Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Goodbye Ynys Môn?

The constituency that is.

The Boundary Commissions of Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have or are conducting a review of the parliamentary constituencies, which’s total effect will be to reduce the number of Members of Parliament from the current 650 to 600. In Wales there will be 10 fewer MP’s at Westminster.

One of the proposal is for the constituency of Ynys Môn to merged with Bangor.

Ynys Mon and Bangor (74,167)

The entire local authority of Isle of Anglesey, coterminous with the Ynys Mon constituency Gwynedd electoral divisions:
The electoral divisions of Arllechwedd, Bethel, Bethesda (comprising Gerlan, Ogwen), Bangor (comprising Deinol, Dewi, Garth, Glyder, Hendre, Hirael, Marchog, Menai (Bangor)), Pentir, Tregarth a Mynydd Llandegai from the current Arfon constituency

Conwy electoral divisions:
Bryn, Capelulo, Pandy, Penmaenan from the current Aberconwy constituency.

Ynys Môn has been a constituency for 475 years at least. The Laws in Wales Act 1535 (26 Hen VIII, c26) contains the following contains the following provision, which had the effect of enfranchising the shire of Anglesey.

And that for this present Parliament, and all other Parliaments to be holden and kept for this Realm, one Knight shall be chosen and elected to the same Parliaments for every of the Shires of Brecknock, Radnor, Mountgomery and Denbigh, and for every other Shire within the said Country of Dominion of Wales;

But as Wikipedia explains in those days Anglesey had 2 MP's or Knights as they where called then:

As elsewhere in Wales, the Act of Union 1536 provided Anglesey with two members of parliament, one representing the county and the other representing a borough constituency named after the county town but including other "contributory boroughs" who were jointly responsible for providing for the upkeep of the MP and, in return, were granted a say in his election. However, at this period two towns, Beaumaris and Newborough, were disputing the right to be considered Anglesey's county town: under Henry VIII, Newborough was the assize town, but early in the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) this function was transferred to Beaumaris. The new constituency was designated as Beaumaris, with Newborough as its only contributory borough, and first returned an MP in 1542; but at the same time as the assize was transferred, Newborough was also relieved of the obligation to contribute to the wages of the MP for Beaumaris which, under the terms of the relevant statute, also extinguished its right to vote in his election. Porritt, the early 20th century expert on the history of the Unreformed House of Commons, concludes that "the probability is that Newborough broke the connection in a fit of ill-humour" rather than that it was contrived by Beaumaris; but within a few decades, as the desirability of being directly represented in Parliament became more widely recognised, Newborough was trying unsuccessfully to regain its former status. On several occasions until the early 18th century, Newborough's inhabitants attempted to vote, but had their votes refused by the returning officer and his decision was upheld by Parliament whenever they petitioned in objection.

The franchise was further restricted in 1562, when Elizabeth I granted Beaumaris a new municipal charter, which reserved the right to vote in parliamentary elections to members of the town corporation. Thereafter until 1832, Beaumaris was a closed "corporation borough" of a type common in England but unknown elsewhere in Wales; its only voters were the mayor, two bailiffs and 21 "capital burgesses", and since they had the sole right to fill any vacancies arising in their number their power was entirely self-perpetuating, making the constituency a completely safe pocket borough. For the best part of two centuries before the Great Reform Act of 1832, the nomination was in the hands of the Bulkeley family of Baron Hill, and the elections were never contested.

By 1831, the borough of Beaumaris had a population of 2,497 (though, still, only 24 voters). The Reform Act extended the franchise, and also added three contributory boroughs - Amlwch, Holyhead and Llangefni. This raised the population of the revised Beaumaris Boroughs constituency to 8,547, though the number of qualified voters on the register in 1832 was only 329. This was still in practice a pocket borough, and the first contested election did not take place until the further extension of the franchise by the Second Reform Act, which brought the electorate up to almost 2,000 in the elections from 1868.

The constituency was abolished in the redistribution of seats in 1885, being merged into the Anglesey county constituency.

Returning to the current proposals the Boundary Commission for Wales in a Newsletter explains:

* The electorate for England does not contain the electorate of the Isle of Wight. This area is permitted to create constituencies with an electorate that is more than 5% outside the UK electoral quota.
** The electorate for Scotland does not contain the electorate of the two preserved constituencies which are a) Orkney and Shetland and b) Na h-Eileanan an Iar. These constituencies are permitted to have an electorate that is more than 5% outside the UK electoral quota.

