Here are the UK’s most infuriating constituency names

What’s the matter with Wirral? Image: Ordnance Survey.

I have a lot of feelings about Britain’s constituency names: that is to say, a lot of them are just wrong. Here’s my A to Z of the most egregious.

Aberavon

This seems innocuous enough. This constituency is named for the historic town of Aberavon, but here’s the problem: Aberavon isn’t even the most significant location in the constituency. The historic town is now effectively part of Port Talbot, which makes a great deal more sense as the constituency name.

But it’s nice to have a bit of history, so you can make case that this is a good way to name constituencies, except…

Aberconwy

Quite literally the next constituency in the alphabet upends this rule. In the 1970s, government went in for creating new names for combined local authorities – Avon, Humberside and so forth – and Aberconwy was one – the borough existed from 1974 to 1996.

If you’re naming this constituency on the Aberavon “pick something historical and stick with it” principle, it really ought to be called Conwy. Or if you are going for major-ish settlements, Llandudno and Conwy works. But seriously Wales. Pick a theme and stick to it.

Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine

This is the first example of what I think of as the “Mewtwo Strikes Back” problem. As any millennial will be able to tell you, the first Pokémon film was called Mewtwo Strikes Back, raising the question of when, exactly Mewtwo struck.

Where is the Aberdeenshire East constituency? It’s chaos, just chaos.

Airdrie and Shotts

This is an early example of the Scottish disease: excessive use of the word “and” in constituency names. The town of Airdrie makes up the overwhelming bulk of the constituency’s population, some 38,000 or so people. Shotts has a population of under 8,000.

There is no case to be made for Shotts being included in the name. And the thing about this is once you start doing it you end up with, well… you’ll see. You’ll all see.


Aldridge-Brownhills

No excuse for this goddamn hyphen. Use an ampersand like everyone else, or failing that, a space.

Alyn and Deeside

Another artefact of 1974 government reorganisation in Wales. It’s the inconsistency that mithers me; either name your constituencies after something you came up with in the 1970s or an ancient town. But not both, Jeez. It’s anarchy. Anarchy.

Angus

A rare Scottish constituency with no unnecessary “ands” in it. So, of course, it will become “Angus Glens and Dundee East” in the boundary review, as well as “Angus West and Kincardine”.

I don’t want to get diverted on the new constituency names because we’ll be here all day – but can we just pause on the craziness of halving a location, calling one Angus West and one Angus Glens? There is no “Glens” on a compass.

East, North and South Antrim

Northern Ireland actually has very sensible constituency names.

Arfon

Wales switches its constituency names abruptly back to historical towns. It’s a nice pretty name, though under the Aberconwy rule it really ought to be called Gwynedd, or Bangor and Caernarfon if you are going for the “major settlements” rule.  

Argyll & Bute

Reasonable name, shared with the local authority it contains. But note the “and”. Scotland is actually responsible for 90 per cent of the mentions of “and” in Hansard. True story.

Arundel and South Downs

This English constituency is named for the market town and the National Park it contains. Gets away with the “and” because it sounds like a band name. Though, again, this is fine, but wildly inconsistent.

Ashfield, Ashford, Ashton Under Lyne, Aylesbury

Four sensible and easy to understand constituency names, not one stupid name.

Oh, god. Image: Ordnance Survey.

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

“Hi, I’m the Scottish Electoral Commission, and from 1997 to the present day, I became addicted to commas and ampersands.”

“It started small, just adding a couple of tiny towns to constituency names. But by the 2010 election it had had spiralled out of control.”

This constituency is materially unaltered from when it was just called Ayr. Seriously, if you’re reading this at the Scottish Electoral Commission, the first path to ending dependency is to admit you have a problem.

Central Ayrshire

Isn’t the centre of Ayrshire, you know, Ayr? So called because it combines bits of both North and South Ayshire, which is fine, except…

North Ayrshire and Arran

Seriously? What kind of directions are you giving here? “North” and “Central”? Shout-out to the Isle of Arran, getting its name in the place despite having just 4,000 people there.

Banff and Buchan

Another Scottish constituency with an “and” in the title. Should really be called Aberdeenshire North, but it gets off because it sounds like a great name for a firm of incompetent lawyers.

Barnsley Central

Barnsley East

I know what you’re thinking. How do you split a town in two and end up with a “Central” and an “East”? A West and an East, sure. A Central and an Outer, fine. But what exactly are they sniffing over at the Boundary Commission?

Basildon & Billericay, Basildon South & Thurrock East

If “Basildon” is in “Basildon and Billericay”, by definition there is not any Basildon left to be “Basildon South”. It should therefore be “Basildon North”. It gets worse, there’s a Thurrock, too.


