Sunday, 15 January 2012

Election Boundary Changes in Wales

Just some raw figures from The Guardian's description of the proposed boundary changes for the next UK general election:

Boundary changes: the first map of the UK's new constituencies
Simon Rogers and James Ball, Wednesday 11 January 2012 07.30 GMT
How would the UK have looked if the 2010 election had been fought with the new constituencies? Would your MP still have a seat? Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and now Wales have published their recommendations - and we've collated them to show the country as a whole. A crude analysis of the 2010 results creates the following map.

Party Seats 2010 %age seats 2010 Seats New Boundaries %age seats (new) Difference %age points
Conservative 8 20% 5 16% -4
Labour 26 65% 22 73% +8
Liberal Democrat 3 7.5% 2 6.6% -1
Plaid Cymru 3 7.5% 1 3.3% -4
NB: These results and predicitions are based on the 2010 results following the methodology used by The Guardian. These results refer to the Welsh MPs as elected to the Westminster parliaments and not to the Welsh Devolved Government which is elected by a separate system.

Given that these changes are being made by the Boundary Commission which should be independent of any serving government, it is interesting the rise in power of Labour in Wales at the expense, especially of the nationalist party Plaid Cymru. This raises an interesting point, especially with the current debate and discussion about Scottish independence and the position of the major national parties within the UK. Scotland's nationalist party's - SNP - seats under this new model wouldn't change, in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, loses its stronghold to a highly variable mix of other parties, and in Wales, as we can see, Plaid Cymru loses 66% of its seats.

Caveat: these results are based upon the 2010 result and extrapolated over the proposed changes - things could and probably will change in a real election, especially given current economic and political circumstances.

Now there has been discussion on the fairness of these changes and one reason for the rise in Labour and the reduction in smaller parties and the Conservatives might be to address the balance of power in a future Westminster Parliament given that England overall has a large Conservative majority. The other reason could be that this is an attempt to weaken nationalist or smaller parties in Westminster. The latter is also interesting given the move in Wales of the major parties: Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to distance themselves away from Westminster and even in the case of the Conservatives to even consider changing their name in Wales.

And in here lies some interesting aspects of devolution in the UK, for example in Wales, the Conservatives who were highly sceptical and anti-devolution have come to support this as the only mechanism by which they can have some power in Wales (and Scotland too) and ironically for Labour, a pro-devolution party, became at a national level a kind of anti-devolutionist party given the extremely awkward set of rules and processes placed upon the Welsh Government to actively prevent use of that body's powers. Now after the last referendum in Wales which finally gave primary law making powers in the 20 or so devolved areas of government after some 800 years, we still have the possibility of anther referendum to given Wales tax-varying and borrowing powers in line with Scotland, though not control over certain fiscal issues such as the ability to print its own currency.

However one of the good things is that this does reduce the number of MPs in the UK overall but does somewhat distance the national MP away from their constituents, especially in England where no intermediate form of government exists. At least in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the respective devolved governments are closer to the local people with more interest in local issues.

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