‘It feels like gerrymandering’: Anglesey Councillor slams loss of Welsh MP’s despite protection for island seat
Gareth Wyn Williams, local democracy reporter
An Anglesey councillor has condemned a decision to slash the number of Welsh Westminster seats despite the island itself being offered protected status.
The Boundary Commission for Wales is currently consulting on plans which would see the number of Welsh Westminster representatives reduced from 40 to 32, resulting in larger sized constituencies across the nation.
England will gain 10 MPs as result of the move, but Scotland will also lose two, with the UK Government initiating the exercise to try and ensure closer voter parity between constituencies.
But a decision last year saw Ynys Môn added to the list of protected constituencies, thus shielding the 500 year old Westminster seat from any shared seat with parts of the mainland.
While several island constituencies, such as the Isle of Wight, Orkney and Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles of Scotland) already enjoy special protected status, until now that has not been the case with Ynys Môn, which will be the least populated constituency in Wales.
The then Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, following intervention from Maria Miller, the island’s Conservative MP, Virginia Crosbie, and Plaid Cymru member, Ben Lake, announced she would include such protection as part of the new Parliamentary Constituencies Bill.
“Covering 715 square kilometres, Ynys Môn is the fourth largest island in Great Britain and with an electorate of approximately 50,000, Ynys Môn is comparable to other islands which already enjoy such status,” said Chloe Smith MP in June 2020.
“I am persuaded that the creation of Ynys Môn as a protected constituency would address an anomaly and is the only island in the UK whose electorate and geographical area falls within the range of the currently protected constituencies.”
But while members of Anglesey Council’s Democratic Services generally welcomed the move when meeting this week, one councillor stated his dissatisfaction that Wales as a whole would see its voice reduced.
Cllr Dafydd Roberts, an independent member for Bro Rhosyr, said: “While I’m pleased Ynys Môn is being retained, personally I’m not keen that Wales is going down from 40 to 32.
“So it’s hard to say that I’m happy with the report as, on a matter of wider principle, I oppose.
“For as long as we remain a member of the UK we should have 40, it just feels like gerrymandering.”
Speaking last month, however, the chairman of the Welsh Conservatives defended the decision of ministers to reduce the number of Welsh MPs.
Glyn Davies, a former Assembly Member and later MP for Montgomeryshire, told S4C’s ‘Y Byd yn ei Le’ programme: “Of course I don’t like it or seeing the stress it will cause to elected MPs from all Welsh parties, especially my party. But I can see no alternative.
“We can’t slip back to ‘rotten boroughs’ of centuries ago. Average English constituency electorates are 16,000 more than average Welsh electorates.
“And that’s making no allowance for the 60 MS’ that are responsible for many issues that land on English MP’s plates.
“The current position is in no way fair.”
The regions set to benefit the most will be the south east of England, which will gain six MPs with the south west of England also gaining three, largely at the expense of the north west and north east of the country.
Northern Irish seats will remain at the current 18, leaving Wales with 32 MPs and Scotland with 57.
In northern and mid Wales, the proposed new constituencies are Aberconwy, Alyn and Deeside, Ceredigion Preseli, Clwyd, Delyn, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, Wrexham, and Ynys Môn.
The eight week public consultation closes on November 3. For more information visit here.