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Cameron's Cut

Betsan Powys | 13:31 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

All David Cameron has to do now is win the next General Election.

If he does, then he tells the FT his plan is to get the axe out - or at least place it in the hands of the Boundary Commission - and reduce the number of MPs by 10%. What he wants is a political map where all seats have roughly the same number of voters. It would be fairer and bring down the cost of politics he suggests, without adding the obvious that it would make it easier for the Conservatives to win elections.

Why? Because as things stand Labour have to win fewer votes than the Tories to find themselves with a parliamentary majority. No surprises then that Mr Cameron wants to correct what amounts to an anomaly. No surprises either that Labour are already calling it something else: gerrymandering.

You and I live in a country where MPs on average represent around 55,000 voters. Mr Cameron lives in one where the average figure is around 70,000. Scottish MPs have already faced the axe, their number falling from 72 to 59 when the Scottish Parliament was established. On average the number of voters they represent is now within spitting distance of English levels: some 67,000.

You and I are blessed, so the maths tells us.

If you live in Arfon then your man, Hywel Williams, has just another 42,997 electors to care for. John Smith in the Vale of Glamorgan has 68,229 people on his list. But stick to that average of around 55,000. 7 constituencies deviate from that quota by more than 15%. Take 7 away from 40 and there, you imagine, is the 'around 30' Welsh constituencies being stabbed at today. Note that figure seems to be the FT's though, not Mr Cameron's. Quiet briefing in London suggests it 'wouldn't be that many'. How many? Can't say.

So would the number of constituencies in Wales be cut as a direct consequence of devolution or simply to bring the number of electors in each seat in line with England and Scotland? The obvious answer is a bit of both.

Would the numbers be cut again, then, if full law-making powers were given to the Assembly in future, along Scottish lines? Wouldn't that leave Wales the poor relations?

Were Conservative Central Office right that I 'shouldn't assume Scotland would be completely unaffected' by these cuts? Haven't they taken their hit? Surely Mr Cameron would have an awful lot to lose from going anywhere near Scotland and would find it far more profitable to take seats away from England and Wales?

Nick Bourne says he's talked this through with Mr Cameron and is supportive of the plans, as long as Wales isn't hit disproportionately hard. Funnily enough Mr Bourne seemed rather pleased to take the question at this morning's briefing. It was just about the only one that didn't include the words "expenses" and end in "full backing of your group?"


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