It’s quite easy to envisage separate East Greenwich and Peninsula wards with the latter being a Tory target.

  11. Surely all of Thamesmead should be in one Borough and the residents thereof should all have the same MP ?

  12. Woolwich Riverside ward is also going to be ‘exploded’ by the Arsenal redevelopment , Darryl.

  13. “Surely the whole of Thamesmead should be within the same borough”. Mr Chas, this was the gist of my earlier comment. My maths was a little skewed, but for practical reasons and so that voters feel that they can identify with their constituency (and ward, borough, county), there should be a correlation between the various administrative units. It should be possible to group whole towns, so that the groups contain approximately the same existing/planned population.

  14. London’s population has risen by about 1.4m since the last ward boundary changes in 2002 – that’s a lot of extra Councillors, as new wards emerge from the existing, and several additional London MPs (on the basis of the present EQ). The UK already has one of the lowest rates of elected representation amongst all advanced democracies (2,606 voters per elected official, compared with 116 and 250 to one in France and Germany respectively, according to Simon Jenkins) – so we should keep the pressure on for frequent boundary reviews to get our due share of democratic representation, surely?

  15. Thudd
    All those small seats you write up are in Scotland and Wales. They are special cases because of their status as nations but then I am sure you knew that. Reducing the MP’s there could be dynamite especially given the rise in nationalism. I would rather preserve the UK than worry about a small number of seats. Also, why cut seats from 650 to 600? Why the change to seats based on registered voters rather than population given the rise in non-registration (which took off after the poll tax)?

  16. Matt
    Yes, why cut from 650 to 600? We already have a substantial democratic deficit – this just makes it worse. And if Councils, the police and sundry creditors were banned from using electoral registers to chase debtors, Council tax evaders, sundry minor crims and debt defaulters then of course registrations would be much higher (and taxes a bit lower) …. big cities have always been good places for people to hide.

  17. Darryl – yes – of course everyone knows the growth in population will mean the Peninsula will have to separate (it used to be Marsh Ward – best name really). I think that what is of concern is that there is a need to address some of the preconceived notions which some new residents have about the inner city and Labour councils/MPs. I could quote some of the things said to me over the years – by people who have often come from small provincial towns – and they would make your toes curl1 And it is said quite unconsciously and very different to what you might hear from even the most Tory or Ukippy doorstep in Greenwich or Woolwich. This isn’t actually about Labour’s future here – its about the sort of society and cultural values which we have all got used to here.

  18. Mary – please do allude! I am one of those new residents who originate from a small provincial town so I may have unconsciously commented?

    Though I would also point out that people from those small provincial towns do have a valid perspective even if different, and have spoken loud and clearly on values and politics at this election. Sorry but this type of comment across the country is seen as typical ‘metropolitan London’ that has ended with Labour getting a real drubbing by it’s own voters – many of whom went to UKIP, as well as ordinary (floating) voters who have previously voted Labour.

    In my case (and defence!), I have now lived the majority most of my life in cities – mostly in London (in ungentrified inner London and suburban outer) but also three other English cities including Birmingham (which is imho definitely our second city in all respects!) and one of the ‘most liveable cities’ in the world. So a diversity of experience will bring a diversity of views. Challenging what ‘we have all got used to here’ is surely healthy for democratic debate and moving forward?

    Perhaps some of the Labour councils/MPs equally have preconceived notions about new residents and their backgrounds which can be less than helpful? I would hope (often inaccurate) stereotyping of political allegiances shouldn’t be at the root of the issue as neither should ethnicity. Anyway, it is hardly innercity around here with Kent up the road and very much of the local history…….

  19. Clogsilk – I think that practically, combining both Lewisham and Greenwich town centres into one constituency, even though they’re only a mile and a bit apart, would be a big ask for any MP.

  20. Shivanee – no, it wasn’t you personally I was thinking about – and I obviously accept that we need to be a mix of everyone’s views. I am more concerned about what are plain issues of fact. One example (with some alterations) was someone who had seen some flats which were empty and waiting to be demolished and assumed that its derelict appearance was because it was what they thought of as the usual state of an inner city housing estate. They were frightened – and that fright was keeping them from using local shops and facilities. You are quite right that views on both sides need to be listened to, but we need some means by which that listening and talking can take place – and by which preconceived ideas can be challenged. Its not really about politics or Labour – I want people to enjoy living in Greenwich because I think the place has a lot to offer – and it would be good to hear other people’s ideas. But what I don’t know is how we go about that – perhaps that is what we should be talking about.
    PS I think you are right that Greenwich is Kent – and I come from a small(er) town down river which I think has a culture nearer to that in Greenwich than places in London west and north of the River. So please don’t take me as a Metropolitan anything.
    See you soon??

  21. Thanks for clarifying Mary! The example you have given sounds a bit unusual and their discomfort was perhaps more indicative of a specific individual’s personal experience or (usually) whatever they have read in the media or seen on tv? I was a bit surprised at your comment as I know you grew up not too far away in a small town, and anyway, we are all on the wrong side of the river to be metropolitan types…..

    I would hope most people enjoy living in Greenwich and feel safe. Perhaps housing estates are intimidating to some…equally others may have misinformed ideas about residents in new developments etc. Perhaps it’s just inevitable human nature? Though as you and I both pointed in regards to the council, I expect political types such as councillors and MPs to rise above that and serve the entire community. Leadership??? As the election result suggested, most voters – people, are not remotely interested in the ‘them and us’ politics based on socio-economic background or political allegiances etc. Greenwich may be a ‘safe’ seat but it shouldn’t take any of it’s voters for granted because of their socio-economic status, ethnicity, or past voting patterns etc. Scottish voters made history last Thursday and now even a 39% swing in a seat is not inconceivable, even in so-called ‘heartlands’ because of a shared vision that brings people together. Look closer at London beyond the headlines and it is also slowly changing….

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