Wales 29

A GUEST POST BY PENDDU

The Conservatives have recently announced their plans to reduce the total number of MPs at Westminster by 10% to 585, but with equal constituency sizes in Wales, which would mean a reduction from the current 40 MPs to 29. They also announced that electorates should vary by no more that +/-3.5% and that boundaries should not have to rigidly follow county boundaries or take geographical size into account. So how might this look in Wales?

Surprisingly, I found it very easy to carve up Wales into equal sized constituencies, which seem to be both natural and logical. I did this using a spreadsheet containing all of Wales’s electoral wards and the Ordnance Survey’s excellent election map system. Then I just started at the 4 corners of Wales and worked in, taking local authority boundaries into consideration wherever practical, but largely ignoring the existing constituencies. My calculations are based on the 2005 electorates, but this could be replicated with more current data, and on this basis Wales’s electoral quota for 29 seats would be 76,745 with a permitted variation of +/- 2,700.

For example, in the South West I started in Pembrokeshire. The County has an electorate of 89,829 so it would be necessary to remove around 13,000 voters to achieve the electoral quota. This could be done by transferring the Tenby area into Carmarthenshire, but it makes more sense both geographically and linguistically to transfer the Preseli area into Ceredigion. This would then create a new seat – I have called Penfro, but this is just a working name and can be changed – with an electorate of 76,067 or 99.1% of the electoral quota.

The Preseli area with an electorate of 13,762 would then be added to Ceredigion which has an electorate of 52,514, and this would give a combined electorate of 66,276. This is still too small at only 86% of the quota, so it would be necessary to find another 10,000 voters from somewhere. I considered extending the seat north to Machynlleth, or east into Powys, but it seemed more logical to take in some of the electoral wards in north-west Carmarthenshire, along the Teifi valley. This then created a new seat – which I have called Teifi - with an electorate of 75,856 or 98.8%.

Carmarthenshire, excluding the Teifi valley wards and the existing Llanelli constituency is getting close to the electoral quota, and by adding some wards in the Burry Port area, a new constituency – Myrddin – is created with an electorate of 100.4% of the quota.

The remaining electorate in Llanelli is only 47,000 which means that it needs to add 30,000 voters from West Glamorgan, and here I propose a new seat of Lwchwr which crosses the boundaries of the preserved counties.

I continued a similar process working in from all 4 corners of Wales, and considering a number of alternative solutions, and arrived at the following proposal.

 
  South West Wales
 
  PenfroPembrokeshire, exc Preseli99%  
  TeifiCeredigion, Preseli & Teifi Valley99%  
  MyrddinCarmarthenshire E & W, exc Teifi Valley100%  
  LwchwrLlanelli & North Gower97%  
  Swansea Gower  Swansea West & South Gower97%  
  Swansea TaweSwansea East & City Centre99%  
  NeathNeath, Aberafan & SW Powys97%  
  MargamPort Talbot, Porthcawl & Llynfi Valley99%  
    
 
  South Central Wales
 
  Cardiff EastCardiff South & Cathays103%  
  Cardiff NorthCardiff North & Gabalfa102%  
  Cardiff WestCardiff West & Grangetown103%  
  Bro MorgannwgVale of Glamorgan, inc Penarth exc Cowbridge103%  
  OgwrBridgend Town, Ogmore Valley & Cowbridge102%  
  Rhondda ElaiRhondda & Ely Valley101%  
  Cynon TafCynon Valley & Pontypridd Town98%  
    
 
  South East Wales
 
  UskMonmouthshire County & Blaenafon102%  
  NewportNewport County103%  
  CwmbranTorfaen & North Newport100%  
  East GwentBlaenau Gwent & East Islwyn101%  
  CaerfilliCaerphilly & West Islwyn99%  
  RhymneyMerthyr, Rhymney & NW Islwyn98%  
  South PowysBrecon, Radnor & S Montgomeryshire, exc SW Powys99%  
    
 
  North Wales
 
  GwyneddMerionydd & Caernarfon99%  
  MenaiYnys Mon, Bangor & Nant Conwy101%  
  ConwyConwy County99%  
  RhuddlanDenbighshire Coast & North Flintshire97%  
  FlintshireFlintshire, exc North Flintshire100%  
  WrecsamWrexham County99%  
  North PowysNorth Montgomery & South Denbighshire99%  
    

This can still be optimised further, but it took me only a few hours to arrive at this solution – so why does the electoral boundary commission take so long?

