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Coalition MPs at odds over Devonwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 29, 2013

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Westcountry coalition MPs were last night embroiled in a war of words ahead of a crucial Commons vote that would create a parliamentary constituency straddling the Devon and Cornwall border.

MPs will today decide whether to slash the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and make all seats the same size, a move which will see the advent of a controversial "Devonwall" constituency breaching the historic Tamar boundary.

Liberal Democrats have already indicated they will vote against the legislation, in retaliation for Conservatives de-railing reform of the House of Lords.

Ahead of the vote, Cornwall Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert said it would be "disappointing to say the least" if Tory MPs from the Duchy refused to join their rebellion.

But Sheryll Murray, a Conservative MP whose Cornish constituency borders Devon, said it is "disingenuous" to vote against the Bill after attempts to secure a Cornwall dispensation failed. Meanwhile, Devon MP Sarah Wollaston warned the Lib Dem revolt would be a "betrayal" to voters and the coalition.

Campaigners for a "whole" Cornwall were last night urging Conservative MPs to back a Lords amendment to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, calling for the review to be postponed until well after the next election.

In an email to the three Cornish MPs, Mrs Murray, George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) and Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth), the "Keep Cornwall Whole" group wrote: "We are sure that you will be under some pressure to 'toe the party line' on this matter: we are not asking you to vote against your party, but rather to vote for Cornwall."

Mr Gilbert, Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay, rowed in behind, saying: "When this issue first came up all of Cornwall's MPs stood united and said that we didn't want to see a parliamentary seat crossing the Cornwall-Devon border.

"Indeed, we broke the Government whip and rebelled. It would disappointing to say the least if Conservative MPs in Cornwall, when push comes to shove, aren't prepared to put Cornwall's wider interests before their own narrow party interest and vote against the unwanted 'Devonwall' scheme."

But Mrs Murray, Tory MP for South East Cornwall, said all six Cornwall MPs defied the Government in 2010 by voting for a legislative amendment that would have protected the Duchy from encroachment – but now is the time to move on.

She said: "We've seen referendums in other countries where they hold the vote again and again until they get the right answer. There are so many other things we need to be getting on with that to be re-visiting this now just seems to be silly. I will support the Government and let's get on sorting out the economy. I think it is right that we have 50 fewer MPs, and it is something that will save taxpayers' money. So I think it is disingenuous to be raising that issue now."

Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg's decision to order his party to oppose the changes severely hampers the chances of the Tories winning a majority at the next General Election. Without Lib Dem support, the legislation is highly unlikely to be passed – leaving the Conservatives relying on MPs from Northern Ireland for enough support.

Dr Wollaston, MP for Totnes, wrote on The Guardian's website yesterday that the Lib Dem rebellion would be "betraying its claims to champion electoral reform as well as betraying its coalition partners".

She said: "I represent the Totnes constituency which covers the southern end of Torbay and has an electorate of 67,562.

"It cannot be right that the 76,219 voters living in the north of the same bay are relatively disenfranchised.

"Will the Lib Dem MP for Torbay, Adrian Sanders, protest at the injustice that his constituents' votes are 11% less powerful than those of their neighbours in Brixham?"

On micro-blogging site Twitter, Mr Sanders hit back, saying he would have preferred proportional representation rather than "gerrymandering the boundaries".

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15 comments

  • omnivore23  |  January 30 2013, 11:48AM

    Of course Sidney - it is a LOT more complicated than that - but hey don't let me spoil your trolling.

    |   4
  • SidneyNuff  |  January 30 2013, 9:22AM

    Except the cornish are not a race, before the english settled in places such as the US they moved out into the furthest corners of England. The cornish are in fact just English, whatever they might pretend. In fact today you are more likely to bump into a londener in cornwall than anyone born there. Today the cornish are middle class londoners having a break from their busy lifestyle and the cornish liberation army are their spolt middle class sons who are looking for an identity with a bit of street cred.

    |   -7
  • Chopper8  |  January 30 2013, 8:18AM

    @ SidneyNuff ; I realise you're just another tiresome Troll with more time on your hands than sense, but your post neatly encapsulates the casual racism and arrogance that so many English people feel it's perfectly acceptable to display towards the Cornish. Substitute 'Cornish' in your post for 'Irish', 'Urdu' or 'Estonian' - still acceptable? I bet you love Jim Davidson too,and weeped bitter tears when Bernard Manning died. Why don't you go back to your collection of 'Love thy Neighbour' or 'Mind your Language' DVD's and pretend it's still 1970?

