The proposed new 30 Westminster constituencies have been published by the Boundary Commission for Wales. The Commissioners had limited room for manoeuvre as legislation cutting the size of the House of Commons meant that the existing 40 seats had to go, replaced by 30 constituencies with between 72,810 and 80,473 voters.
It’s been a brutal business. Long-established constituencies like Montgomeryshire have been wiped from the map, along with more recent creations such as Islwyn and Cynon Valley. As expected, Anglesey is linked with the Bangor area and -as was certainly not expected – Caerphilly is linked with the north of Cardiff. Rhondda, Pontypridd and a new Heads of the Valleys seat all get a slice of the Cynon Valley.
Inevitably, some MPs will end up having to make way for their colleagues. The Conservatives Guto Bebb and David Jones on the north Wales coast face a near-merger of their seats, as do their colleagues Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb in Pembrokeshire. It’s a similar dilemma for Labour’s Geraint Davies and Martin Caton, with the added headache that the Conservatives will fancy their chances in the new Gower and Swansea West constituency. Another all-Labour pairing is Aberavon and Ogmore, merging the seats held by Hywel Francis and Huw Irranca-Davies. For Plaid Cymru, it’s Hywel Williams and Elfyn Llwyd who’ll have to weigh up their options.
I have had a brief consultation with some expert number-crunchers about how the 30 seats would have been shared between the parties if the proposed boundaries had been used for the 2010 Westminster election. Here’s what we came up with:
Plaid Cymru 2: Gwynedd, Caerfyrddin.
Lib Dems 2: Ceredigion & North Pembrokeshire, South Powys.
Conservatives 5: North Wales Coast, Glyndwr & North Powys, Monmouthshire, Vale of Glamorgan, South & West Pembrokeshire.
Labour 21: All the other new seats.
So in terms of Labour’s ability to win an overall majority it would have made no difference. Labour is five seats worse off and so are the other parties combined. Up until now Labour MPs have tended to concentrate on what they see as the injustice of the overall cut in the number of seats. The party is now promising “a firm lead” in how to respond to the proposals. Although the opportunity to appeal against the changes is not as great as it used to be, there will be a period of public consultation, which is likely to lead to revised proposals.
There is no direct impact on AMs’ seats as Assembly constituencies have been ‘de-coupled’ from Westminster ones. However, the whole issue of how the Assembly is elected -and even how many AMs should there be – could soon be thrown wide open as a result of the Westminster changes.