This was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Pat Glass MP that sought to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986.
In the case of Cornwall, this would have seen the Cornish border (river Tamar) crossed by Devon that would have Bude and Launceston assimilated under a Devon constituency. This has become known as ‘Devonwall’ that has caused a great deal of anger and protest, not only in Launceston and Bude, but throughout Cornwall. Steve Double MP and Sheryll Murray MP were two from the six of Cornwall’s MPs that made themselves available for the debate.
During opening remarks it was clear that Ms Murray supported a ‘Devonwall’ constituency. However, it was Steve Double who took on the responsibility of standing up for Cornwall in a speech saying that the Boundary Commission proposals have invoked “a deeply emotional response” among many people in Cornwall.
In support of the (amendment) Bill, the MP for St Austell and Newquay tells MPs that the proposals would result in the creation of a cross-border seat, spanning both Devon and Cornwall. A cross-border seat would represent a “threat” to Cornish identity, and exacerbate the “centuries of detachments” between Westminster and Cornwall.
Scottish SNP Alex Salmond stood shoulder to shoulder with Cornwall saying “The hon. Gentleman (Steve Double) is making a very good speech, apart from that passing reference to Scotland, which we will overlook, (Steve Double reminded the house that ‘thousands of Cornishmen marched on this place to protest about the imposition of a tax on the Cornish to fund a fight with the Scottish’) but does he understand that, because of the nature and the criteria of the boundary commissions, nonsense such as the one that he is so ably describing will be replicated across the four nations of the United Kingdom, as well as the nation of Cornwall?”
Ms Murray made an intervention during Mr Double’s speech saying “He said he was speaking on behalf of the Cornish, but let me put on the record the fact that I am a Cornish girl and he was not speaking for me.”
By what reasoning could any person claiming Cornish ethnicity, support a part of Cornwall becoming a Devonwall constituency? This is the kind of mentality that undermines Cornwall’s identity when it should not only be protected but promoted.
During her speech she said that she had upset Cornwall’s councillors. Ms Murray is of the opinion that the council should not be debating on Cornwall being politically broken up into a Devonwall on the grounds of it not being a ‘local’ issue.
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said earlier “I believe that representing two counties will dilute our effectiveness to argue Cornwall’s case. We are here to argue for Cornwall and we should expect our MPs to do the same”.
The fact Ms Murray is not ‘arguing the case for Cornwall’ suggests she’s not a ‘Cornish girl’ but a ‘Devonwall girl’. A description that would better describe her loyalties, if not her ethnicity. This could explain Ms Murray having some form of cognative dissonace that effects some ‘Cornish’ people
In the end, MPs voted in favour of the closure motion by 257 votes to 35. They will now vote on the second reading of the bill.
More work to be done.
Note: During a following debate on the Disability Equality Training Bill, MPs could be heard to say “shameful” as the debate is talked out (filibuster) by the same Conservative MP, Sheryll Murray.