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Could Sussex constituency changes see Lucas and Baker lose their seats?
Two Sussex MPs could be forced to look for a new job after the next election if radical plans to redraw constituency boundaries come into force.
Yesterday the Boundary Commission announced a planned shake-up that could decisively change the county’s political landscape.
The proposals put both Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas and Lewes MP Norman Baker at risk of losing their seats in Westminster.
If the new boundaries had been in place before the last election in 2010, both would have been defeated.
As part of a raft of changes the Boundary Commission has suggested a coastal Brighton East and Seahaven ward should be created that would include Brighton Kemptown and most of the Newhaven and Seaford wards from the Liberal Democrat Lewes constituency.
In the heart of Brighton and Hove, Regency ward, currently a Green stronghold in Brighton Pavilion, would be moved to the neighbouring Hove constituency.
Moulsecoomb and Bevendean wards - currently Labour areas in Brighton Kemptown - would be added to Brighton Pavilion, heaping more pressure on the country’s only Green MP.
If the suggested boundaries had been in place before the last election, Ms Lucas would have lost Brighton Pavilion to Labour’s candidate, Nancy Platts.
Labour would have polled 17 more votes than the Greens, UKIP, all the minor parties and independent candidates combined.
Ms Lucas described the plans as “absurd” and accused the Boundary Commission of trying to “divide up the heart of the city”.
She said: “These proposed changes simply don’t reflect the distinctive communities and neighbourhoods like Regency, which has always been considered the centre of Brighton rather than Hove.
“I’ve already been contacted by constituents who are appalled by these plans – constituency boundaries should reflect the communities that MPs represent, rather than just points on a map drawn in Whitehall to meet quotas of voters.
“In terms of what this means for a likely 2015 election, we obviously need to wait and see – I’m proud of my record as a local MP and the Greens have shown that we have strong and growing support across the whole of Brighton and Hove.”
Uncertainty remains about when the changes will actually happen. In Westminster, the Lib Dems want them delayed until after the election and Labour wants them scrapped.
But the plans are supported by Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby, whose new constituency would include parts of Newhaven and Seaford but would be stripped of the Labour-leaning Moulsecoomb and Bevendean wards.
He said: “I welcome the commission’s proposal for a Brighton East and Seahaven constituency.
There are clear social and economic ties between the areas incorporated.
“Having lived in this area for most of my life I know Newhaven and Seaford very well, and it would be an honour for me to represent them.”
Under the changes, Lewes would fall into a new Lewes and Uckfield constituency which would take in the rural north of Newhaven.
Lewes MP Norman Baker would lose the Lib Dem strongholds of Seaford and the centre of Newhaven and would take on Uckfield, where four of five wards voted Tory in the 2010 election.
If the boundaries had been in place before the last election, Mr Baker would have lost to the Conservatives by more than 3500 votes.
Last night he insisted his party would block the changes after their coalition partners scuppered reform of the House of Lords earlier this year.
He said: “The Tories didn’t stick to their side of the bargain so they must now pay the penalty.
“Even if these plans do somehow happen, I think the seat would be very winnable.
“Uckfield has a long history of electing Liberal Democrat councillors, so you mustn’t just look at one election.”
Mr Baker also accused the commission of failing to recognise the “historical link” between Seaford, Newhaven and Lewes.
He said: “I do not believe that Seaford residents will be happy being stuck at the far end of a Brighton constituency while Newhaven residents will have their town cut in half.
“The commission has swapped one set of bad proposals for another.”
But James Page, the Conservative leader of Lewes District Council, said it “made sense” for the coastal towns to be represented alongside Brighton Kemptown.
He said: “I think we have a lot in common with Brighton so this seems like a good idea.”
In its report, the Boundary Commission said: “Our proposed Hove and Brighton Pavilion constituencies are contained entirely within the unitary authority boundary, and better reflect the separate identity of Hove and the boundaries of the existing constituencies than do the initial proposals.
“Brighton East and Seahaven recognises the links that exist between Brighton and the towns along the coast to the east .
"It further recognises that this area is separated from the rest of East Sussex by the hills of the South Downs.
"We believe an extension from Brighton in this direction is preferable to the extension into Lewes proposed by the commission, and we accept the force of the many responses received by the commission objecting to its proposed Lewes and Brighton East constituency.”
As well as changes to Brighton and Lewes, a new Bexhill constituency would be made up of almost half of the existing Bexhill and Battle constituency and also include wards from the existing Wealden constituency.
There would be an entirely new constituency, called The Weald, which crosses the boundary between Kent and East Sussex.
The commission recommended that Barnham ward, currently in the Arundel and South Downs constituency, should be transferred to Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.
It suggested Plaistow ward in the Chichester constituency should be moved to Arundel and South Downs and said Copthorne and Worth ward should be moved from the Horsham constituency to Crawley.
The constituencies of Eastbourne, Hastings and Rye, Worthing East and Shoreham and Worthing West would remain unchanged.