The newsletter also says:

The Commission’s experience from previous general reviews also confirmed that any splitting of an electoral division between constituencies would be likely to break local ties, disrupt political party organisations, cause difficulties for Electoral Registration and Returning Officers and, possibly, cause confusion to the electorate.

The Isle of Wight has a population of 110,924, and according to Wikipedia:

Section 11, Clause 6(1) of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 states; "There shall be two constituencies in the Isle of Wight."[5]. This ensures the Boundary Commission for England will be unable to attach the Isle with Hampshire or other counties across the Solent. Therefore from the Next United Kingdom general election the island will be divided into two seats, each containing an electorate far below that of Parliamentary seats on the mainland.

No chance of Ynys Môn being made a special case then?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

How we elect Assembly Members.

In Westminster Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament, according to BlogMenai in a post today, want to change the way Assembly Members are elected to the Welsh Assembly. They want a constituency list of 30, and a regional list of 30, therefore 6 AMs being elected for each region instead of the current 4.

This is based on the Conservative led Coalition Government plans to reduce the number of Welsh MP to 30 (or 29 depending on how you round up) instead of the current 40.

As the Electoral Reform Society pointed out in 2010 should this change become reality then

“As the law stands, a reduction in the number of Welsh constituencies and MPs in Westminster would lead to the reduction in the number of Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay. This is particularly so if this would also involve resolving Wales’s current over-representation at Westminster, which would bring the number of constituencies down to 30. This would mean an Assembly of 45 members.”


“Such a reduction would threaten the ability of the Assembly to govern effectively.”

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 has amended this direct link since then.

Therefore if the changes to the Westminster constituencies are brought about then a debate on how we elect Assembly Members will be needed. The discussion paper by the Electoral Reform Society - ‘Reduce and Equalise’ and the Governance of Wales gives a detailed explanation as to the options.

I finish with a simple look as to whether there is a bias towards Labour with the current election system. The chart below is for constituency votes, the back columns representing the actual result.

The columns at the front are arrived at by adding all the votes for each party from the 40 constituencies, dividing the all Wales total votes cast by 40, and then dividing total votes cast for each party by this figure.

Therefore based on a simple proportionality exercise the answer seems to be yes, but seeing how the 'Yes to AV' did so badly at the recent referendum in Wales, it will be a brave politician that suggest a major change to the election system.

Updated 17/05/2010- Text amended and note about Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 added.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

David Cameron - the new Tory Flashman?

David Cameron, we are told, has been advised to tone down his 'Flashman' tendencies at Prime Minister Question Times.

But who was the first 'Tory' Flashman? - this from Wikipedia:

"Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE (1822–1915) is a fictional character created by George MacDonald Fraser (1925–2008), but based on the character "Flashman" in Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), a semi-autobiographical work by Thomas Hughes (1822–1896)."

"In Tom Brown's Schooldays he is called only Flashman or Flashy. Fraser gave him his first and middle names, a lifespan from 1822 to 1915, and a birth date of 5 May. Flashman's first and middle names appear to be an ironic allusion to Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, and one of the heroes of Waterloo, who cuckolded the Duke of Wellington's brother Henry Wellesley and later - in one of the period's more celebrated scandals - married Wellesley's ex-wife.

In Flashman, [Harry Paget] Flashman says that the family fortune was made by his great-grandfather, Jack Flashman, in America trading in rum, slaves and "piracy too, I shouldn't wonder." Despite their wealth, the Flashmans "were never the thing": Flashman quotes the diarist Henry Greville's comment that "the coarse streak showed through, generation after generation, like dung beneath a rosebush." His father, Henry Buckley Flashman, appears in Black Ajax (1997). Buckley was a bold young officer in the British cavalry, who was wounded in action at Talavera in 1809. He then tried to get into "society" by sponsoring bare-knuckle boxer Tom Molineaux (the first black man to contend for a championship) and subsequently married Flashman's mother Lady Alicia Paget, a fictional relation of the real Marquess of Anglesey. Buckley also served as a Member of Parliament but was "sent to the knacker's yard at Reform". Beside politics, his interests were drinking, fox hunting (riding to hounds) and women."

Read more:
Independent - Cut out the Flashman act, aides tell David Cameron
Wikipedia - Henry Paget 1st Marquess of Anglesey

Monday, 9 May 2011

Japan Disaster – A nurse’s blog.

A report by Justin McCurry in 'The Guardian Online' headlined - 'Do not cry': a nurse's blog brings comfort to Japan's tsunami survivors says in brief:

Few aid workers could have imagined the scenes that awaited them as they set out for north-east Japan in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami in March….

