Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Boundary Commission hearings in Exeter … a report!

The Boundary Commission will be in Truro tomorrow for the first day of a two day hearing into the proposed new parliamentary boundaries for the “South West.” Hearings were also held in Exeter on Monday and Tuesday (7th and 8th November), and I attended the morning session on Monday. My report is as follows:

The Boundary Commission had invited all political parties with an MP in the Westminster Parliament (Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP) to make representations. Each was given a thirty minute slot. I have complained that it was unjust that Mebyon Kernow was not invited to make a similar representation and I have been assured that I will be allowed extra time to speak on behalf of MK in Truro on Friday.

On Monday, the first speaker was Labour’s Greg Cook from London, who described himself as Head of Political Strategy. He welcomed that the “south west region” was the “sub-national building block” for the Review, and fleetingly noted the unhappiness about the Cross-Tamar seat. He additionally queried the name of the Bideford, Bude and Launceston constituency, questioning whether the name should include reference to two Cornish towns when the majority of the seat was in Devon! Mr Cook’s main focus was on local boundaries around Gloucestershire, Bournemouth and Dorset.

Second up were the Liberal Democrats. They were represented by Gavin Grant (from their “Western Counties region”) and Ian Jolly (from their “Devon and Cornwall region”). They did say that they wished to “protest at the creation of a cross-border seat” but recognised that it met the recognised legal and population requirements. They did not point out the irony of a political party organised on a “Devon and Cornwall” basis arguing against a “Devonwall” seat.

They did build some humour into their presentations. When Mr Grant had to give his home address at the beginning of his presentation, he said it was less complicated than Mr Jolly’s who he said lived in rural Devon. Mr Jolly lives in Cornwall. They also managed to spell Camborne wrong on their powerpoint presentation.

And then it was the turn of Roger Pratt from the Conservatives. He also made a fleeting reference to Cornwall, noted that it was “not possible” to prevent a “Devonwall” seat, and stated that they thought it best that the Tamar was breached to the north – rather than in the south.

Iwan Jones spoke on behalf of the Green Party and set out clear opposition to the basis of the whole review and the creation of a cross-Tamar seat. UKIP meanwhile declined to take up the offer to present their views.

Richard Williams then spoke on behalf of Cornwall Council for about twenty minutes and delivered a comprehensive speech in opposition to “Devonwall,” making it clear that the unitary authority will continue to make representations to central government to change the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to Keep Cornwall Whole.

I trust that update is of interest to you all.

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