With apologies to the predominantly Scottish readership but there's some more news from Wales which I've found interesting (and, which has potential relevance to Scotland as well). And it's this: How much are the Tories about to royally shaft Labour?
I shall, perhaps, have to put that in a slightly more socially acceptable format should it ever grace the pages of an academic journal, but I felt the terminology apt. Basically, I'm thinking about David Cameron's (and, to be fair, Nick Clegg's) plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and ensure constituencies of roughly equal numbers (75,000 voters).
The reason I'm interested? The reduction of Welsh representation at Westminster by a QUARTER - or from 40 seats at present to 30 after the reduction. In actual fact, Wales is, and has been for some time, over-represented at Westminster, so this would really be a simple bringing them into line with the rest of the UK in terms of representation. As far as I understand, Scotland would be in line to lose 6 or 7 seats while Northern Ireland would lose 3 and the remainder would come from England.
Anyway, three knock-on effects (identified by John Osmond as "unintended consequences") resulting from the changes. Firstly, the constituencies for the Welsh Assembly are tied to those for Westminster - meaning any reduction in seats for the House of Commons means a corresponding reduction in Cardiff Bay. If nothing is done to change that then Wales would have an Assembly of just 50 members - 30 constituency and 20 regional list. And given there are discussions at the moment to increase its powers (and the Richard Commission recommended in 2004 to increase members to 80) that might cause a re-think there.
Secondly, they could de-couple the constituencies. There is precedent here - Scotland's were tied too, but an amendment to the Scotland Act allowed us to maintain 73 Holyrood constituencies when we reduced the Westminster ones in 2005 to 59. However, Welsh Tories aren't keen on the idea - the Welsh Assembly already suffers from a lack of electorate enthusiasm, and confusing the constituencies may make that apathy worse. Which means that to maintain numbers, they could have an extra 10 list members, which would increase the proportionality of the system (and, one would think, the outcome of elections, the last of which was less proportional than the English local elections).
Thirdly, were the Assembly elected more by PR (with less reliance on FPTP) it would hurt Labour more, as they have benefited most from the only 1/3rd PR element - though, as I noted last week, their vote has been diminishing in Wales for the last decade. Wales remains the last of the devolved administrations led by a Labour figure - with Carwyn Jones, as Welsh First Minister, the highest elected Labour official in the country. It appears as though that position is under threat, as with diminishing vote numbers and a potential reduction in MPs, Labour's position as the dominant party in Wales is no longer guaranteed. In short, the institution which they delivered in 1997 in the expectation that they'd be governing - individually - for the subsequent two decades looks like it may end up as a further harbinger of doom for the party.
A final thought on that. In 1997, the Conservatives opposed devolution. Now, 13 years on, they've found ways to work with it and adapt the system to how it suits them after a damning defeat. PR, a system which they are not fond of, has saved them electorally in Wales and, ironically, might be the system that secures their position and weakens Labour further. Sea change indeed, and change that is fuelled by pragmatism on their part.
A little pragmatism goes a long way - a lesson the Tories have learnt the hard way. The question is - will Labour?