New constituency for St Neots as commission takes cleaver to Parly boundaries

ST NEOTS, which has long complained at playing second fiddle to Huntingdon, looks set to get its own MP at the next General Election.

In a move that stunned not only sitting MP Jonathan Djanogly, whose Huntingdon constituency currently includes the larger town of St Neots but also the area’s Liberal Democrats, the Boundary Commission for England is proposing a new constituency based on St Neots – a town famous for having provided England’s only Prime Ministerial assassin.

The new St Neots constituency would be a Y-shaped area, with Ellington in the north-west, Willingham and Over in the north-east, Bassingbourn and The Mordens in the south and large chunks of Huntingdonshire and South Cambs in between.

The commission’s remit was to equalise Parliamentary electorates at 75,000 or within a small margin. MPs expected that to involve marginal changes in Cambridgeshire, not wholesale butchery to all by the Cambridge constituency.

It “has taken a cleaver” to Huntingdonshire’s Parliamentary boundaries, slicing Jonathan Djanogly’s Huntingdon constituency in two to create the new St Neots bailiwick, and consigning Shailesh Vara’s North West Cambridgeshire to oblivion.

And Ellington continues to be a political football, with three constituencies in five years if the commission has its way. Having been booted from Huntingdon into North West Cambridgeshire for last year’s General Election, residents will be kicked into the new St Neots constituency the next time the country goes to the ballot box, unless MPs throw out the changes.

Huntingdon constituency would get back all but Ramsey in the north of the district, gain a large chunk of Fenland as far to the north-west as Manea, but lose everything south and west of the Huntingdon and Godmanchester town boundaries, including Brampton and Buckden.

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Only a geographically small central core, consisting of Huntingdon, Godmanchester, St Ives and the villages of Alconbury, The Stukeleys, The Hemingfords, Hilton and Fenstanton, would remain in the Huntingdon constituency.

Ramsey would form part of a new constituency of Peterborough South, but Bury, with which it is contiguous, would move to Huntingdon constituency. North West Cambridgeshire, which currently includes the whole of north Huntingdonshire and parts of Peterborough, would disappear completely.

“We expected a knife but the commission has taken up a cleaver,” Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post.

“I’m shocked,” he said yesterday (Tuesday). “I had no inkling it would go this way. I thought they would look at the extremities, but they have cut the constituency in two. No one saw this coming.

“I’m upset and disappointed that they should think to split the district and the close affinity the market towns have for each other.”

For Huntingdon Tories the next step was to discuss the proposals at constituency level and then with neighbouring Conservative associations before deciding how to respond to the 12-week consultation, he said.

“It’s going to be a very unsettling time.”

The district’s Liberal Democrats were equally flabbergasted. “It’s an extraordinary mess,” said agent Martin Land. “The proposed St Neots constituency stretches from the border with Northamptonshire almost to the border with Essex.

“It’s all so complex that it will either stand or fall in total. The key thing is whether it will get through the House of Commons. It’s the electoral equivalent of having MPs with no natural communities to represent.

“Its ridiculous that Brampton should not be in Huntingdon [constituency] but Chatteris is.

“And some MPs will have to deal with three district councils, as well as the county council, which is absurd.”

INFORMATION: The commission’s consultation remains open until December 5.

In My 1812, Spencer Perceval became the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated when he was shot by disgruntled St Neots merchant John Bellingham, who was hanged a week later.