Its always been the case that if an MP wants to be noticed, he or she either has to be one of the 'favoured' faces - or one that rebels against the party. The MP who is not 'favoured', and votes consistently with the party whip is normally referred to in derogatory terms in the media as a poodle, and ignored by the 'upper strata'. Which is why yesterday's splendidly ferocious article by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph was a very good read. Now I didn't agree with all of it, but it did give me comfort that there's merit in the way I approach my job as an MP. Perhaps its because of my years playing in the back row with blind loyalty to my team that I would feel sick to the pit of my stomach to step into the opposition lobbies to vote against the Coalition Gov't. The circumstances would have to be extreme. In the two years eight months since I was elected, I have always voted with the Gov't - though I must admit I would have abstained in one crucial vote on Lords Reform, had it not been 'pulled' at the last minute.
The foregoing will make clear to you how much it pains me to be contemplating voting against my Government for the first time. The issue causing me such distress is Parliamentary boundaries reform. I should take you through the process that has brought me to what I consider to be a very dark place.
I was elected in 2010 on a manifesto which promised to reduce the number of MPs to 585 - though I must admit I did not think this a sensible change to make. No-one took the slightest notice of me. It was a popular promise, because of the utter contempt in which MPs were held in 2010. I also voted for the Bill to give effect to this promise as it proceeded through its Parliamentary stages, which reduced the number of MPs to 600 - while privately making my increasing unhappiness known to my party. I was especially concerned about the impact on Wales of the very rigid constituency equalisation clauses. I feared that the Boundary Commission for Wales would be forced into proposals that would greatly damage Parliamentary democracy in mid Wales. The proposals that eventually emerged were even worse than I had imagined. The impact is catastrophic for mid Wales. Within a short period, MPs would have less profile in mid Wales than MEPs do now - and this is not in any way a comment on the quality of our current four Welsh MEPs.
So what do I do if, as is rumoured I am faced with a crucial vote on the issue next month. If passed, the Montgomeryshire I have known man and boy would be no more. The new constituencies that touch on mid Wales will have population centres elsewhere. My local party association is so horrified by the implications of the proposals that it has told me in no uncertain terms that they want me to oppose the new boundaries. And at a personal level, I would hate to see all the work we have done to build our Association in Montgomeryshire disappear in a cloud of angry blue smoke - because I believe those who have done this transformational work will not carry on. The outcome would be so horrific that I simply couldn't carry on either. The principles which underpin an MP's work are country first, party second and self third - and this change will end Parliamentary democracy in mid Wales as we know it.
I face some choice. If I vote for the new boundaries, I will be turning my back on all I've worked for in public life and all those I've worked with in Montgomeryshire. If I vote against them by joining Labour in the lobbies, I will be turning my back on the Party I support. This is something to chew over when I've finished with the turkey bones. Looks like plenty of indigestion this Christmas.