Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is this the end of Parliamentary Democracy in Mid Wales ?

Tonight I held a meeting of local public representatives to discuss the proposed new parliamentary boundaries as they effect Montgomeryshire - and at very short notice. For me the proposals are heart breaking. Montgomeryshire has always been my physical and spiritual home. Never lived or had an ancester born anywhere else. I love the place. Around 80 or so people turned up, and it seems they love it as well. With notice and advertising it would have been hundreds. Whats proposed is that Mongomeryshire should be smashed up, and the bits cast randomly on the winds, bringing parliamentary democracy as we know it to an end in Mid Wales. What seems to have happened is that the Boundary Commission did its work in North and South Wales, and then just carved up Mid Wales to make the numbers up everywhere else. When I answered a question, explaining that our area's future MPs may live and have their offices in the Swansea Valley or near the North Wales Coast, with nothing in between, they were 100% horrified. Mid Wales may well have no MP living in the entire area at all. So angry were my audience that they insisted on a vote (unanimous) to ensure I understood just what they were telling me. I promised that I would make public my response to the meeting, and that I would present my constituent's opinion to the Boundary Commission at one of its future public meetings.

One important and worthwhile point emerging from the floor was the damage this will do to the development of Wales as a nation. Since devolution I have been keen on actions which unify the different parts of Wales - e.g. improvements to the A470. Suddenly we see a position where North Wales and South Wales will be represented, but with a great chasm in between in terms of parliamentary representation. The entire room could see just how disastrous the proposals are. And the great worry is that Mid Wales is so often unthinkingly ignored, that no-one outside our area will notice the dangers. I don't suppose this occurred to the Boundary Commissioners.

And it didn't end there. My audience wanted to know what this meant for National Assembly elections. I explained that there was no immediate proposal for change, but that consideration of linking the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies may happen before the next election. The balloon went up. The almost disbelieving message from the floor was "Having totally screwed up the Parliamentary boundaries, you want to totally screw up the Assembly boundaries in the interests of coterminous convenience". And they demanded a vote on that too. 100% again. Russell George AM, who was skulking in the back, left with his arm stuck up his back as far as my arm was stuck up mine. Its wind farms all over again - Mid Wales being sacrificed. And some people still think a politician's life is a doddle.


Anonymous said...

You're guilty of shooting the messenger,Glyn. The Boundary Commission for Wales was charged by Westminster with the impossible task of drawing up constituencies on a rigidly defined population basis.Under the 2011 Act each new constituency had to have no fewer than 72,810 voters and no more than 80,743. Only one of our current constituencies,Cardiff South and Penarth, meets that arbitary requirement. What little room for manoeuvre the Commission had, it deployed wisely. Where possible Welsh-speaking communities have been included within the same constituencies. That is responsible for the ingenious creation of Glyndwr and North Montgomery.Ingenious is not what you would call it, I fully realise.( And, actually, I'm not unsympathetic to Maldwyn's plight.) But as a Tory MP you can't wash your hands of the proposals. Contrary to your assertion, it's in South Wales that the Commission has got it wrong big time.It absurdly mismatches Cardiff North with Caerphilly, and it forces Newport into a meaningless alliance with valley communities in the vicinity of Pontypridd. But in totality, given the restrictions it was forced to work under, the Commission's done remarkably well. Just how would you have redrawn the boundaries within such ridiculous confines?

Anonymous said...


While I sympathize with your sentiments, this is the unfortunate consequence of being stuck in the middle. Because of the very strict electoral quota it is not possble to simply redesign Powys constituencies without having a knock on effect throughout Wales. Please try the OS Boundary Assistant website to try some alternatives - but there is not much of an alternative.


Anonymous said...

I heard on (I think!) Newsnight that EVERY MP from the Conservative party has to put aside TWO days to campaign for BoJo as London Mayor.

I was wondering whether this is true, and whether you, as a member for Mid Wales will be campaigning for the Mayor of London???

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 1 - Not sure I'm shooting anyone - and I explained carefully to my audience that the change in MP numbers are based on manifesto committments by both Coalition partners. Neither am I competent or informed enough to put forward an alternative. But I can see what the implications are for parliamentary democracy in Mid Wales - and for the development of 'Wales the Nation'. And my constituency wants me to point this out to the Boundary Commission. Don't think I can do any other.

Penddu - I explained this to my audience last night. There is the 'localised' opportunity to move up to 4 wards from the 'south' to the 'North' - but I cannot go strong on this until I know the views of the affected town and community councils.

Anon 2 - I'm not someone who is good at doing what 'm instucted to do. I do hope to join the Boris campaign when its convenient. Only day I've signed up for is Thurs morn, 8th Feb. I am reviewing the papers for BBC News Cnannel late Wed, and have a meeting in London midday Thurs - so I have a slot to help. If you're in London, and want to join me, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't dream of helping in the London Mayoral elections (doesn't mean anything to me!).... particularly during times of Council Elections. I'd rather help party officials in Powys, Monmouthshire or even Gwynedd!

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - You seem to be trying to make a 'clever' point. I too would rather help council candidates in Montgomeryshire, but cannot do that when I'm in London. Its also the case that lots of London based politicians have travelled to Montgomeryshire to help me in the past - including Cameron, Hague, Portillo, Heseltine, Gillan, etc. etc. Life is a two way street.

Anonymous said...

Would it not have made more sense to leave Montgomeryshire in it'a entirety and add on maybe Tywyn Aberdyfi and parts of Radnor to make up the numbers, seeing that numbers seem more important than people?

JohnJ said...

Glyn,it seems a crazy scheme to split counties up,wouldn't it be better to join counties that share natural boundaries e.g Mont and Rads and have a little more flexibility with the numbers?