Thursday, 15 September 2016

Untying the Montgomrese Knot. Wales' New Constituency Boundaries.

With the House of Commons due to cut the number of MPs by 50, boundary reviews were held accross the United Kingdom to redraw the face of electoral Britain and Northern Ireland. Wales was already by far the most overrepresented part of the country, which has led Wales to be the hardest hit part 11 MPs. The nature of this large drop has left no constituency intact with the smaller, more rural constituencies such as Montgomeryshire the most affected. Glyn Davies, the MP for Montgomeryshire has said the partition of the historic county is "heart breaking" for him with it being split between Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery, De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn(sic, it should be Drefaldwyn), and Ceredigion a Gogledd Sir Benfro.

The Boundary Commission for Wales' current proposals.  

My constituency would be number 7 on the above map, De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn(sic). As Ifan Morgan Jones described, this is a real "Frankenstein's Monster" of a seat containing all four of Rhosllanerchrugog, Ruthin, Welshpool and Machynlleth. It contains 5 different local authorities accross north and mid Wales with some parts of the constiuency sharing little to no co-terminosity. Unfortunately, if the number of electors per constituency is so limited there will always be some leftover areas, and this jumps out to me as the most obvious one (although as someone who lives on the very edge of this seat, I would think that wouldn't I!). Also, even though Ceredigion a Gogledd Sir Benfro needed to make up the quota, I'm not sure going accross Pumlumon to Llanidloes was the way to go when places like the Llanfihangel-ar-arth and Maenclochog would appear more logical.

The last three boundary reviews have suggested Balkanising Montgomershire as it would be impossible to include the whole of Powys in a single constituency. However, it could instead be possible to trim back Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery in the south-western and south-eastern corners rather than spitting Montgomeryshire. The upper Swansea Valley including Ystradgynlais could be moved in with Neath as they share good transport, cultural and work links. Another option would be to move Crickhowell and the surrounding area into Monmouthshire owing to its proximty to Abergavenny(I even thought Crickhowell was in Monmouthshire until I went through it to get to the Eisteddfod). Powys is the key to solving many of the problems the commission faces.

With this in mind I decided to use this tool courtesy of the House of Commons Library to create my own boundary review! My map of the constituencies is to be found below.

Note: If the I've left the space below the name blank its becuase I don't have any obvious objection to the Boundary Review's propsal for that seat.
1.   Ynys Môn a Menai - Anglesey and Menai*
Size: 71,398
As the Isle of Anglesey did not get exempted from the quota like other islands such as the Isle of Wight, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney and Shetland, it was inevitable that it would have to be merged with the mainland. The obvious place to do that with is Bangor as the Menai and Britannia Bridges cross there. Some of the surrounding towns such as Bethesda were a natural fit to include with Bangor rather than Caernarfon, however this is still well short of the quota which requires me to look up the coast and include Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr as far as the Capelulo ward. This is still short, so it would require me to look to the villages closer to Caernarfon. Y Felinheli appeared to have to best links to Bangor out of the available options, so I added it and it included just enough registered voters to take it over the quota of 71,031. This is the smallest constituency in Wales.

2.  Gwynedd, Dyffryn Dyfi a Nant Conwy - Gwynedd, Dyfi and Conwy Valleys*
Size: 72,563
This seat contains the etirety of the current constituency of Dwyfor Meirionydd minus the area around Bala. The parts of Arfon constituency which are not to be added to Ynys Môn a Menai will join this seat, keeping Caernarfon together with most of its surrounding villages. Five wards from Montgomeryshire including Machynlleth, Glantwymyn, Llanbrynmair, Banwy and Llanfair Caereinion are added to cut the numbers in Powys and they share good links with places such as Dolgellau along the A489, A470 and A458. Further parts of northern Montgomeryshire are added to Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn, however it is possible to add them to this seat instead and cut out the Conwy Valley if this is more agreeable.

3.   Colwyn and Conwy - Colwyn a Conwy
Size: 74,532
This shares the bulk of its territory with the Electoral Commissions proposal for the same constituency, however it has had to lose the cost west of Conwy itself and has instead been compensated by taking the inland wards of Caerhun, Eglwysbach, Betws yn Rhos and Llangernyw. I would also consider cutting Llangernyw in two around Llyn Alwen allowing the south to join either Gwynedd, Dyffryn Dyfi a Nant Conwy or Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn.

4.   Englefield - Tegeingl
Size: 75,902
This is the same as the boundary commissions proposed constituency of Flint and Rhuddlan, I just decided to name it after the historic region of Tegeingl(English: Englefield). The only viable change I would consider making is moving Northop into Alyn and Deeside.

5.   Alyn and Deeside - Alun a Glannau Dyfrdwy
Size: 76,678
The same as the Boundary Commissions proposal. If it were possible I would consider swapping Mold and Flint around, however I wouldn't want to move Mold without Buckley as well and their populations would be too high to fit them both elsewhere.

