Thursday, 9 September 2010

Cornwall is a duchy, not just an ordinary county

Parliament returned this week, much earlier than usual after changes to cut the length of the summer recess that MPs used to have in the past.

They say that turkeys don't vote for Christmas but in a separate move last Monday MPs did exactly that by voting through legislation that will cut the number of MPs sitting in parliament by almost 10 percent.

I think that's right. There are going to be some very difficult decisions to be made on public sector spending in the months ahead and I think MPs need to lead by example and be the first to cut their own numbers. We cannot expect other people in the public sector to take job cuts but then protect our own positions and so I supported the Bill.

The legislation also aims to make our electoral system more proportionate by moving towards equal sized constituencies. At the moment, there is too much variation in the size of constituencies with those in the North and Scotland generally being smaller than other parts of the country. The effect of this anomaly is that a vote cast in Scotland currently counts for more than a vote cast in Cornwall. That's not fair and it needs to change so that voters in Cornwall are given an equal voice in how our country is governed.

There will be a lot of debate in the months ahead about the prospect of a parliamentary seat that straddles the Devon and Cornwall border. I have always been clear that Cornwall is not just an ordinary county, we are a duchy and have always had special status so I think we should try to find a way to avoid a cross border constituency if possible.

The final thing agreed in this week’s Bill was that there should be a national referendum to decide whether or not to change our voting system. I have always supported the use of referendums because I think they are good for our democracy. Having a national debate on a single issue can be a powerful antidote to the growing trend of personality politics in General Elections and it also forces politicians from all sides of the political spectrum to work together on an issue where they have a shared conviction.

But in that debate, I will be campaigning for a no vote to protect our democracy. Our current one person, one vote system, where you mark a cross in the box next to the candidate you want, is simple and clear and has stood the test of time.

The so called "Alternative Vote" method is a multiple voting system where you write lots of numbers on the ballot paper and where some people get more votes than others, depending on how they order their votes. I don't think that's fair and it does nothing to help smaller parties like Mebyon Kernow.

It promises to be an interesting debate!