11 May 2015

Brace yourselves for wailing and the gnashing of teeth again. After the Tory win in the general election the redrawing of constituency boundaries is probably back on. The Tamar metaphorically “multo spumantem sanguine cerno”. Well, foaming with Cornish nationalist soapsuds, more like.

The idea would be to make more equal the number of electors in each constituency, a reasonable aim given the large differences at present though population changes would mean inequality emerged again. Would we keep changing the boundaries to keep up with population changes? The move to more equal constituencies would probably disadvantage Labour.

It is also likely to mean a constituency that crosses the Tamar and is in both Cornwall and Devon. This is what dismayed nationalists last time – and not only them. Conservatives objected and sought only-wholly-in-Cornwall constituencies: see the post Boundaries 3.

However, I think there should be a change to a proportional system whereby the number of seats a party has in the Commons more closely matches the proportion of votes it gets. For example, after the election the other day the Tories have around 37 percent of the UK vote and 51 percent of the 650 Commons seats; the Greens got around 4 percent of the votes and 0.2 percent of the seats.

et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno: Vergil Aeneid 6.87 And I see the Tiber foaming with much blood

Related posts
Will Cornwall spill over? 7 July 2010
Boundaries 9 September 2010
Boundaries 3 17 September 2010
Boundaries 4 11 October 2010
Boundaries 5 24 November 2010

I was unengaged by the Tory Libdem three proposals for constitutional reform: a change in the voting system, equal sized constituencies, and changes to the House of Lords.

I would probably have supported a decent proportional voting system but the AV put forward struck me as a “miserable little compromise” as Nick Clegg called it before campaigning for it.

The proposed changes to the Lords are half-hearted; still a fifth appointed not elected; fifteen year terms of membership; still Anglican bishops sitting there. I think more work has to be done to sort out the relationship between the two houses, who gets the final decision and what are the purposes and powers of the other house.

I support equal sized constituencies within sensible parameters and a much smaller House of Commons though the present interlinked proposals are a Tory calculation of what is of maximal benefit to them. I was unconvinced by the opposition to Devonwall; it seemed to me to be about asserting a political view of Cornwall that looked to the past and disregarded the present in which there is daily cross-Tamar life such as living in Cornwall and working in Devon and going to hospital in Devon, and housing payments based on data from both sides of the river, none of which diminishes Cornwall. I set out in the post Devonwall revisted what seemed to be the limited extent of public support for the campaigns against Devonwall.

Of the three reforms, AV and House of Lords are done for. There remains perhaps equal sizing and Devonwall. Clegg said there is no connection between Lords reform and equal sizing (Political and constitutional committee 19 April 2012, Questions 177-179); but the Libdems have now resolved that the killing of the former by Tories means the killing of the latter by Libdems. The Tories will press on with equal sizing apparently and most probably be defeated on that as Labour will not vote to lose its unfair advantage in the present unequal arrangements but vote with the Libdems against equal sizing.

A lot of work, a lot of words, and no changes.


“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” The Queen in chapter 2 of Through the looking glass by Lewis Carroll.


21 February 2012

Devonwall aficionados might like to look at this blog post about wandering borders. I especially recommend the map of Nahwe, an enclave of the United Arab Emirates wholly within Madha, itself an enclave of Oman wholly within the United Arab Emirates; I think I’ve got that right but the map makes it clear; click on the link at the foot Geopolitical Babushka. Oh, and the supermarket with the border of Belgium and the Netherlands running through it; click on Beer straddling the line between two nations.


15 November 2011

The Devonwall question, playing out before the Boundary Commission for England, has thrown up some interesting claims about levels of support for the desire to keep constituencies entirely in Cornwall with no Devonwall seat in both Cornwall and Devon.

As I see it, the thrust of the claims is twofold: the opposition to Devonwall is widespread throughout Cornwall and that opposition is felt strongly. The basis of the opposition seems to me to be that Cornwall is unique, singularly different from other counties, and should therefore be treated accordingly.

Let me unravel this.

Opposition is felt strongly. Yes, it is but people feel strongly on all sorts of matters – vegetarianism, war in Afghanistan, who should win a contest on television. Other criteria are required to weigh against the strength of feeling. Additionally, noise is not numbers and more accurately one should say some people feel strongly about the question.

Opposition is widespread, nigh universal in Cornwall. Well, assertion is not proof and the figures that are public do not support this claim. I earlier looked at the unimpressive public numbers in the roundup post Cornwall border. Very, very few of the roughly 430 000 adults in Cornwall have rallied or signed public petitions about this; of course I do not know how many have fumed privately or written private letters about it and the Boundary Commission will presumably tell us in time how many wrote to it from Cornwall opposing Devonwall. I am dealing here with public expressions of opposition. The most popular petition that I have seen got 453 signatures, the Saltash rally was poorly supported. At the public session of the Commission on 10 November at Truro the Western Morning News reported that “the room was near-empty for the daytime debate, with only around a dozen people”. There is no current public evidence of widespread opposition to Devonwall or even interest in the question among people in Cornwall. A few certainly feel strongly against Devonwall; most do not, or at any rate do not express any opinion, for or against. The current public evidence suggests that the vast majority of people in Cornwall are not engaged by this question.

Unique and essential
Let me now look at two particular arguments against Devonwall.

Cornwall is unique and special
. I looked at this in my post Ubiquitous uniqueness. Yes, Cornwall is unique and special and so is every other place in England as the Lords debate explored in that post showed. Additionally, I think some of the Cornwall claims under this head are not so much to do with ideas about a unique county but rather are based on the view that Cornwall is a separate country from England, that is, they are expressions of Cornish nationalism.

The border is essential to Cornwall’s uniqueness. I have looked at uneventful crossings of the border in this post; by housing benefit, for example, where economic similarities between parts of Cornwall and Devon are seen as strong enough to make a common area for broad market rental criteria sensible. Recently I noted in the post Crossing the Tamar a report that “Somewhere in the region of a quarter of Cornish [health] patients do not go to Truro; they go to Plymouth” (Judith JOLLY, Lords Hansard 2 November 2011 column 1325).

The Cornwall/Devon border is regularly disregarded with no ill effect in Cornwall. I do not believe that these crossings of the border have diminished the reality of Cornwall and I do not believe that a cross-border constituency will either.

None of this affects arguments about the rightness or wrongness of cutting the number of parliamentary seats, of a five percent leeway, of crossing over perceived community boundaries: but these questions were decided, if not settled, by Parliament and are irrelevant in practical terms now.


3 November 2011

The Cornwall/Devon border in the Lords the other day:

“In Plymouth there is another small integration pilot going on in the DGH [Derriford] whereby many patients from Cornwall go over the border to the acute hospital. Somewhere in the region of a quarter of Cornish patients do not go to Truro; they go to Plymouth.”
— Judith JOLLY Lords Hansard 2 November 2011 column 1325