6.   Wrexham Maelor - Wrecsam Maelor
Size: 71,501
As it loses all of the outlying villages south of Rhostyllen including my home and the largest village in Wales™ - Rhosllanerchrugog, Wrexham Maelor is surprisingly one of the smallest constituencies in Wales. Despite this, it's impossible to fit all of Rhos, Johnstown and Penycae (which are all part of Rhos really!) with Wrexham without taking it over the cap. This proves just how restrictive the numbers are in practice. I moved all of the Ponciau ward(which was split in the Boundary Review) into Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn to help it make the quota.

7.   Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn - Clwydian and Berwyn Hills*
Size: 71,574
A small contituency in population but a massive one in area, we get down to what is probably the trickiest constituency to manage which I have christened Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn. The largest population centre belongs to the eastern corner of the diamond in the villages wedged between Wrexham and the border, including Rhosllanerchurgog, Ruabon, Cefn-mawr and Chirk. These dont have a great deal of co-terminosity with other parts of the seat other than the Llangollen and Corwen area and to an extent with Bala. Bala itself has decent links with parts of northern Montgomeryshire which leads to the inclusion of the wards of Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant/Llansilin(which was histroically part of the preserved county of Denbighshire and Clwyd South), Llanwddyn, Llansantffraid, Llanfyllin, Meifod and Llanfihangel. These do have some degree of co-terminosity with the likes of Rhos via Oswestry if only due to commuters going to Wrexham, although cross-border contituencies are culturally and legislatively a non-starter.

While Llangollen and Ruthin do share a local authority, The modern Denbighshire doesn't share much in the way of co-terminosity other than some links with Corwen. It shares better links with Coedpoeth than with the Wrexham Area villages it shares the seat with, however that would require Wrexham to raid wards from Alyn and Deeside, which would in turn have a knock-on effect on the Flinthsire seats, and so on. Therefore the best cause of action would be to add Denbigh and St Asaph as they share a bit between themselves and Ruthin, and they all have to go somewhere. Denbigh would also make it more acceptable to add parts of Conwy county such as Llansannan and Uwchaled, with Cerrigydrudion sharing good links with Corwen and Bala.

This seat will still stretch accross five local authorities and is still a bit of a mess but out of all the available options this was probably the best available. Another option would be for it to surrender northern Montgomeryshire and possibly Bala to Gwynedd and instead to take in Coedpoeth and the Conwy Valley, this seat would still be comparable to a chimera though. Still, all four of the Conservatives, Labour, Plaid and to an extent the Lib Dems could fancy their chances here, so it would be fun to watch.

8.   Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery - Aberhonddu, Maesyfed a Trefaldwyn
Size: 78,299
By surrenduring Ynyscedwyn, Cwm-twrch, Ystradgynlais, Aber-craf and Tawe-Uchaf to Neath, it is possible to keep the general shape of Powys intact. Brecknockshire(sans the aforementioned area), Radnorshire and most of the population centres of Montgomeryshire including Welshpool, Trewern, Llandrinio, Llandysilio and Guilsfield have been kept in. This constituency which is the largest in area and one of the largest in population makes it impossible to include anymore wards. Its not perfect but I'm pleased I found a way to include Welshpool in the same constituency as Newtown. It is possible to drop the Crickhowell area into Monmouthsire and therefore reclaim much of northern Powys, however all attempts made by me leave Llanfyllin sticking out like a sore thumb in Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn so it's probably best to avoid it.

9.   Monmouthshire - Sir Fynwy
Size: 74,532

10. Newport - Casnewydd
Size: 75,986

11. Torfaen - Tor-faen
Size: 72,367

12. Blaenau Gwent and North Islwyn - Blaenau Gwent a Gogledd Islwyn
Size: 75,664
The same as the proposed Blaenau Gwent constituency, I just decided to add North Islwyn to the name. I don't know the area well, and this also applies to the next two constituencies but a possible change could include swapping Newbridge and Pontllanfraith.

13. Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney - Merthyr Tudful a Rhymni
Size: 76,323

14. Caerphilly - Caerffili
Size: 77,770

15. Cynon Valley and Pontypridd - Cwm Cynon a Pontypridd
Size: 78,005

16. Rhondda and Llantrisant - Rhondda a Llantrisant
Size: 77,905
The same as proposed by the commission other than the addition of Llanharry as I deperately needed to cut wards from Ogmore and Port Talbot, and Rhondda and Llantrisant could only fit one. It came down to either Llanharry or Lanharan and looking at the map I thought it made more sense to add Llanharry to Pontyclun rather than splitting Llanharan from Brynna.

17. Cardiff West - Gorllewin Caerdydd
Size: 75,563

18. Cardiff North - Gogledd Caerdydd
Size: 78,014

19. Cardiff South East - De-ddwyrain Caerdydd
Size: 77,059

20. Vale of Glamorgan East - Dwyrain Bro Morgannwg
Size: 76,984

21. Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan West - Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr a Gorllewin Bro Morgannwg
Size: 74,092
The same as suggested by the Boundary Commission other than the addition of Cefn Cribwr.

