by Paul Goodman
The MP for the island is a happy man this afternoon. The Government's conceded that the Isle of Wight will join the Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland in being exempted from the standardisation of constituency sizes. This is the right move for the island as well as for Turner: no part of the island has crossed the Solent, so to speak, to join another constituency since the 1832 Reform Act. Once the other exceptions were made, the Isle of Wight should have followed. Jonathan backed the MP earlier on this site.
Turner fought a sturdy battle in the Commons, but ran out of time in which to make his case. It was those hurried proceedings that helped to persuade the Lords that he was right. The MP reports that after the Government’s defeat in the Lords, the same amendment was due to be debated and voted on in the Commons over the next few days, however hectic last minute negotiations brought about an acceptance from the Government that the Isle of Wight should be added to the list of exceptions – and should in future have two MPs."
Turner's issued a statement as follows –
“This is a stunning victory for the Island. When we first launched the ‘One Wight’ Campaign everybody discussed whether we should fight for two Island MPs – but we came to a collective decision that we should put forward the message that the Island’s unique circumstances should be recognised – and if that meant continuing with a single MP it was preferable to any part of the Island being hived off and joined with the mainland. We thought that approach would be more likely to succeed than if we were seen to be campaigning for advantageous treatment.
“I was initially disappointed that the House of Commons did not get to vote on my amendment, particularly as I already knew I had pledges of support from many MPs of all parties. However Lord Fowler did an amazing job in the House of Lords where the timetable rules are different – he was always confident that the Lords would never support such a daft proposal – but I must admit I was very pleased by how big the majority against it was. The Island was the only area to win special treatment – despite spirited campaigns by other areas to be added to the list of exceptions.
“The Government have listened to our arguments and now seeing the strength of feeling on this issue both on the Island, in the House of Commons and the House of Lords they have accepted them. The Government understand that we wish to be separate and even if that meant the Island being under-represented it would be preferable to having one and a half MPs. They have sensibly decided now that the Island should have two MPs – and will therefore in future be over-represented when compared to the rest of the country.
“I don’t think we would have got this outstanding result if we had simply campaigned for two MPs as some people suggested. It was the fact that the Island was prepared to be under-represented that added to the strength of our argument. I would like to thank everyone who helped to bring this about, including Richard Priest of the Riverside Centre who was a very effective non-political spokesman for the campaign. It certainly shows the wisdom of setting party politics aside and working with people of all political persuasions and of none, in order to achieve the right result.”