Restin, or bleedin demised?


Just how dead are David Cameron's plans to change parliamentary boundaries? Are they restin' or bleedin demised?

I'm assuming, I have to say, that they are a gonner. Once Nick Clegg withdrew his party's support and votes, Mr Cameron was bound to keep saying out loud that he is pressing ahead with the vote but in private? Surely even he accepts that they are ex-plans?

The Conservatives themselves seem to have come to the same conclusion. A few weeks ago they started selecting candidates in existing parliamentary constituencies - a sure fire sign that everyone has concluded it is bye-bye to a vote on boundary changes this side of the next election. I bumped into a Labour MP a few weeks ago who had more reason than most to worry about the changes going ahead. He was relieved. Not only could he breathe again, but so could ten Welsh MPs whose seats were on the hit list. It's gone away "for now at least" he added, suggesting that a Pandora's box had been opened and that in the end, a reduction in the number of Welsh constituencies is inevitable.

On Tuesday Lord Touhig will try to find out exactly how much the review of constituency boundaries cost. Whatever the answer, it'll be considerably too much, you can count on the Lord to point that out with some vigour.

Very sad, never mind was the response of many of Mr Cameron's own troops in Wales when the plans seemed to bite the dust. More than one Welsh Tory MP were likely to lose out if the changes went ahead. Some didn't try too hard at all to disguise the schadenfreude.

Yet, the official line is that the vote to change the boundaries is still going ahead. Here's Montgomeryshire Glyn Davies MP's recent take:

"Its such a bizarre situation that I'm not confident I'll be able to explain it to anyone. Equally bizarre will be the position of the current Montgomeryshire MP if he's faced with a 3-Line Whip from his party to vote for new boundaries and an instruction from his constituency association to vote against! Even I'm beginning to find this whole scenario difficult to grasp. So better stop now".

I'll carry on and share with you just one rumour - pretty odd stuff but given it comes from a well-placed and well-informed source, I'll mention it. They pointed to the negotiations in Scotland on the independence referendum. The suggestion was that somewhere in the discussions around allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in that referendum, the idea had been floated that in return, SNP MPs would support the government if a vote on boundary changes ever came about.

Odd? Very odd.

I imagine the SNP wouldn't care either way. In an independent Scotland, they wouldn't be sending any MPs to Westminster anyway. But wasn't the concession around 16 and 17 year olds voting given in return for there being just one, single question? And doesn't recent polling suggest 16 and 17 year old aren't half as keen on independence as you might have imagined, making it not much of a concession anyway? And another thing, doesn't it seem a very odd concession to come from a Lib Dem? The negotiations, after all, are happening between a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State, Michael Moore and the SNP deputy, Nicola Sturgeon. Why on earth would he be seeking a handful of votes in support of a vote his party wants to scupper?

Even if a Cameron-Salmond deal could be done on a rung higher than this, it doesn't ring true to me and I've found no-one who thinks it does. Those far closer to the talks than we are here in Wales have heard nothing of any such element to the bargaining. Still, given boundary changes would undoubtedly deliver a greater number of Conservatives MPs, who knows, enough even to avoid defeat at the next election, perhaps we shouldn't dismiss the idea that David Cameron might yet be trying his best to breathe some life into this political parrot - at least, not quite yet.

Incidentally, news today of something that Mr Cameron does want, or so goes the briefing - a body charged with drawing up a new constitutional settlement for the entire UK. The briefing in Cardiff is that this is precisely what Carwyn Jones has been demanding for some time now.

But spot the difference: Mr Cameron would establish such a body only if and when Scotland rejects independence. The First Minister wants him to go for it now. As Mr Jones he put it in February: "I don't want the UK to break up into different parts, but it is better we consider this possibility now and not in two years' time".

His view, I'm told, hasn't changed.

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Until someone either challenges the figures for the fiscal deficit for an independent Wales, or explains what major cuts in spending they are willing to endure, the case for independence is still-born.
    I know, demand £3B per year for ever for the sins of Edward and Henry VIII with, of course, the cursed English having no say in how the money is spent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    21 If you and others oppose devolution then in a parliamentary democracy you must organise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    No doubt at all that Wales is ridiculously over governed.

    It is now obvious that this unnecessary assembly is using the bloated tiers of Welsh politicians as some kind of "jobs for the (Welsh speaking nationalist) boys" exercise.

    It is now common knowledge that this assembly was always intended as a major step towards full, stand alone independence.

    Our apathy will be our downfall...unless !

