News of the Copeland by-election in December prompted me to discover Britain’s three-party constituency tripoints, where three constituencies each held by a different party meet. Back then, it formed part of a tripoint with Lib Dem-held Westmorland and Lonsdale, and Tory-held Penrith and the Border on the ridge running from Helvellyn to Fairfield.
Now Copeland’s Tory, however, the electoral geography has changed, but the number of tripoints remains the same. We’ve lost the old one (which now marks where two Tory constituencies and one Lib Dem one meet) but have gained a new one where Tory Copeland meets Labour Barrow and Furness and Lib Dem Westmorland and Lonsdale, and unlike the old one it’s a well marked spot as it’s the top of the Wrynose Pass. This, along with the Hardknott pass a little further west, is part of a famous route through the western Lake District and makes for a pretty hair-raising drive or a very tough cycle ride. The point is also marked by the Three Shire Stone, as it’s not just a constituency tripoint, it’s a historic country tripoint too.
The three constituencies follow the boundary lines of three historic counties, though the tripoint’s now solidly in the heart of Cumbria. Unsurprisingly, the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency contains the county of Westmorland, while Copeland was part of old Cumberland. To the south, the Furness peninsula and Barrow-in-Furness were historically a county borough (the 19th century equivalent of a unitary authority) of Lancashire, despite being physically separate from the rest of the county. These identities still matter to people living in the area, and people in Barrow will still call themselves Lancastrian rather than Cumbrian, while Westmorland and Cumberland are still used frequently in their parts of the county.
The tripoint may have changed from one I’ve walked through to one I’ve driven through, but it’s a reminder that while old boundaries may have disappeared from some maps, they still linger on in others, though no one has yet replaced the Three Shire Stone with a multicoloured version to mark this.
It occurred to me yesterday that I’ve never spent any significant time in the constituency of any party leader – I’ve passed through a few, but not been in any for a meaningful time – but that will likely change, assuming that Tim Farron or Norman Lamb is the next Liberal Democrat leader.
As MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim gets to represent a large chunk of the Lake District where I’ve spent plenty of time and will be back on holiday later this year. A constituency that includes Ambleside, Coniston, Windermere and Grasmere must be high up there on the list of constituencies most visited by tourists, but my favourite part of it is likely Langdale:
However, I’ve also been to Norman’s North Norfolk constituency several times recently, which contains some of Britain’s best-looking beaches, particularly the fantastic wide expanses of Holkham:
Whichever of them wins, I don’t think either of them will have trouble having good shots of them at home for the papers, or getting people coming to visit them in their constituency.
While everyone else heads off to Conference, I’m heading north for a few days, to hopefully get to spend some time in the Lake District when it doesn’t feel like a holy tome’s worth of rain is falling around me. There are a few posts cued up for when I’m gone to keep you happy, but I’m sure you’ll all be too busy in Bournemouth to care.
Mark Lawson has a rather bland piece in today’s Guardian which amounts to little more than ‘developments in technology affect methods of storytelling’ stretched out to 500 words, but there’s one line in it that strikes me:
Although mobiles have sealed off some traditional narrative avenues – “I’m afraid my husband’s on a walking holiday in the fells, officer, and we don’t expect to hear from him until Sunday!” – they also offer new openings.
I guess this shows that he hasn’t been to Cumbria recently, where most of the fells – and especially those on the western side of Lakeland, like Wasdale – still don’t have any mobile phone coverage, thanks to the fact that radio signals don’t pass through rock too well and no one’s yet attempted to erect a mobile mast on Scafell Pike. There are also large parts of the Scottish Highlands that don’t have any mobile coverage, but I guess when your main worry is that you’re in a part of a London where you can only get three bars of coverage, the idea that someone in Britain might not be able to use a Blackberry can be pretty mystifying.
Yes, I’m back from my holiday and didn’t evolve any gills to deal with the regular deluges that covered Cumbria during my time there. It seems that, in my absence, I was somehow voted the 73rd best Lib Dem blog, which isn’t bad considering that for most of the year it covered, one post per month felt like a ridiculously high level of output.
Anyway, automatic posts are now over, we’re back to fresh drivel delivered to you with no delay. Some interesting comments while I was away, which I will respond to tomorrow.