Out to put history before 'equations' in Tamar bank 'Devonwall' protest
Hundreds of people gathered on the Cornish bank of the River Tamar yesterday in a mass protest against proposals for new Parliamentary constituencies that would span Devon and Cornwall.
The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – which aims to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 – could result in cross-county constituencies merging of parts of East Cornwall with West Devon and Plymouth.
Cornwall's six MPs have already criticised the proposals and Cornwall Council is also opposed to the move.
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Yesterday, around 400 people gathered at Jubilee Green, Saltash – under the span of the Tamar Bridge – as part of the "Keep Cornwall Whole" campaign.
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Amid dozens of flags of St Piran, Saltash mayor Adam Killeya said the Government appeared to regard numbers – proposals are for standard constituencies with 75,000 voters – over "people and place".
He said: "Saltash has been in Cornwall for 1,000 years and intends to stay that way. You cannot use an equation to overcome 1,000 years of history."
Last week Prime Minister David Cameron faced a storm of criticism after seemingly dismissing concerns about a "Devonwall" constituency by joking: "It's the Tamar, not the Amazon, for Heaven's sake."
South East Cornwall Conservative MP Sheryll Murray said she had already written to her party leader "about his recent comments".
She said: "He is right. The Tamar is different from the Amazon, it's colder. But after today I am sure he will be left in no doubt that the people of Cornwall are turning up the temperature."
Scottish and Welsh borders are to be respected under the review, although the Government has so far refused to give any reassurances that county borders will be observed.
A delegation from Cornwall recently met with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to plead their case, but left disappointed.
St Austell and Newquay Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert said he would be voting against the Bill, and the coalition Government, in its current form. He said he would support the amendment tabled by Mrs Murray.
He told the protest: "If you want to build the Cornish economy for the future, you need to ensure MPs are focused on the job here, not have half an eye over there."
The riverside rally in Saltash, supported by a number of boats flying the flag of St Piran, marked the culmination of a weekend of events.
Plans to re-draw MPs constituencies are being discussed at Westminster tomorrow. The Boundary Commission has until 2013 to make its recommendations.
For more information, visit www.keepcornwallwhole.org.