The Boundary Commission for Wales has published revised proposals for reducing the number of Westminster seats from 40 to 30 (here). Whether the plan will ever be implemented is another question because, with the LibDems set to join Labour in opposing the changes, the chances of this reform going through are slim. However a recent intervention by Jonathan Edwards opens up some very interesting possibilities.
Under the changes Wales stands to lose proportionally far more of its representation than England, Scotland or Northern Ireland (10, 31, 7 and 2 seats respectively) and we face a future in which an overwhelmingly non-Tory voting Wales ends up being governed by what would usually be Tory majority governments in Westminster.
Welsh votes would rarely count in determining who governs the UK, and the Welsh voice, barely heard in UK politics under Labour or the Tories, would never be more than an impotent squeak.
On the face of it, then, there is nothing to recommend the proposals in the case of Wales apart from fairness. Why should Aberconwy (electorate of just over 45,000 in 2010) count as much as Manchester Central (89,500)?
The reason for these discrepancies is that historically Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were compensated for being tied into a very unequal union with over-representation at Westminster.
As the Tories' proposals stand, then, Wales would lose a quarter of its representation, find itself even more marginalised in UK politics and have to put up with Tory governments in London to boot, with nothing in return.
In what is a textbook example of realpolitik, Jonathan Edwards is proposing to turn this bleak outlook to the advantage of Wales as a whole by offering to vote for the new boundaries the Tories are so desperate to get in return for a new constitutional settlement with a substantial increase in the devolution of powers, including police, criminal justice, energy and broadcasting (see piece by Adrian Masters here).
If Plaid were joined by the SNP and the DUP, the Tories would be able to muster enough votes to get the measure through, and would be able to justify the concessions they have to make to the smaller parties by arguing that they were doing it in the interests of their beloved union.
If he pulls it off, Jonathan will almost single-handedly have transformed the future of Wales.
On a more parochial level, Cneifiwr was disappointed to see from the Boundary Commission's revised proposals that Cenarth ward (known to the rest of the world as Newcastle Emlyn) is still set to be hived off to a new constituency made up of Ceredigion with a bit of Pembrokeshire thrown in.
Apparently the people of Maenclochog were up in arms about being lumped in with all those hill farmers and hambons to the north, and have persuaded the Commission that they would be much better off in the more upmarket constituency of South Pembrokeshire, so to try to balance the numbers, the Commission has decided to grab another bit of Carmarthenshire in the shape of Llangeler ward (better known as Drefach Felindre) and chuck that into the new Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire constituency instead.
Moving little bits of Wales from one constituency to another is not the end of the world, but if the proposals go ahead, the people of Newcastle Emlyn and Drefach Felindre will find that while they are still in Camarthenshire for council purposes, they will vote in three different constituencies for Westminster, the Welsh Assembly and the European Parliament.
The Commission justifies these changes by arguing that Maenclochog has closer ties with Narberth than its does with distant Cardigan, and that Llangeler has close ties with Llandysul. Both statements are true, but in making them the Commission is highlighting the absurdity of council and political boundaries in many parts of Wales.
What would have made much more sense for Wales was a single commission charged with looking at all council and other boundaries in Wales with a view to scrapping a good many of the 22 local authorities we are saddled with at the same time as rejigging the Westminster and Welsh Assembly constituencies.
But that would have required the sort of leadership and imagination Labour seems to be incapable of giving us.