Monday, 21 November 2016

Good news … Conservative MP opposes Devonwall

In my column in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian will be as follows:

Politics is increasingly partisan these days and politicians often fail to compliment their opponents, even when they do something worthy of acknowledgement.

But in my column this week, I am pleased to be able to praise Steve Double MP for opposing the creation of a Devonwall parliamentary seat.

Last Friday in the House of Commons, MPs debated a Private Members Bill entitled the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill. Tabled by a Labour MP from the north of England, the Bill proposes to make changes to the process by which parliamentary boundaries are presently being reversed.

It seeks to keep the number of MPs at 650 – not the 600 presently preferred by the Tories – and to allow the Boundary Commission more flexibility in redrawing constituency boundaries. 

And from a Cornish perspective, if passed, the Bill would put an end to the proposal for a cross-Tamar seat.

The debate took place at the end of the week and, because many government MPs were not present, it passed its second reading by 253 votes to 37. It now moves to the committee stage and it is anticipated that MPs from the governing party will look to derail the Bill in the coming weeks.

But last Friday, Steve Double was one of two Conservative MPs who voted for the Bill, and therefore against Devonwall and against his own party. 

Full credit to him for him for listening to the people of Cornwall and making it clear that he took this action because it was the “only way” he could see to “address the issue of the Cornish border and maintain Cornish MPs in Cornwall.”

It was, though, extremely disappointing (big understatement) that he did not get support from other Cornish MPs.

Two were present and voted against the Bill. And one of these, Sheryll Murray, participated in the debate and did all she could to undermine Steve Double’s arguments.

In 2010, Sheryll Murray pledged that she would “fight on and on” to make sure that the border was protected, but appears to have done a shocking u-turn.

Instead of backing her colleague from St Austell and Newquay, she called on MPs to “kick” the legislation into the “long grass where it belongs.”

And in a particularly unedifying section of the debate, she called out Steve Double for claiming he was speaking “on behalf of the Cornish,” adding that she wanted it “put on the record” that she was a “Cornish girl” and he “was not speaking” for her.

To be fair to Steve Double, he dealt with it well, pointing out how may people had raised the issue with him in his constituency “on the doorsteps, in the pub and at surgeries” and that it was an issue that he “as a Cornishman” felt strongly about.

It is my strong view that now is the time for us all to put pressure on George Eustice MP, Scott Mann MP, Sarah Newton MP, Derek Thomas MP, and even Sheryll Murray MP, to follow Steve Double’s example and do the right thing and oppose Devonwall.

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