Musical chairs as MPs face cut in numbers

Parliamentary boundaries in Wales - current and proposed

Guest blogger Daniel Davies looks at the prospect of party colleagues competing for seats when the number of Welsh MPs is cut from 40 to 29.

Politicians will be poring over the redrawn boundaries proposed this morning. Some will be casting nervous glances at their neighbours.

With new constituencies, there are no guarantees that MPs will be chosen as candidates at the next general election in 2020.

Some will see their constituencies disappear or merge with neighbours. But that doesn't necessarily mean those MPs will vanish from parliament.

Labour's rules allow MPs to make a territorial claim to a new constituency, if enough of their old seat is contained within its boundaries.

If 40% of a seat moves into a new constituency, the MP's name goes on to a trigger ballot, allowing local party members to decide if they want to adopt the sitting MP or open nominations for a new candidate.

In some instances, more than one MP could be in the frame.


The Aberavon constituency of Stephen Kinnock, for example, would be split up by the new map. It's the smallest Labour-held seat in Wales.

Mr Kinnock says he has a claim to the new Neath and Aberavon seat, so Labour members there could face a choice between him and the current Neath MP, Christina Rees.

Hoping to avoid that clash, Mr Kinnock's office will be submitting revised proposals to the Boundary Commission for Wales.

Could Labour-leadership hopeful Owen Smith go head to head with Cynon Valley's Ann Clwyd for a new Cynon Valley and Pontypridd seat? Of course, there's always the possibility that one of them stands down from Parliament and makes way for their comrade.

A similar situation could arise in Newport, where the city's east and west constituencies are in line for merger. They're held by Labour's Paul Flynn and Jessica Morden.

Islwyn, represented by Labour's Chris Evans, is being carved up.

And in Cardiff there's potential for musical chairs. Labour MPs Jo Stevens and Stephen Doughty could both make a claim to be the candidate for the proposed Cardiff South and East constituency, a party source told me.

There's talk on the left of the Labour Party about using this as an opportunity to get rid of MPs who have been disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour won't be the only party with selection headaches.

Following a strong showing at the 2015 election, when they won 11 Welsh seats, it won't be easy for the Tories to decide who stands where.

A new South Pembrokeshire constituency would absorb large parts of the seats currently held by Tory neighbours Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart.

Image caption The north Wales seats of Tory ministers David Jones and Guto Bebb both face abolition

On the north Wales coast, the seats of UK government ministers Guto Bebb and David Jones will disappear. Instead a Colwyn and Conwy constituency would be created. At first glance, it looks like promising territory for the Tories.

Conservative Party HQ says it will work with MPs and local associations to make sure every MP will "have the maximum opportunity to be re-elected".

The Tories call it their "No Colleague Left Behind" policy. It sounds like a military evacuation. What it means in practice isn't clear yet, but it would appear that the party will do its best to offer seats to any victims of the cull.

All seats in Wales - and therefore all parties - will be affected by these proposals.

Win the selection battles and MPs might breathe a sigh of relief. But that only secures their status as election candidates. Whether they get to keep their jobs as MPs will be for the voters of the new constituencies to decide.

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