Mid-Bedfordshire, North-East Bedfordshire, South West Bedfordshire

That the Boundary Commission can pull off unity of theme makes it even more maddening that they mostly don’t.

North, East, West, and South Belfast

Big hand for Northern Irish constituency names.

Bermondsey & Old Southwark

This makes me angry. Very angry. There are lot of these in London which are basically “[Place Name] and [Defunct Local Authority]”. Why is this one “Old Southwark”? Hackney South and Shoreditch isn’t Hackney South and Old Shoreditch, despite the fact that it contains places that are only Shoreditch if you are a) an estate agent or b) moved to London after 2010.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk

Get a hold of yourself Scotland. Roxburgh is literally a village. I was going to say “Why don’t the other villages get their names in?” but it can only be a matter of time before they do.

Birkenhead

Right, let’s talk about the constituencies of the Wirral. Birkenhead, Wallasey, Ellesmere Port and Neston are four of them. So clearly what’s happened here is they’ve gone for major settlements, not Wirral [Direction], right? That’s fair enough.

Except…Wirral South and Wirral West. These directions don’t even relate to each other properly. Call Wirral South New Ferry and Bebington and Wirral West Hoylake and West Kirby, or rename the others.

Image: Ordnance Survey.

Birminghams Edgbaston, Erdington, Hall Green, Hodge Hill, Ladywood, Northfield, Perry Barr, Selly Oak, Yardley

The superficially consistent constituencies of the Birmingham local authority area. Except the qualifications for what size you need to be to be the suffix of a Birmingham constituency seem to range from “major settlement” (Erdington) to “pleasant sounding name” (Hall Green).

Bolton North East, Bolton South East, Bolton West    

These compass points are…different.

Bradford East, South, and West

What happened to Bradford North? It’s Mewtwo all over again.

Brent North, Brent Central

Again, how do you end up with a “North” and a “Central”?

Bridgwater & Somerset West, North Somerset, North East Somerset,

Never ask for directions in Somerset: a series.

Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion

Kemptown is a place. The Pavilion is literally a building, and yet somehow these are both acceptable constituency descriptions. And poor Hove doesn’t even get a Brighton in front of it.

Bristol East, Bristol North West, Bristol South, Bristol West

Never ask for directions in Somerset: the series continues. Slow clap for having enough constituencies to do a proper compass but not managing it.

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross       

Scotland, of course. Fun fact: since 1951, the length of the average constituency name in Scotland has increased by 26 per cent. No, really. I’m not making this up.


North East Cambridgeshire, North West Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire South East, Cambridgeshire.

Again, the maddening thing here is that you can very easily rearrange these boundaries to get a North, East, South and West.

City of Chester

Fuck off. Note how Bath, Wakefield, Wells, and so on don’t feel the need to do this. (And Wells really has a strong case for asserting its basically non-existent claim to be a city.)

“City of”. Ban this sick filth.

Clwyd South, Clwyd West, Vale of Clywd

What kind of crazy naming scheme even is this?

Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill

Ampersands Anonymous, are you there? It’s me, Scotland.

Colchester

Note to Chester, see how there is no “City of” here?

North Cornwall, South East Cornwall

What is the purpose of the word “east” here?

Coventry North East, Coventry North West, Coventry South

What even is this? And again, a small tweak would give you a Coventry North, a Coventry South and a Coventry Central.

Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South

See, Coventry? Great constituency-naming from Croydon.

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East   

Get a grip, Scotland: a series. This is doubly egregious as there is no constituency with “Kirkintilloch West” in the name.

Image: Ordnance Survey.

Derby North, Derby South, Derbyshire Dales, Mid-Derbyshire North East Derbyshire, South Derbyshire

Derbyshire comes close to unity of them, then ruins it with “Dales”. Is that a compass point? No, no it is not.

Central Devon, East Devon, North Devon, South West Devon, Devon West and Torridge

The “west” in South West Devon is particularly inexcusable. Torridge is in Devon, get rid of it from the name.

Mid-Dorset & Poole North, South Dorset, West Dorset, North Dorset

What happened to Poole South? We’ll never know.

Dunfermline & Fife West

Fifes: Fife West, and North East Fife. Where is the rest of Fife?

City of Durham

We talked about this. No likes, no favs.

North Durham, North West Durham

Never ask directions in Durham.

Ealing Central & Acton, Ealing North, Ealing Southall

Pick a theme and stick to it. There are three different naming conventions on show here.

East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow

By 2030, it is estimated that there will no ampersands left for the rest of the English-speaking world. They will all be busy servicing Scottish constituency names.

Enfield North, Enfield Southgate

What? Why? One is a compass point, the other is a place. What even is this?

