Daniel Zeichner's on top in Cambridge, but will new boundaries change that?Composite: Harry Curtis

New constituency boundaries in Cambridge could see the Liberal Democrats regain the seat at the next general election, with proposals published by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) shifting the current boundaries in order to take in two new wards.

The proposals are part of a nationwide redrawing of the electoral map, which seeks to reduce the number of constituencies in England from 533 to 501 as part of an effort to cut down the number of MPs in the House of Commons to 600 from 650. It is hoped that once the proposals are consulted on and enacted, each MP will represent somewhere in the region of 71,031 to 78,507 constituents.

If enacted, they would introduce voters in the Queen Edith’s ward in the south of Cambridge – which contains Homerton College and Addenbrooke’s Hospital – and the Milton ward, northwest of the city to the constituency.

Local election results from the newly added wards suggest that the proposed boundaries will change the balance of power in the city’s politics. Current Labour MP, Daniel Zeichner took the seat last year by 599 votes, a majority that could be wiped out by the newly included areas where the Liberal Democrats polled 1,298 more votes than Labour in the 2015 local elections.

Milton – which is centred around the village of the same name, but also contains the North Cambridge Science Park – has been exclusively represented by Liberal Democrat councillors on the South Cambridgeshire District Council since 2006, their candidate taking 52.7 per cent of the vote in 2015 and Labour finishing a distant third.

Queen Edith’s is far more closely contested area – though the Liberal Democrats again received the largest share of the vote (33.7 per cent), Labour and the Conservatives each got around a quarter of the vote with just nine votes separating second and third place.

Speaking to Varsity, Daniel Zeichner MP said: “Whatever the boundaries, I'm up for an election any time to get rid of this mean spirited Tory government.

“It is astonishing that the Government is proposing to redraw Parliamentary boundaries based on out of date information,” he went on to say. “Poorly drafted legislation passed under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the last parliament introduced individual voter registration which, as we warned, has left many Cambridge students off the register. That means the numbers being used for Cambridge are artificially low.

“What is even worse, is that the European referendum sparked many to register – but that these people are not being included because they are using the register as it was in December 2015. We will be pressing the Government to use the most up-to-date register, which would produce very different outcomes.”

Elsewhere, Zeichner also told Cambridge News that he had doubts as to whether Milton ought to be part of the Cambridge constituency: "I think there is a question about whether Milton actually sits happily within Cambridge. The old system took account of natural geographical ties. This risks losing all the community ties.”

However, Dr Julian Huppert, former MP and the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate at the next general election, welcomed the proposed new boundaries. Speaking to Varsity, he said: “I think the new boundaries for Cambridge make a lot of sense – it means that Addenbrooke's Hospital, Homerton College, the Science Park, and the new Cambridge North Station I worked so hard for will all be in Cambridge. Previously, although people thought they were in Cambridge, they were all outside.”

Although it’s under the jurisdiction of Cambridge City Council, Queen Edith’s is currently part of the South Cambridgeshire constituency represented by Conservative MP, Heidi Allen. Were the proposals to be implemented as they are, Girton would become the only college outside the Cambridge constituency.

Huppert went on to acknowledge the advantage the proposals would give the Liberal Democrats, saying: “There's no doubt that the two new areas are very strongly Lib Dem, and that would of course help – but the latest predictions suggest that even on the existing boundaries, Cambridge would be likely to swing back to us, because Labour are doing so badly.”

However, regarding the changes nationwide, Huppert – who is currently a fellow at Clare College – shared some of Zeichner’s concerns: “It is of course right to redo the boundaries every now and then, to allow for population growth, and there are parts of the country that for historic reasons have more seats than they ought to have. However, I think the Tories were wrong to use outdated figures as the basis for this - the most recent counts of people who have registered should have been used.”

There will now follow a period of consultation wherein the BCE will hear the public’s thoughts and concerns regarding the proposals so as to make any changes that are required. People can have their say on the new Cambridge constituency boundaries at www.bce2018.org.uk, or at a public hearing in Cambridge on 10th-11th November.

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