The Boundaries of the Acceptable

15th December 2020: In an event which received scarcely any attention in the media, the UK government's redrawing of the electoral boundaries yesterday received royal assent.1 While the number of Westminster constituencies remains unchanged at 650, Scotland will lose two MPs and Wales eight, and the number of MPs will increase in Conservative-voting areas of England.

In terms of UK politics, no opposition party has ever overturned an eighty-seat majority in a single parliament,2 and this move ensures that the Conservatives will stay in power for at least another ten years. While austerity has already cost the UK economy £300 per household per month and caused 130,000 preventable deaths,2 while racism and hate crimes against the disabled have become more commonplace, while homelessness and suicide have increased and life expectancy has declined, while hunger has risen among children,3 and while the government's measures against the Coronavirus have resulted only in the enrichment of the few,4 these are the actions of a Conservative government restricted by its partners in coalition and by European law. As the forces inhibiting them are removed, as the government pursues its plans to ‘modernise’ the constitution by stripping us of our human rights and removing legal protections against the prorogation of parliament,5 we must suppose that UK society will become poorer and meaner, its rulers more bloated and corrupt, its culture more ugly and hateful, and our lives more stressful, shorter and more unhealthy, for many years to come, that we will suffer deeper and bitterer losses over the next ten years than we have suffered since 2010.

In terms of Welsh politics, this is the weakening of a delegation which is already utterly insignificant in its ability to protect us, and combines with the Internal Market Bill which the parliaments of the Celtic nations have already rejected because it undermines our ability to rule ourselves.6 Meanwhile, the far-right and pro-Brexit parties openly campaign for the abolition of Welsh democracy,7 while Conservatives in Wales and England alike increasingly protest that their party has fallen prey to English nationalism.8 The middle way, civilised and pragmatic, of federalism or devolution, is being hollowed out, and we face an increasingly stark and urgent choice between independence and political powerlessness. Only one of these alternatives will allow our democracy, our culture, or our values to survive.

  1. ‘New Law Passed Will Make Voting in UK General Election Fairer.’ Cabinet Office press release, Gov.UK, 14th December 2020. 

  2. Matt Honeycombe-Foster, ‘Read in full: The Labour Together review into the party’s historic 2019 election defeat.’ Politics Home,, 15th December 2020. 

  3. Robert Booth, ‘Racism rising since Brexit vote, nationwide study reveals.’ The Guardian, 20th May 2019. Frances Ryan, Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People. London: Verso, 2020. ‘Editorial: Austerity policies lie at heart of soaring homelessness and related health harms.’ British Medical Journal. Mona Kamal, ‘Suicide rates at 20 year high: an indictment of Tory austerity.’ Counterfire, 10th September, 2019. Sarah Boseley, ‘Austerity blamed for life expectancy stalling for first time in century.’ The Guardian, 25th February 2020. Rhi Storer, ‘Unicef to feed hungry children in UK for first time in 70-year history.’ The Guardian, 16th December 2020. 

  4. Tabby Kinder, Gill Plimmer and Jim Pickard. ‘Watchdog criticises government over awarding of £17bn Covid contracts.’ Financial Times, 18th November 2020. Jane Bradley, Salem Gebrekidan and Allison McCann. ‘Waste, Negligence and Cronyism: Inside Britain’s Pandemic Spending.’ New York Times, 17th December 2020. Robert Barrington, ‘Britain’s PPE Procurement: Chumocracy, cronyism, corruption.’ UK in a Changing Europe, 3rd December 2020. 

  5. Owen Bowcott, ‘UK government plans to remove key human rights protections.’ The Guardian, 13th September 2020. Jessica Elgot, ‘Johnson publishes plans to regain power from courts and MPs.’ The Guardian, 1st December 2020. 

  6. Freya McClements, ‘NI Assembly passes motion rejecting Internal Market Bill.’ The Irish Times, 22nd September 2020. Alistair Grant, ‘Holyrood votes to reject controversial UK Internal Market Bill.’ The Herald, 7th October 2020. Craig Cairns, ‘Welsh Parliament rejects UK Internal Market Bill for undermining devolution.’ The National, 10th September 2020. Owen Donovan, ‘Senedd roundup: Welsh Government prepares legal action over “power grab” bill.’ Nation Cymru, 16th December 2020. 

  7. Will Hayward, ‘The evolution of UKIP in Wales: How the Senedd’s Brexiteer politicians turned on each other and the institution that employs them to survive.’ Wales Online, 21st August 2020. 

  8. Tom Peck, ‘A Welsh Tory MP standing down over his party’s embrace of ‘English nationalism’ should set off alarm bells. It won’t.’ The Independent, 15th July, 2019. ‘Conservative Party has become “the English nationalist party” says former Welsh MP.’ Nation Cymru, 9th December 2020.Harry Yorke, ‘Boris Johnson branded “English nationalist” by former Tory chairman.’ The Telegraph, 12th December 2020. Rob Merrick, ‘Tory party urges activists to campaign like Trump by “weaponising fake news” and “fighting wokeism.”’ The Independent, 15th December 2020. 

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