22. Ogmore and Port Talbot - Ogwr a Port Talbot
Size: 78,365
Llanharrry and Cefn Cribwr make way to allow for the inclusion of the whole of Port Talbot rather than keeping it split. Adding Port Talbot also means that the Afan valley needs to go, which may not be the most sensible move but Neath couldn't fit half of Port Talbot and the Ystradgynlais area. With the Afan gone I didn't think it was appropriate to maintain the name Aberavon so I named it after the town which swallowed it up.

23. Neath, Afan and Swansea Valleys - Cymoedd Nedd, Afan a Tawe
Size: 75,449
The addition of the upper Swansea Valley meant northern Port Talbot had to go, and with the Afan leaving the seat to the south it was the only possible place to put it. Ystradynlais shares good terminosity with Ystalyfera, Pontardawe and Neath itself, and Pontneddfechan and Abercrave do so with Glyn-Neath and down the valley. The Afan valley does not to the same extent with only the Afan Valley road going from Pontrhydyfen to Neath. Despite this, it is without a shadow of a doubt easier to get from Neath to Cwmafan than to cross the Berwyns from the Ceiriog Valley to Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant so to save Bryniau Clwyd a Berwyn from taking even more of northern Montgomeryshire this change is necessary in my view.

Owing to the large number of Welsh speakers around Gwaun-cae-gurwen and up the Swansea valley it could be argued that this constituency should have a Welsh only name. This would also mean people would be less likely to confuse it with Swansea itself.

24. Swansea East - Dwyrain Abertawe
Size: 76,514
Another option would be to take the wards of Mawr and Llangyfelach into Swansea East, loaning either Castle or Cwmbwrla to Swansea West and Gower.

25. Swansea West and Gower - Gorllewin Abertawe a Gŵyr
Size: 77,873
If the aforementioned is done, this would allow Swansea West and Gower to lose the Kingsbridge, Upper Loughor and Lower Loughor wards to Llanelli and Lliw. This would prevent Gorseinon and Loughor from being split in two, however I would like to leave that to someone who knows the area better.

26. Llanelli and Lliw - Llanelli a Lliw
Size: 72,290
With the loss of Tycroes and Kidwelly to Caerfyrddin this becomes the smallest constituency in post-industrial south Wales. It could easily accept Kingsbridge, Upper Loughor and lower Loughor if it removed Mawr and Llangyfelach. A case could also be made as to giving this constituency a Welsh only name.

27. Caerfyrddin - Carmarthen*
Size: 73,010
The constituency of Gwynfor Evans returns in a very rough manner. My proposal is to add Llanfihangel-ar-arth and Llanybydder to Ceredigion so it encompass the whole Teifi valley. This would require Caerfyrddin to pick up two wards from Llanelli and Lliw, and while I dont know the area well Tycroes looked a natural fit owing to its proximity to Ammanford. I then needed to pick one of either Pontyberem or Kidwelly, and I settled on Kidwelly purely because it makes the borders look less ugly.

28. South Pembrokeshire - De Sir Benfro
Size: 74,070

29. Bae Ceredigion a Dyffryn Teifi - Cardigan Bay and the Teifi Valley*   
Size: 71,560
Ceredigion is nowhere near big enough to make the quota therefore it needed to gain extra voters from somewhere. Northern Pembrokshire around Fishguard and Crymych was formerly in the old constituency of Ceredigion and North Pembrokshire anyway so that was the most obvious place to start. The Boudary Commission's proposal of adding Llanidloes is a complete non-starter, as it travels through Wales' only true hinterland. Viable options include taking the Machynlleth area (as a recent Aberystwyth graduate I would say there are far worse options) and also crossing the Teifi and raiding Carmarthenshire. I settled on the latter, adding the four wards of Cenarth, Llangeler, Llanfihangel-ar-arth and Llanybydder.

For this constituency I chose the name Bae Ceredigion a Dyffryn Teifi to be more inclusive of the area and to make it less of a mouthfull.

*Constituencies marked with an asterix will be known by their Welsh names only.

And yes, I know the term is Montgomrian, I'm referencing this: 

Picture Credits
Boundary Commission for Wales, Crown Copyright,
Wikimedia Commons


  1. Aled, please submit these proposals to the boundary commission as I also do not see what connects Rhos to Machynlleth, I do not think that it would be possible to drive north to south across the constituency without going into England or a neighbouring seats.

    1. It's impossible to get from Machynlleth to Llanerfyl without going leaving the constituency never mind any further! To be fair you go less than a mile in to Gwynedd though. There is the B4391 which goes from near Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant to Bala so you could go north to south that way but it is very out of the way for most of the population.

      The Boundary Commission are having a public hearing up here in a couple of months, I'll try and go to that if I can.