…One of them, a nurse who was part of an emergency medical team dispatched from Tokyo, has written about her experiences in a blog that offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of the tsunami's toll on the tens of thousands who survived….

…The blog opens with the nurse preparing for her imminent assignment to Rikuzentakata, a town in Iwate prefecture where 2,000 of the 23,000 residents died and 80% of its 8,000 homes were destroyed….

…Before they leave, she and her fellow medical workers are told what they can expect to find, and warned to keep their emotions in check. The team leader tells them:

"The situation over there is beyond your worst imagination. If any of you have signed up with optimistic outlooks or [out of] a spirit of volunteerism, please leave the team now.

No matter what happens at the site, DO NOT CRY. We are not going there to express our sympathy. We are going there to provide nursing and medical care. If you think YOU want to cry, think about how much the people there want to cry. The tears of a rich medical team from Tokyo will only be bothersome or even insulting to them."

Above are extracts from:
'Do not cry': a nurse's blog brings comfort to Japan's tsunami survivors by Justin McCurry,'The Guardian'

Read english translation of the nurse's blog:
JKTS: A Japanese medical aid worker's diary - jkts-english.blogspot.com

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Ieuan Wyn Jones AM and his core vote.

Paul Williams (aka The Druid) came a respectable second, with 7032 votes, in last weeks Welsh Assembly Elections; he nearly matched the number of votes received by Peter Rogers (7197) when standing as the official Conservative candidate in 2003. And it was similar to the number of votes Albert Owen received (7181) when he stood as the Labour candidate in 1999.

Ieuan Wyn Jones vote was down slightly, 9969 as compared to 10653 in 2007.

By the end of his next term in the Welsh Assembly in 2016; 5 years this time instead of the usual 4 to avoid conflict with the General Election the year before, Ieuan Wyn Jones will have been representing Anglesey as an MP or AM for 29 years, overtaking Cledwyn Hughes who represented the island for 28 distinguished years.

Elections where IWJ has been a candidate on Anglesey

The only person to have defeated Ieuan Wyn Jones was the Conservative Keith Best back in 1983, when Ieuan Wyn Jones first stood. The nearest anybody has come to defeating him since was in 1992 when his majority was cut to 1106 by Gwynn Price Roberts standing for the Conservatives.

In essence Paul Williams did very well considering Ieuan Wyn Jones has a core vote of around 9000 plus, the current unpopularity of austerity cuts by the Conservative led Coalition Government, and the island history long support of ‘liberal’ parties. In fact other than for Keith Best (1979-1987) you have to go back to 1722-1725 to find the previous ‘Tory’ to have held the seat - The Viscount Bulkeley.

Finally I think it’s worth mentioning the good result achieved by Joe Lock, the Labour candidate, who increased their vote to 6307. The least said about the Liberal Democrats the better.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Vat rise bad news for small businesses.

In August 2009, George Osborne, the then shadow chancellor, appearing on the BBC Radio 4 Today program said "There have been absolutely no internal discussions, there are no secret plans for an increase in the VAT rate,"

Although it wasn’t a surprise to most, that when in power that is exactly what they did, by raising VAT to 20% in January, 2011.

A poll by Premierline Direct in January, revealed that a majority of small and medium sized businesses were concerned about the impact of the VAT rise. The poll showed that, overall, 90 per cent of those running small businesses are worried about the effects of the rise.

The Conservative Party, like to portray themselves as the party of the shopkeeper and defender of small businesses. For instance in the Welsh Conservative manifesto they promise to reduce the tax burden of small business, by abolishing the need for many to pay business rates.

A report in todays Sunday Times; headlined "Vat rise is crushing small businesses", by their economics correspondent, Roberts Watts says “Collapse by small business have risen 20% so far this year, in part because of the coalition’s increase in VAT, insolvency experts have said”.

“A tougher stance by the taxman has also contributed to the rise in failures, which is expected to gather pace as the year progresses”.

As the Conservatives point out, SME’s are vital to the economy, and growth in this sector brought about by an ‘entrepreneurial boom’ was seen as essential if the gamble made by George Osborne, the Chancellor; that the jobs lost in the public sector would be replaced by new jobs in the private sector, was to pay dividends.

Some would point out that Labour also increased the rate of VAT to 17.5% when previously in power.

However, what no political party can deny is that in times of austerity, if you cut taxes in one part of the economy you will need to rise taxes elsewhere.

And for the Conservatives to claim that they are the only political party that would help small business doesn’t quite ring true anymore.