Battle cry over boundary plans

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LABOUR MPs have urged South Yorkshire people to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to stop plans to tear up the county’s political map.

South Yorkshire is to lose one MP, from 14 to 13, and nine of the remaining constituencies are to be completely redrawn under new proposals drafted by the Boundary Commission.

A three-month consultation has been launched and public hearings will be held at Sheffield Town Hall next month to give residents a chance to discuss the plans.

Veteran Labour MP David Blunkett, whose Brightside and Hillsborough constituency is to be erased and distributed between three of the new seats, said the plans would ‘fragment representation’.

He added: “I hope Sheffield people will fight this tooth and nail, not on behalf of politicians, but on behalf of themselves.”

Angela Smith, whose former Hillsborough constituency was replaced with the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency last year, will see her seat change again, into the newly-devised Barnsley West and Ecclesfield.

She said: “These changes are quite clearly absurd and we will be fighting them in Parliament.”

After the consultation ends in December the Boundary Commission will publish a revised plan, which will have to pass a parliamentary vote by 2013 before it can come into force in time for the 2015 General Election.

If the plans are enacted, Labour will have to choose which local MP will stand aside. Under current party rules, any MP whose former constituency makes up more than 40 per cent of the new seat has a right to contest the new election.

The only South Yorkshire MP who falls foul of these rules is David Blunkett, whose seat has been torn into small parts, none including more than 39 per cent of his former territory. There is speculation he may be chosen to stand in the new Rotherham and Sheffield East seat, where current Rotherham MP Denis MacShane has been stripped of the party whip pending the outcome of a police investigation into expenses.

Mr MacShane called for MPs of all parties to oppose the ‘democracy-reducing measures’, and said: “These new seats cross local government boundaries so MPs will have to represent Rotherham and Sheffield or Sheffield and Barnsley simultaneously.”

n Hearings will take place at Sheffield Town Hall on October 17 and 18.