Finally, some proper politics. The return of Westminster this week has given a hungry media pack the first remnants of drama and intrigue after summer: a historically fiscally prudent Tory party breaking a manifesto pledge on, of all things, tax rises.

The Prime Minister’s 1.25 per cent national insurance hike to fund social care proposals may turn out to be the most politically damaging decision of his entire premiership.

It also offers a particular lesson for us in Wales.

This is not for the reason you might assume. Of course there is the obvious burden on Welsh workers who will have to pay for social care in England, and how the Prime Minister says the decision will lead to additional funding to the tune of £2.2bn a year to the three devolved nations.

But go beyond the specific policy ructions – debates over who forks out the money and how much the Welsh Government will get to spend for what purpose – and look at the big picture.

What you see is something devolutionists and nationalists alike have forgotten: Westminster trumps Wales, always.

For all of the drama of the last 18 months, when the pandemic gave the Welsh Government the opportunity to exercise its dusty devolved levers, day-by-day politics is realigning.

Parliamentary sovereignty is not shared, as the First Minister has so long hoped it would be. It is firmly in SW1, not Cardiff Bay: for the foreseeable future, that is where real power lies.

And while this year’s Senedd election may have shown that Wales is not England when it comes to the public’s expectations of a leader, Mark Drakeford has had to sit on the sidelines on the two defining issues of the day: funding social care and the response to a prolonged Afghanistan crisis.

Even the future of devolution is out of his control. That’s why we elect 40 MPs to the House of Commons: for Welsh voices in Westminster.

Wales’ MPs have always been an interesting collection of competing factions. The Labour party’s contingent is different in its outlook, particularly on constitutional debates, to comrades in Cardiff Bay.

There are plenty of ‘Welsh’ Conservatives who blend in with colleagues across the border but assert their moderate streak occasionally. Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, are devoted junior agitators behind the SNP on the green benches. Some things never change.

But savour the Welsh make-up for as long as it lasts, which is likely to be until the next General Election pencilled in for 2024. Proposals unveiled by the Boundary Commission this week detail the changing map of Wales’ constituencies, alterations that have the potential to impact all parties for good or ill.


I agree with Dafydd Wigley, who warns in these pages of the consequences following the boundary changes. No doubt it will impact MPs’ work, particularly in rural communities.

Fault is by no means on the commission itself – who have unveiled plans to reduce the number of MPs from 40 to 32 – Lord Wigley says it was imposed on Wales by MPs at Westminster, “with the majority wishes of Wales’ MPs simply ignored”.

What is worst for Wales, and worth reflecting on as Westminster warms up to become the cauldron of debate and decision we were used to before the pandemic, is the fact Welsh representation in Westminster will be significantly reduced as England gains 10 seats, likely to the benefit of the Conservatives. Scotland’s new boundary changes, yet to be revealed, may result in the loss of a couple of parliamentarians.

I understand the rationale behind the proposals, to reflect changing population sizes. But slashing Welsh representation is no way to make democracy more effective in Wales.

After all, as the businessman David Buttress said in an interview with me this week, even now many feel Wales are “politically insignificant” with 40 parliamentarians. These new changes downgrade the status of Wales’ cohort at Westminster further, a bloc which once upon a time swayed decisions in parliament and produced the finest political operators across Britain.

Think back to the late 19th century, when Welsh Liberals were not a small faction but a distinct political party within their own right.

Welsh Labour MPs some decades later operated in tandem with their Liberal peers to agitate for devolution. Even in more modern times, the mercurial Denzil Davies and, prior to his ascent as a modern statesman, Rhodri Morgan, were Tony Blair’s distinctively Cymric awkward squad.

Now we are facing the real prospect of reduced Welsh intervention in British politics at a time when it is needed most. Though the attention of my generation may have already turned to Cardiff Bay, Westminster – probably at least for the next decade – will still be the natural centre of power.

Fewer parliamentarians risks creating a democratic deficit: Wales loses representation in Westminster as proposals to expand the Senedd continue to stagnate.

Electoral reform has happened the wrong way round. That is no way to bring balance to the political system post devolution – especially at a time when our own devolved political process is disrupted at Westminster too.

So as the Prime Minister’s social care plans are pushed through parliament – a tax rise decided in Westminster but one which will be paid by the Welsh – we must realise it comes at a time when our influence is fading. St David, along with the patron saints of the other nations of the UK, may have a panel in the Houses of Parliament’s Central Lobby, but his followers are disappearing in that great place.

That is a sad thing for a country that thrives more than our neighbours on debate and drama – in a parliament that, although it has become distant in recent months, should still be where we try to influence and change policy.

Wales has much to give to Britain on the key issues of the day; our MPs have much to do for their constituents after Covid-19. Wales wants to play its part, as we always have.

If only we were given the chance.

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