Friday, December 21, 2012

On the Horns of a Parliamentary Dilemma.

Its always been the case that if an MP wants to be noticed, he or she either has to be one of the 'favoured' faces - or one that rebels against the party. The MP who is not 'favoured', and votes consistently with the party whip is normally referred to in derogatory terms in the media as a poodle, and ignored by the 'upper strata'. Which is why yesterday's splendidly ferocious article by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph was a very good read. Now I didn't agree with all of it, but it did give me comfort that there's merit in the way I approach my job as an MP. Perhaps its because of my years playing in the back row with blind loyalty to my team that I would feel sick to the pit of my stomach to step into the opposition lobbies to vote against the Coalition Gov't. The circumstances would have to be extreme. In the two years eight months since I was elected, I have always voted with the Gov't - though I must admit I would have abstained in one crucial vote on Lords Reform, had it not been 'pulled' at the last minute.

The foregoing will make clear to you  how much it pains me to be contemplating voting against my Government for the first time. The issue causing me such distress is Parliamentary boundaries reform. I should take you through the process that has brought me to what I consider to be a very dark place.

I was elected in 2010 on a manifesto which promised to reduce the number of MPs to 585 - though I must admit I did not think this a sensible change to make. No-one took the slightest notice of me. It was a popular promise, because of the utter contempt in which MPs were held in 2010. I also voted for the Bill to give effect to this promise as it proceeded through its Parliamentary stages, which reduced the number of MPs to 600 - while privately making my increasing unhappiness known to my party. I was especially concerned about the impact on Wales of the very rigid constituency equalisation clauses. I feared that the Boundary Commission for Wales would be forced into proposals that would greatly damage Parliamentary democracy in mid Wales. The proposals that eventually emerged were even worse than I had imagined. The impact is catastrophic for mid Wales. Within a short period, MPs would have less profile in mid Wales than MEPs do now - and this is not in any way a comment on the quality of our current four Welsh MEPs.

So what do I do if, as is rumoured I am faced with a crucial vote on the issue next month. If passed, the Montgomeryshire I have known man and boy would be no more. The new constituencies that touch on mid Wales will have population centres elsewhere. My local party association is so horrified by the implications of the proposals that it has told me in no uncertain terms that they want me to oppose the new boundaries. And at a personal level, I would hate to see all the work we have done to build our Association in Montgomeryshire disappear in a cloud of angry blue smoke - because I believe those who have done this transformational work will not carry on. The outcome would be so horrific that I simply couldn't carry on either. The principles which underpin an MP's work are country first, party second and self third - and this change will end Parliamentary democracy in mid Wales as we know it.

 I face some choice. If I vote for the new boundaries, I will be turning my back on all I've worked for in public life and all those I've worked with in Montgomeryshire. If I vote against them by joining Labour in the lobbies, I will be turning my back on the Party I support. This is something to chew over when I've finished with the turkey bones. Looks like plenty of indigestion this Christmas.


Anonymous said...

This is nonsense. All Seats should have roughly the same number of electors, and this is far from the case now. For example the Isle of Wight has an electoral role of 11000 voters. Montgomeryshire has 49000. Arfon has just 42000 voters. This seat could be blocked together with Clwyd South which has 55000 voters and it is still smaller than the Isle of Wight. Or add Dwyfor, 45000, and again still smaller. Arfon has just 42000 voting souls and could be blocked together with Ynys Mon, 50000 voters. This makes a nonsense of the democratic process if you continue with such distortions.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - The Isle of Wight is desperately keen to remain as it is and this has been agreed if their are new boundaries. You make suggestions which you think are logical - a luxury denied to the Boundaries Commission by the rigid rules it was required to work under. A 10% variation with the odd exception, rather than 5% with just two in Scotland and Isle of wight would have allowed a much more acceptable solution.

Cibwr said...

And you overlooked the desire of the Cornish to not have a Devonwall constituency, even if it meant slightly underepresenting Cornwall - which does have a unique identity. And there is the problem, I broadly support equal sized constituencies but there should be also a recognition of community of interest. Also cutting the size of the Commons was symbolic and will achieve nothing.

David Lindsay said...

Does the phrase "ophists, economists and calculators" mean anything to you? It should.

David Lindsay said...

It has always boggled the mind that ostensible heirs of Burke could have had any truck whatever with this proposal. A parliamentary constituency really ought to reflect some sort of community on the ground, wouldn't you have thought? And Montgomeryshire is a very ancient community on the ground. There are many, many others. Whatever happened to Toryism?

However, if 500 MPs were to be elected from constituencies each containing as near as possible to one fifth of one per cent of the electorate, then another 102 could be elected by each of the English ceremonial counties, the Scottish lieutenancy areas, the Welsh historic counties (one of which is Montgomeryshire) and the Northern Irish counties, with candidacy restricted to registered voters within the county, most preferably of some years' standing. Each of the 12 areas already used for European Elections could then elect a further three, with each of us voting for one candidate and the top three being elected at the end.

The Lib Dems would probably imagine that they might benefit from such arrangements, or at any rate that such arrangements might spare them electoral oblivion. In reality, it would be well within the power of Labour and its allies to prove them wrong on that, if the necessary effort were to be made. In the meantime, though, let them be cajoled, along with scores or hundreds of shire Tories, into voting for this. The opportunity being presented by a Labour three-line whip in favour of this most Glasmanite and Cruddasite of schemes.