English MP criticises choice of St Asaph as new city

Barely 24 hours since it was announced that St Asaph is to be made a city, the backlash has begun.

An English Liberal Democrat MP has questioned the "logic" and the "sanity" of giving the award to such a small town.

Sir Bob Russell is MP for Colchester, which lost its own bid for city status. He raised the issue in the Commons during questions to the leader of the house, pointing out that only four of the 11 new cities created during the last 12 years are in England, home to the vast majority of UK residents.

"Can we have a debate on this discrimination against England and the extraordinary criteria of the committee that came up with the conclusions, bearing in mind that in Wales with only two applicants a town with 130,000 population was deemed not appropriate to become a city of the 21st century but a small community of three and a half thousand was.

"Where is the logic and sanity behind that decision?"

Commons leader Sir George Young said there were some questions he was totally unable to begin to answer but he didn't want to get involved in the Essex turf war between Colchester and the new city of Chelmsford.

The awarding of city status - there are three new ones and a lord mayoralty for Armagh - is a decision taken by the Queen on ministerial advice.

The UK government says it won't give any reasons for the success or failure of bids for city status. It says three new cities are being created due to the quality of the bids and in recognition of the significance of every part of the United Kingdom.

Yet when the competition was announced, it was made clear that there would be only one winner. The questions and answers section of the cabinet office website was amended yesterday after three winners were chosen.

This is what the government said when the competition was announced, with the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb breaking the traditional silence of the whip's office to tell MPs:

"We regard the bestowing of city status as a signal honour and a rare mark of distinction. Something special will be lost if too many places are granted city status. The Government's expectation is that only one new city will be created as a result of the diamond jubilee competition and, similarly, that only one existing city will be granted a lord mayoralty or lord provostship."

So what changed? Were ministers concerned about alienating those parts of the UK not given a new city? Has "something special" been lost?

If the Queen lives as long as her mother, and ministers remain highly sensitive to sharing out the baubles, we may end up with many more cities.

I may be biased, but is it too soon to launch the campaign for Penarth here?