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The area around Birmingham has nine parliamentary constituencies. The city is surrounded by Metropolitan boroughs, - in Wales the County Councils. The simple fact is there are too many of all sorts in Wales for the population. Taking the point about the number of AM's... I must have begun to believe the rhetoric spouted about increasing the number, or it is just the end of a hard week at work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Mind you - what a lot of people have forgotten, that there is actually a legal requirement to review the parliamentary boundaries anyway within the next five years even if all this Con/Lib stuff had not happened. And like the recent Local Government Boundary reviews in Wales, self centred politicians will fight to keep their own jobs, rather than saving public money and doing the right thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Incidentally, news today of something that Mr Cameron does want, or so goes the briefing - a body charged with drawing up a new constitutional settlement for the entire UK.

    Some hope for a return to sanity then.

    There is a case for an 80 member Assembly.

    Equally, there is a case for no assembly at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    ... #16, "dontblameme" makes the point very well ...

    "Wales is over-governed".

    If a case could be made, that the regions of Wales have very special and unique characteristics that require especial and unique management of resources he would be wrong.

    As Wales has no especial needs it is difficult to justify the additional governance, "dontblameme" is fundamentally correct in his assertions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Dontblameme you are wrong - Birmingham has one council, if you mean the West Midlands then that has a number of councils 7 in all. The National Assembly has 60 members not 80.

    I have no problem with the population of constituencies being fairly equal - though within 5% was a bit tight. I disagreed with reducing the size of the House of Commons though. There is a case for an 80 member Assembly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    ... to suggest that plans to change parliamentary boundaries were an attempt at gerrymandering is ludicrous in the extreme.

    Conservative philosophy calls for small government, and it is this that has driven these plans, the cutting of government departments (the budgets) is another part of the plan, the economic woes have been a godsend to the reformers, much like Arthur Scargil for Thatcher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Looks like Camerons attempts at gerrymandering have failed. He just looked at the political map of the UK and said the areas that vote Tory, cut their representation.

    He was trying to fix the next election pure and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Thank you "dontblameme"! At last someone else has woken up to the fact that is the most overgoverned country in the world. Now when will the turkeys who keep voting for Christmas WAKE UP?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The number of MP's should relate to the number in the constituency that they represent and this move was to do just that. In rural areas same number but bigger area. Pop. of Birmingham c3m and Wales c3m.
    Wales has 22 local councils Brum has 9, Wales has 40MP's Brum has 9 and Wales has 80 AM's Brum has none.
    Over governed, overburdened and a waste of the delegated block grant. Judge for yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Must be a great relief to us all that the (presumably trifling) problem of MILLIONS OF MILLIONS of pounds of debt has been solved.

    Phew! I thought we were in trouble there !

    Our politicians are moving on to such important matters as 16 year olds having the vote when many can barely scribble an X

    Only the great 5p grocery bag triumph can match that.

    Have another pie Carwyn, you deserve it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    ... a missed opportunity.

    Over-governed and overburdened with politically inspired debt, the legacy for our grandchildren.

    The proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries seemed to be a first step in balancing politics, unfortunately politics is a cowardly occupation, where the needs of the politician outweighs the needs of the electorate.

    ... the road to serfdom, not the book, a direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The proposed Scottish referendum:
    1 Electors in Scotland voted for the Union in 2010 by sending 59/59 MP's to the Union Parliaament.
    2 A referendum prevents over 4 million electors from exercising their power.(MP's and government stay in power)
    3. Mr Moore (Scot Sec) has been challenged to a by election on Union - he said no. Follow exchange of letters at

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    #7 'our over-representation in Westminster is a disgrace.'
    I had understood that one of the goals of certain Welsh politicians was an English assembly and then a Federal Grand Council with equal representation and status for England, Wales, NI and Scotland. Maybe you are just not ambitious enough.

    On the NHS: it's a useful Social Experiment: run in parallel: measure costs & outcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It will be shame if it does'nt happen as our over-representation in Westminster is a disgrace. We dont want th english telling us how to run,or not run the NHS (but we want their MONEY),so why are we telling them how to run theirs. This DEVO rubbish (much loved by BBC Wales because of plent of jobs/money for the chosen people) will lead to in a cul de sac. Just what the NATS always wanted in it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    #5 'State founded by Terrorists.'
    All states are founded by terrorists except, if you are successful, you become 'The Father of the Nation' DistinguishL David Ben Gurion, Eamom de Valera: Saunders Lewis. All appeared on a charge sheet with the word 'terrorist'. And only one wasn't anti-semetic with a liking for coloured shirts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    4: The Tories know that they're only in office due to a opportunist party of "we'll do anything for power" Liberals. Labour had 14yrs in office, are consummate power junkies and because out of office are having withdrawal symptoms and want fast political fix. Having Labour back in office or keeping the Con/Dem status quo is like the thought of dealing with Israel a state founded by Terrorists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Why wouldn't they?? Because having a bust-up with your coalition partners is foolish. Both are locked together for this parliament like survivors in a rowing boat, so standing up and shouting is a luxury they can't afford. If the coalition dissolves we will have a minority government. Remember the glory days of Jim Callaghan?? It was like Israel: horrible deals to get anything done.


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