    |   5
  • SidneyNuff  |  January 29 2013, 10:14PM

    Poldice, Cornish isn't a real language, you are not speaking cornish, you have just lent against the keyboard with the caps lock on. KRYGH BGRYV MOJHER look I'm speaking Cornish too.

    |   3
  • poldice  |  January 29 2013, 7:49PM

    Well well looks laike uz cuzzin Jacks have got they there anglphile Devonwall varmints backs up backs up bravemm viddy by the looks uv they there red arrows, there we be, theym probably all a bunch of little englander tory reactionaries all fitchered up cuz they baint got naw empire naw more the dears of um and they there bliddy libs have scuppered the job gud and proper ainyways so there we be me 'andsomes ye wins some and lose most. KERNOW BYS VYKEN & ONEN HAG HAL... NOW WATCH THE RED ARROWS FLY CHAPS... WHAT HO.

    |   -7
  • Chopper8  |  January 29 2013, 5:02PM

    @ Cliffwalker - Many Welsh people commute to Chester or Bristol to work, and Berwick-upon-Tweed is so far north that they play their football in the Scottish league - but do you seriously think that anyone would entertain for a moment the idea of a cross-border constituency for these areas? As for the bit about ''only a few hundred turned up'' and ''blokes in kilts with hairy legs'' - well, top trolling!

    |   11
  • Doitdreckley  |  January 29 2013, 3:29PM

    Cutting MPs will not make any difference to the deficit. Unless of course they happen to be called Cameron or Clegg.

    |   -6
  • poldice  |  January 29 2013, 2:47PM

    Always thought better of Cheryl Murray but her stance on Devonwall seems to confirm that she is just another politico with a weather eye to the main chance... personal advantage through patronage for being a good Girl by doing what she is told... while she betrays Cornwall by compromising Cornwalls sacred ancient sacred border... turncoat and traitor are two of the more printable epithets that spring to mind... I sincerely hope the ballot box delivers its verdict in due course.

    |   3
  • cliffwalker2  |  January 29 2013, 2:46PM

    The Cornish don't give a monkey's about Devonwall. Only a few hundred turned out for Keep Cornwall Whole's Saltash protest in October 2010 - including Labour supporters from Alison Seabecks Plymouth constituency - and a ridiculous 15 in Bude. Pipers, flags and blokes in kilts with hairy legs can't make up for total apathy particularly as the organisers only got media coverage because they conned the BBC into expecting 1,000 + How can you justify Cornwall constituencies with 10,000 fewer voters than elsewhere? Anyway, the Tamar boundary isn't that historic. It didn't stop the Saxons pouring over it and the Normans after them. I would just like to see the A39 'Atlantic Highway' improved so I don't have to drive to the A30 to escape. It joins the two parts of Devonwall and an MP for both parts could lobby for Dept of Transport funding. Farmers in North Cornwall use Holdsworthy, Devon market and Devon farmers use Halworthy, Cornwall. And their families inter-marry. Dairy farmers in both counties supply Davidstow and families shop in Plymouth and Exeter, which are nearer than Truro. Economically the two parts are already merged.

    |   7
  • cliffwalker2  |  January 29 2013, 2:32PM

    The Cornish don't give a monkey's about Devonwall. Only a few hundred turned out for Keep Cornwall Whole's Saltash protest in October 2010 - including Labour supporters from Alison Seabecks Plymouth constituency - and a ridiculous 15 in Bude. Pipers and blokes in kilts with hairy legs can't make up for total apathy. How can you justify Cornwall constituencies with 10,000 fewer voters than elsewhere? Anyway, the Tamar boundary isn't that historic. It didn't stop the Saxons pouring over it and the Normans after them. I would just like to see the A39 'Atlantic Highway' improved so I didn't have to drive to the A30 to escape. It joins the two parts of Devonwall and an MP for both parts could lobby for Dept of Transport funding. Farmers in North Cornwall use Holdsworthy, Devon market and Devon farmers use Halworthy, Cornwall. And their families inter-marry.

    |   11

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