Saturday, July 09, 2011

The 'Blue touchpaper' of Welsh constituency boundaries has been lit.

Since being elected a Conservative MP, I have always voted with the Government. Perhaps this loyalty was most tested when I voted (several times) in favour of what was to become the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. Despite reservations, I accepted that I was elected on a manifesto which included reducing the number of MPs by 10% - and it would be disingenuous to vote against the means of bringing our commitment into effect. I also supported the decision to reduce the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30. Didn't like it, but there can be no intellectual basis on which to argue that Wales should have pro-rata more MPs that the rest of the UK. In fact, the existence of the National Assembly could be (and often is) used to argue the number of Walsh MPs should be even lower.

Soon, we are going to be faced with the consequences of this Act - and its going to be messy, very messy indeed. In September, we're expecting to see the Boundary Commission's first stab at future arrangements. Montgomeryshire, and other well known constituenceis, as we have known them for many decades, will be no more. Fledgling Welsh political careers of promise will hit the buffers - across all parties. The consequences of this change will hang over the remainder of this Parliament, as most MPs will be working in a fog of uncertainty about their careers. More of this when we see the BC proposals.

But there's another potentially controversial aspect to these changes - the impact on the National Assembly for Wales. Just a few weeks ago I heard Labour MPs openly supporting the aligning of Assembly constituencies with the new Westminster constituencies. I knew this could not possibly last, and warned anyone who would listen that Labour would inevitably change its mind about this. (Constitutionally, what would need to happen is that the link between Cardiff Bay and Westminster boundaries which was broken to allow the PVSC Act to be passed would have to be reinstated.) Today Martin Shipton has reported on the first salvo by a leading Labour AM against this re-linking. Expect Labour MPs to follow.

Perhaps I see bigger problems than there will be. But let us consider what could well be happening. The Welsh Government, representing a majority in the National Assembly are likely to be opposing new boundaries for future Assembly elections, forced through by Westminster MPs. Martin tells us that Leighton Andrews, speaking with the full blessing of the First Minister, will oppose this as a tactic by the Coalition Government to change the constitution of the National Assembly to prevent there ever being the possibility of a Labour majority in Cardiff Bay. I see the makings of a major rumpus here. The blue touch paper has been lit.


Anonymous said...

well Glyn,with respect to yourself as an excellent former AM and equally good MP, as a Conservative voter, since your party won't sort out immigration and the EU, despite promising to, we need to be able to make our UKIP votes count in whatever election there is. Therefore if changing the voting system in Wales means my vote is useful to UKIP then great. That is unless your shower grow some balls and tell Clegg and his immigration and EU superstate loving party to do one, so you can do what we voted you in for.

Anonymous said...

I think we can cut back on "the number of Walsh MPs" so long as this does not impact on the number of Welsh MPs. CW