Mid-Kent and Faversham

The only Kent constituency with Kent in the name. Go home, Kent, you’re drunk.

Hackney South & Shoreditch

See Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Set to become the ridiculous Hackney West and Bethnal Green, a place that exists only in the minds of estate agents.

Harwich & Essex North

Where is Essex South? It’s not even the northmost constituency in Essex. What a joke.

Islington South and Finsbury

See Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey

Those greedy Scots.

Leeds Central, Leeds East, Leeds North West, Leeds North East, Leeds West

The mystery of a city without an apparent south. It gets worse: Leeds Central is the most southernmost constituency by a distance. Look:

Image: Ordnance Survey.

West Lancashire, Lanark and Hamilton East

There is no other Lancashire. There is no Hamilton West. There is no God.

Leicester East, Leicester South, Leicester West

What happened to Leicester North? Mebbe Leeds stole it, I don’t know.

North West Leicestershire, South Leicestershire

What is the West adding here?

Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham East, Lewisham West & Penge

What kind of compass is this?

Linlithgow & Falkirk East

Turns out that that the constituency calling itself Falkirk was lying.


Manchester Central, Manchester Gorton, Manchester Withington

What kind of compass are they using, seriously?

Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East

A moment ago you had used all the Middlesbrough, now apparently there’s some left over. Which is it?

Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford

Are you Scotland in disguise? Seriously, what even is this? Actually this isn’t as unreasonable as it looks, as all three are chunky population centres, which is probably why it loses a big chunk to Wakefield.

Northampton North, Northampton South, Nuneaton, Norwich South, Norwich North, Nottingham East, Nottingham North, Nottingham South, Nuneaton

All good.

Old Bexley & Sidcup

See Bermondsey & Old Southwark.

Penistone & Stocksbridge

Hehehe.

Paisley & Renfrewshire North, Paisley & Renfrewshire South, East Renfrewshire

West Renfrewshire is where Amelia Earhardt ended up, presumably.

Richmond (Yorks), Richmond Park

The need to differentiate the Richmond in Yorkshire from the one in London could be fixed by calling the latter Barnes & East Sheen.

Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner

London getting in on the ludicrous names game. There is no excuse for this one.

Ross, Skye & Lochaber

Apparently they asked how long a constituency name could be in Scotland. The Skye’s the limit, apparently.

Romsey & Southampton North

The Southampton constituencies are a weird mess, because every boundary change they change the naming format so there are these weird appendices of constituencies past.

Scarborough & Whitby

That Whitby managed to squeak in here (Scarborough is the bulk of the constituency) is a good example of what soft power and a residents’ association can do for you.

Image: Ordnance Survey.

Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough, Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield Heeley, Sheffield South East

What’s it to be, Sheffield? Compass points, place names? Pick one.

Sefton Central

There is no other Sefton constituency. Why is the word “Central” even there?

Sleaford & North Hykeham

There is no South Hykeham, apparently.

South Holland & The Deepings

Great band.

Surrey East, Surrey Heath, Surrey South West

“Heath” is not a compass point. 0/10, fake and not canon.

Mid-Sussex

Where are the other Sussex constituencies?

Thurrock

See the entry for “Basildon & Billericay, Basildon South & Thurrock East”.

The Wrekin

The name of a Doctor Who monster, not a marginal constituency.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at our parent title, the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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Network Rail let me have a play on Manchester’s new rail bridge. Here’s what I learned

The new bridge in all its glory. Image: Network Rail.

By the time the railways arrived in Manchester, the city was already built up, forcing trains to finish their journey on the edge of the urban area. To this day, it still has two main stations: Victoria, which sits on the northern edge of the city centre, and serves destinations across the north; and Piccadilly, which serves a smaller chunk of the north, but also provides trains to Birmingham, London and points south.

There are many ways in which this situation is less than ideal. For a start it means that travellers get off a train, only to find they’re still surprisingly far from the city centre. For another, terminating services take up more space (because you need more platforms) and time (because crews need to change ends) than through ones.

Then there’s Manchester Airport, the busiest in the north, used by travellers right across the region. But that’s to the south of the city, on a line into Piccadilly, which makes it annoyingly hard to get to by train.

The proposed PiccVic tunnel. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

So what with one thing and another, linking up Manchester’s two stations in some way has been an ambition for decades. In the mid-1970s, there was a plan for a “Picc-Vic” tunnel, which would have served five underground stations in the city centre – but that, inevitably, got cancelled due to lack of funds. The city council instead started to focus its efforts on the new Metrolink tram network; but while that’s been great for locals and commuters, it’s not done much for longer-distance travellers

A few weeks from today, though, trains will travel directly between Piccadilly and Victoria for the first time. To do so, they’ll use existing lines to the south and west of the city centre, as well as 300m of new track, known as the Ordsall Chord.

And, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear, the nice people at Network Rail let me have a go on their new bridge. Here I am, in my fetching new personal protective equipment:

Jacket, trousers, boots, gloves, eye protection, hard hat: all present and correct. Ability to take a remotely flattering selfie: conspicuous by its absence. Image: author provided.

(The trousers were my size, which was unexpected, because I hadn’t actually told Network Rail what size I was. This lead me to worry they kept a database of such things, but the press office assured me that this had literally never happened before, and was extremely unlikely to happen again. So anyway.)

The Ordsall Chord has been talked about for a very long time: parliament actually agreed to build the thing, then known as the Castlefield Curve, all the way back in 1979, just after the cancellation of the Picc-Vic tunnel. In some ways it’s an obvious missing link – remember we’re talking about just 300m of new track, costing under £100m, which isn’t that much as these things go. But Britain being what it is, it proved rather easier to persuade ministers to build London’s £15bn Crossrail instead.

A schematic of the new curve. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

In 2011, though, then chancellor George Osborne unexpectedly announced £85m of funding. The project somehow survived austerity and the new bridge in the borderlands between Manchester and Salford, officially opened last week (although the first trains won’t run until next month).

A scale model of the new link, nearby in what was Manchester Liverpool Road station; it’s now a part of the Museum of Science & Industry. Image: author provided.

I say it’s a bridge: as it happens, it’s actually two bridges. The bit your eye is drawn to is a structure known as a “network arch”, which means those wires crosses at least two others. That part will carry trains over the River Irwell, which divides Manchester from Salford.

Beyond that, though, there’s a second bridge: a flat one, across a section of the inner ring road. Linking them is a slight dip in the metal sides of the bridge (though not, obviously, in the track).

A map of the area. New curve highlighted in yellow. Image: Google.

This, along with the asymmetrical shape of the arch which facilities it, is a purely aesthetic feature. So is the colour: the metal was allowed to rust in the Manchester climate, apparently for no other reason than to make it look cool. “We don’t want it to read as different structures as you look along the river,” Peter Jenkins, the head of transport at architects BDP and lead architect on the project, explained at the official opening ceremony. The design, he added, was “not uncharted, but rarely charted.”

To be fair, it is a great looking bridge: something that looks like a landmark, rather than just a piece of infrastructure. One of the guys who’d worked on the project told me, as a group of us stood on the bridge, that he hoped it would be illuminated at night, just to show it off and make it a feature of the city’s skyline.

(Incidentally, as excited as I was to go play on the bridge, it wasn’t entirely clear what I was meant to do once I got there. I tramped up and down a bit, took some pictures of the city’s skyline, and occasionally checked nervously that there was no way a train could get near me. But what was I actually meant to do? And what was a decent interval before it was acceptable to, y’know, get off the bridge again? Ah well, better take another photo I suppose.)

A view from a bridge. Image: author provided.

Looking good is all very well, of course, but what will the Ordsall Chord actually do? 


For a start, it’ll allow travellers from Yorkshire, the north east and other parts of the north to travel directly to the airport for the first time: that should hopefully work out well the airport, the road network and the wider economy.

It’ll also speed up journey times. Longer distance services will no longer have to reverse, or trundle all the way around Manchester on far-flung bits of track. Instead, they’ll be able to go straight around the city centre.

(Seriously, I’ve been up here 20 minutes now. Is it okay to get down again yet? Surely they must all have noticed that I have no idea what I’m doing right now. Surely.)

Mike Heywood, the director who managed the project for Network Rail, pointed me to another, less obvious benefit. At the moment, the various trains terminating at Piccadilly often have to cross each other’s paths to reach their platforms. This, if you don’t want trains to crash into each other, limits the number of trains you can actually run.

By diverting a share of trains via two new through-platforms and the chord, Heywood told me, you can reduce that, and add 25 per cent to Piccadilly’s capacity at a stroke.

The side view. Image: author provided.

Oh, and by making the new bridge look good, those who built it also hope it’ll help kick-start regeneration along a rather neglected stretch of the River Irwell, too.  Not bad for 300m of new track.

This is only one part of what the industry has termed the Great North Rail project. Others include an extra platform at Manchester Airport, electrification on assorted routes in the north west, and – best of all, given the state of the existing rolling stock – vast numbers of new trains, due to appear next year.


 The region’s transport network is still not getting anything like the care or attention that we take for granted in the south east, of course, but all the same, it’s nice to be able to write about a new railway line in the north for once. AND they let me go play on a bridge.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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