Bad blood and boundaries: what last night's vote means
- 30 January 2013
- From the section Wales politics
It was, as we like to say in Wales, "historic". For the first time since the Westminster coalition was formed two and a half years ago, Liberal Democrat and Conservative ministers went their own way in a House of Commons vote on plans to cut the number of MPs.
Several Welsh Tories have or had misgivings about the changes - which would cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 - but none voted against the plans to the relief of Tory whips. Montgomeryshire's Glyn Davies confined his opposition to an abstention.
"Thank the good Lord that's over," wrote Mr Davies on his blog. "No more obsessing about boundary reform." Having defied the party line for the first time, he wrote: "Despite the vote going the way I wanted it to, I don't feel joyous at all."
Last night's vote doesn't just mean that the next general election will be fought on the existing electoral map - to the probable disadvantage of the Conservatives; it also means that the Wales Office's plan to change the way members of the National Assembly for Wales are elected has also bitten the dust.
The idea from the green paper was that the number of AMs elected by first-past-the-post would fall from 40 to 30, with the remaining 30 (currently 20) elected from regional lists under a more proportional top-up system. This would have made it harder for any single party to win a majority of seats in Cardiff Bay. Labour, for some reason, thought this was about them.
A Wales Office spokesperson said after last night's vote: "We have always said that moving to 30 assembly constituencies, by reinstating the link between parliamentary and assembly constituencies, would be dependent on parliament approving the boundary commissions' proposals for new parliamentary constituencies.
"As Parliament has decided to defer the current review of parliamentary boundaries it would not be in anyone's interest at this time to change the make-up of assembly constituencies as proposed in the green paper."
Little wonder that shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith tweeted: "Victory! David Jones has waved the white flag over his green paper, conceding tonight that assembly boundaries will not be gerrymandered."
The Wales Office put it slightly differently: "The green paper did not just focus on constituencies. Other important issues, such as the length of assembly terms, were included and it is right that we sought people's views on them. We will now consider how best to move forward with these proposals."
So not a total waste of time and money then. It was a pretty acrimonious debate, with many Conservatives letting off steam over what they see as Liberal Democrat betrayal. All 57 Lib Dem MPs - most of whom had previously voted to cut the number of MPs - voted with Labour.
Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott abandoned her maternity leave to vote - three days before she is due to give birth. This conscientiousness didn't impress coalition colleague Alun Cairns. The Vale of Glamorgan MP tweeted: "Interesting how some prioritise their time to vote on some matters but not others." When it was pointed out that she was about to give birth, Mr Cairns added: "Exactly. Shouldn't have been here...."
I don't know whether Jenny Willott has a list of prospective godfathers for her child but if she has I suspect it may now be one shorter.
At least Glyn Davies decided to look on the bright side, tweeting: "Pleased the bad blood of boundary changes are now behind us and the Lib Dems and Tories can waltz lovingly to 2015 ." Perhaps Ms Willott and Mr Cairns could demonstrate this by teaming up for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.