In spite of the best efforts of its ministers in the Lords, it looks as though the government is going to face a vote on the dreaded boundaries legislation early next year, with the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill returning to the Upper Chamber in January.
The big story is that the Lib Dems will be able to kick the reforms away until 2018 using an amendment, but it isn’t just the members of the smaller Coalition party who will be rebelling against government policy. Tory MP Glyn Davies has now come out as an opponent of the reforms, too. On his blog, he writes that he is ‘contemplating voting against my government for the first time’ for a number of reasons. The first is that he never believed the proposal to reduce the number of MPs was a sensible one, and secondly the proposals for boundary reforms in Wales were ‘even worse than I had imagined’, with ‘catastrophic’ consequences for mid Wales. He adds:
‘So what do I do if, as is rumoured I am faced with a crucial vote on the issue next month. If passed, the Montgomeryshire I have known man and boy would be no more. The new constituencies that touch on mid Wales will have population centres elsewhere. My local party association is so horrified by the implications of the proposals that it has told me in no uncertain terms that they want me to oppose the new boundaries. And at a personal level, I would hate to see all the work we have done to build our Association in Montgomeryshire disappear in a cloud of angry blue smoke – because I believe those who have done this transformational work will not carry on. The outcome would be so horrific that I simply couldn’t carry on either. The principles which underpin an MP’s work are country first, party second and self third – and this change will end Parliamentary democracy in mid Wales as we know it.
‘I face some choice. If I vote for the new boundaries, I will be turning my back on all I’ve worked for in public life and all those I’ve worked with in Montgomeryshire. If I vote against them by joining Labour in the lobbies, I will be turning my back on the Party I support. This is something to chew over when I’ve finished with the turkey bones. Looks like plenty of indigestion this Christmas.’
There are certainly other Tory MPs who were rather relieved when Nick Clegg announced he would slay the boundary changes as a revenge for the failure of Lords reform. The consequences for Davies are that he won’t get a job in the government this side of 2015, but it’s easier for him to rebel when the legislation is already doomed without the support of Clegg’s party. But the consequences for the government of the junior coalition partner voting down a policy that its MPs have already approved will be far more damaging to the government than the demise of one MP’s career trajectory.