Welsh Boundary Proposals Released

The Welsh board has released their proposals for the new boundaries that would come into effect for the currently scheduled 2024 General Election. This will see a reduction of seats from 40 to 32. This sees marginal seats like the Vale of Clwyd, Gower and Clwyd South gone from the electoral map, with their wards being dispersed through other seats in the regions. This will make things interesting for MP’s such as Stephen Crabb (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire). An MP since 2005, Crabb will have to look for a different seat, or try to fight in the new area as his seat has been primarily merged to create Ceredigion Preseli, which Electoral Calculus has projected to go to Plaid Cymru.

Overview

Electoral Calculus tweeted their projection of these seats if the election was held in 2019, which would mean that Labour would be down four members and the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru would be down two each, putting the tally at 18 for Labour, 12 for the Conservatives, and two for Plaid Cymru. Based on the new boundaries, of the 32, there would be two changes from the results in 2019: Alyn and Deeside, which would go from Labour to Conservative, and Bridgend, which would go from Conservative to Labour.

The highest populated seat is Aberafan Porthcawl with 76,792 which is an increase of 25,739. The lowest is Ynys Môn, as expected as that is the seat that generally never changes boundaries, with 52,415. The lowest of the seats which got changes is Aberconwy with an electorate of 69,909 which is an increase of just over 25,000.

This spreadsheet details the new seats and the new boundaries, with an-in depth look at the wards, where they came from, and who won them in 2019.

Reception

Upon release, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts stated: “Changing constituency boundaries is the most recent of steps on the Tory pathway to taking back control to Westminster and diminishing the democratic voice of Wales.” 

This is an interesting statement, as the United Kingdom tends to change constituencies every election after every decade, and so it appears to be timely that the boards are releasing changes to the new boundaries. Moreover, the increase of seats in England is likely due to population shifts as the aim is to keep the boundaries around the same population range in order to ensure that most MP’s are able to represent a similar number of people.

Peter Hain called it “an anti-Labour, anti valleys-charter” adding “Communities in each of these valleys have different histories, different identities, including on the Welsh language. By their very nature, valley communities are linked and don’t easily connect with neighbouring valleys.” 

Elections Daily contributor Max Woods said:

Population decline in rural and former industrial areas of North Wales, The Valleys and Cardigan Bay has created a map which is initially pretty ugly for Labour and Plaid Cymru based on 2019 election numbers. However, for Labour at least, their somewhat recovery in the north in this year’s Senedd elections and could point to strong showings there in the future with these boundaries not hurting them too much in the remaining constituencies. For Plaid on the other hand there is little upside. Their seat in Dwyfor Meirionnydd will take in a lot of Plaid areas from the now-canned Arfon constituency, packing their votes into one constituency and stopping any chance of another constituency being competitive. Meanwhile, their other remaining constituency – Ceredigion Preseli – will become less safe due to the addition of Conservative and Labour voting areas of northern Pembrokeshire. They should get decent vote chunks in Ynys Mon, Aberconwy and Carmarthen but it will be an uphill battle to get beyond two seats. The Tories will be largely unconcerned with the changes with most of their remaining constituencies looking fairly safe. The good news for them is the addition of a handful of blue areas into Alyn and Deeside, flipping it from Labour to Conservative on 2019 numbers. Their marginal seat in Delyn should also become safer with the addition of several blue areas from Clwyd although Brecon and Radnorshire could become more interesting with a chunk of ruby red Neath joining the constituency.

Impact

This of course brings into question the Board’s aims to get each seat between 69,000 (rounded down) and 77,000 (rounded up) and the impact that will have in terms of Welsh identity and Welsh localized identity within Wales. The question therefore becomes: Is it more important to have seats that ensure that MP’s represent roughly the same number of people, so every vote is more representative of the population of the UK, or is it more important that seats are more reflective of culture and regionality? Currently, as seen by the boundaries proposed by both Wales and England, there are instances where seats in town and general areas such as the valleys in Wales are culturally different and so therefore may have challenges fully representing the constituencies. 

In terms of the impact these new boundaries will have going into the next election, It’s hard to tell the specificity of the marginality of the seats. The figures on the wards are not taken, so there can only be projections and educated guesses. My personal estimation would presume that seats in the north of Wales, such as Wrexham, Delyn and Alyn and Deeside would remain as marginals, as well as Ynys Mon which will remain a three-way marginal. More than that, it will create some new increased support in areas such as Aberconwy, which will take some Arfon wards that are strongly Plaid Cymru, and Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr, which will take in Labour Clwyd South wards which may put them in second place in an area that previously they had struggled in. But, with the amount of marginals in the north, it appears that many may disappear in the south of Wales.

This is simply speculation on my part, but it appears that the more north you go, the more political tension there could well be. Therefore the election in Wales, though possibly less significant in terms of seats, may certainly be an interesting view to look at how the criticised seats, from the left, will result. Will it increase more Westminster support for the Conservatives? Well its more than likely that in current polling, Labour will have the national swing on the Conservatives, so its highly possible that Labour will regain some of its strongholds in north Wales. If they improve their polling, and in the next election improve on the current figures, then its a real possibility that Labour may regain all the seats they lost in the last election. The probable losers from the new boundaries are Plaid Cymru, who have their seats halved, and with the issues they generally have outside of the west of the four seats they currently have. If the reduction of seats stirs up Welsh nationalism or anti-Westminster feelings however, then they could make massive gains in vote share. However on the surface, it’s not ideal for them. 

Aaron is an objective journalist who does analysis on the current climate of politics and political party successes and looks back at recent political history to see where we are headed for. You can find him on Twitter @aaron_gsmith.

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