Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Another day and another confused utterance from the former Secretary of State for Wales which, as usual, is reported unchallenged by the Welsh media.

This time, Peter Hain attacked a plan that “could” see the number of Welsh constituencies reduced from 40 to 28.

He said:

“Reducing the number of Welsh constituencies will greatly reduce Wales’ voice in Westminster. The ConDem government is not only trying to gerrymander votes in Parliament with a new 55% bar in no confidence votes, but also trying to gerrymander constituency boundaries in their favour.

“Their plans will mean already large Mid Wales constituencies of Ceredigion, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire will become even bigger, making it hard for voters to hold their MPs accountable, and for MPs to get around their constituencies.

“There will be a damaging knock-on to the Assembly by reducing constituency Assembly members who are linked to numbers of MPs in the same constituencies and reducing the size of the Assembly”.

Of course, that is simply not the case, as I argued back in November last year.

Whilst it is true that the 2006 Government of Wales Act requires that the constituencies from which the directly-elected AMs are chosen are identical to the ones used to send MPs to Westminster, and that "the total number of seats for the Assembly electoral regions must be one half of the total number of the Assembly constituencies", that presupposes that new legislation would not change that link.

Indeed, it is clear any incoming Conservative Government, in changing the number of MPs across the UK, would make legislative provision for changes to the Government of Wales Act to enable the regional list calculation to change accordingly i.e. this would allow for the reduction in the number of MPs whilst maintaining the current number of AMs, as has happened in Scotland.

Of course, if the reductions in MPs were to be made to 30 (as I expect) rather than the 28 mooted by Mr Hain, and the link maintained between Westminster and Cardiff Bay constituencies, this could mean that there would be 30 first past the post AMs elected and a further 30 from the regional lists.

Interestingly, no journalist has ever challenged Mr Hain to explain himself on this issue.

That is a great shame, as the main loser from this move towards greater proportional representation in Wales would be Mr Hain’s Labour Party, which gained 65 per cent of the Welsh seats in the UK general election with only 36 per cent of the popular vote.

Indeed, given Mr Hain’s recent Damascean conversion to proportional representation during the general election campaign, perhaps he would like to suggest that all 60 Assembly seats are fought on this basis?