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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Old Bexley & Sidcup
See Bermondsey & Old Southwark.
Penistone & Stocksbridge
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.
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
Surrey East, Surrey Heath, Surrey South West
“Heath” is not a compass point. 0/10, fake and not canon.
Where are the other Sussex constituencies?
See the entry for “Basildon & Billericay, Basildon South & Thurrock East”.
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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