This solution could also be used for creating 58 dual STV seats for Assembly elections, although I still prefer a solution that is independent of Westminster, with variable sized multi-member seats based on local Authorities.

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo Penddu!

But please God, no to 58 AMs from dual seat STV constituencies. We absolutely need to resist a reduction in the size of the NAW. And the likely disproportionality of only 2 members is also a huge problem....

How about making the case for 30MPs and then twinning to provide for 15X4 seat STV constituencies? The problem with basing constituencies on the LAs is that the pols. will surely have to bite the bullet on this and reform/reduce their numbers...and sooner rather than later.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Bravo, indeed. This is far more natural than the ERS's solution. Theirs looked too much like gerrymandering.

I quite agree, though. Why does one need a multi-million pound Boundary Commission enquiry, when the whole thing can be nailed in a couple of hours with a ward map and a breakdown of the electorate?

By the way, did you have an idea as to which parties would have won the Penddu 29 in May 2010?

Anonymous said...

Pen ddu - nice work, these new constituencies named after rivers reminds me of the division of Yugoslavia in the 1930s when the King Aleksander I tried to come up with more neutral names for the territories in the new state:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banovine_kj.jpg

http://stwnsh.com/jugoslavia

Can we have a Welsh king too to go with the new constituencies ... (with the exception of Cardiff and Swansea) they'd make quite good counties too ;-)

Da iawn.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Blogmenai has done a similar exercise and, I think, has a better sense of geographic boundaries, especially in the North.

Anonymous said...

I may be wrong but I thought the Gabalfa Ward was already in Cardiff North.

Cibwr said...

I think on the map you have merged two constituencies, the Caerphilly & West Islwyn and Merthyr, Rhymney & NW Islwyn ones.

Anonymous said...

Oops - yes I missed a boundary in islwyn ....
Otherwise my proposal is just a start and can be improved.

Penddu

Cibwr said...

Indeed its a very good start, clearly just about everyone will object to any change, but if this one is to be forced on us then you have an excellent starting point.

Anonymous said...

Good try and I don't think from a Northern pont of view there are too manny controversies. I can see a few people having problems with the Bangor and Anglesey seat stretching to Nant Conwy. Personally, I don't think it's too bad. It makes sense in some ways, with the A5 and it being a Welsh-speaking area.

Can I ask what your Conwy seat contains? It seems to stretch to Arllechwedd in Bangor, but this would make sense in the other seat. If you wanted to make a more regularly-shaped seat, it might be an idea to add Nant Conwy onto Conwy but add Llanfairfechan and perhaps Penmaenmawr to Bangor. Llanfairfechan definitely socially and culturally looks to Bangor rather than Conwy or Llandudno. Penmaenmawr goes either way. Nant Conwy looks up the Valley to Conwy and Llandudno.

I like your South Denbighshire/North Powys seat. Would be an interesting seat. I suppose it and Conwy would be Tory. North Flint and North Denbighs would be a Labour/Tory marginal (the parts coming from Flintshite would be the best Tory parts of Delyn). The rest would be strongly Labour and Albert Owen would be very happy with Bangor/Anglesey. Plaid would hate these boundaries from a potential 3 seats in the North down to 1 (that one a banker mind).

Anonymous said...

I did try a few alternatives with the Menai-Conwy border and cant remember why I selected this particular arrangement - But I did try and stay impartial with no gerrymandering.

Penddu

Anonymous said...

A lot of this makes sense. There are already members of the Labour party in areas like the Llynfi Valley who are looking to the future. They don't want to go with Bridgend and the link with Aberavon to the west is the obvious one. I'm assuming that Porthcawl is included in this new seat because it was part of the old Aberavon constituency until 1983.

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