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Island wins argument over parliamentary constituency

THE Isle of Wight will have two MPs.

Island MP Andrew Turner said on Tuesday he was 'delighted' to announce the decision following discussions on Monday night with the government about how the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill would affect the Isle of Wight.

The Bill is designed to cut the number of MPs and standardise the size of constituencies.

It originally allowed for only two named exceptions — both in Scotland — the Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland.

New constituencies will be an average size of around 76,000 voters which would have meant that part of the Island (which currently has 110,000 voters) would have been paired with the mainland, forming a cross-Solent constituency for the first time since the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Mr Turner said: "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."

The vigorous cross-party OneWight campaign, which was supported by the County Press, resulted last month in the House of Lords voting in favour of an amendment that would prevent any part of the Island being joined to the mainland to form a cross-Solent constituency.

On Tuesday night the Commons agreed to install two MPs to represent it from the next general election in 2015.

The amendment received the backing of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Story courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press.


Fight for Island constituency goes to No 10

THE 'OneWight’ battle to retain a single MP for the Isle of Wight arrived at the doors of Number 10, Downing Street on Monday.

Campaigners, backed by the County Press, presented a copy of the on-line petition to the office of the prime minister, David Cameron. Later in the day, a paper copy of the petition, which attracted over 16,000 signatures, was put before Parliament by Island MP Andrew Turner.

But a letter, which has been obtained by the County Press and sent by the office of the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has appeared to rule out a change of heart from the government over its plans to split the Island constituency.

In the letter, Mr Clegg’s office says that, unlike the Scottish Islands, which have been granted an exemption to the proposed reforms, any exemption for the Isle of Wight would result in electors here being 'under-represented’.

The letter goes on: "The Boundary Commission would, therefore, not have discretion to make an exemption for the whole of the Isle of Wight, as in the past. The principle of fairness in elections underlying the revised rules is fundamental and the government is determined to ensure votes have more equal weight."

Mr Turner said he would be raising the issue during Monday’s debate.

He said: "The deputy prime minister appears to accept it is OK for the Scottish Islands to be over-represented but does not seem open to looking at the Isle of Wight’s unique circumstances. I have written him a detailed letter asking him to address a number of points and have yet to receive a reply."

OneWight campaign co-ordinator Ian Ward urged as many people as possible to return signed petitions before Monday.

He said: "Getting more than 16,000 supporters in a few weeks has been challenging but it demonstrates the high level of support we have found."

Story courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press.


Only days left to sign the on-line petition

Support for the OneWight Campaign continues to grow.

Over 16,000 signatures have been received at the campaign headquarters to date, but there are still petition sheets all around the Island that need to be gathered in and the signatures added to this ever growing total. It has been decided to leave the on-line petition open over the weekend so that people can still sign up to support the campaign by clicking here.

Derek Sandy

Derek Sandy signing the OneWight
bus at The Grand Donkey Day out.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend members of the campaign team were out and about at Somerfield in Shanklin, the Island Steam Show at Havenstreet and The Grand Donkey Day out at the Donkey Sanctuary; at times Islanders were queuing to sign up to support the campaign. Our thanks go out to those organisations for supporting the campaign by allowing us to be at their events. The campaign team received many comments ranging from expressions of support for the campaign to disbelief and irritation that the Government did not understand the closeness, community spirit and pride of the Island community.

The OneWight Bus, sponsored by Fuel Management Systems uk and transported by Wightlink, will be travelling up to London on Monday 6th September. It will take a cross party delegation from the Island’s main political parties, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce, Richard Priest who has acted as spokesman for the Campaign and a number of other supporters.

Ian Ward the campaign co-ordinator said: “Getting over 16,000 supporters in a few weeks has been challenging, but it demonstrates the high level of support we have found wherever we go. Some people say they want two MPs for the Island - that is a perfectly reasonable view, although all local political parties have accepted that is unlikely to be achievable - but very, very few people support the idea of a constituency split between the Island and the mainland. We must now concentrate on getting all the paper copies of the petition back into the office before Monday. If you know of any petition sheets anywhere please get them into the campaign office at 24 The Mall, Carisbrooke Road , Newport as soon as possible.”

The paper copy of the OneWight petition will be presented to Parliament on the evening of 6th September by the Island’s MP Andrew Turner. At 2pm in the afternoon a small delegation will be presenting a printed copy of the on-line petition to No 10 Downing Street.


Over 15,000 signatures for campaign

The ONEWIGHT campaign was out and about in force at the weekend and has now passed the 15,000 signature mark.

On Saturday campaigners were in Lake, Sandown and Shanklin obtaining signatures on paper petitions as well as on the banners that will be attached to the OneWight Campaign Bus.

On Sunday, the campaign headed to Havenstreet Steam Show and on Bank Holiday Monday the OneWight Campaign Bus was at The Grand Donkey Day Out at The Donkey Sanctuary in Wroxall.


Campaign passes 10,000 mark

More than 10,000 people have now signed the OneWight campaign petition. A successful weekend at the Garlic Festival saw 3,000 people pledge their support.

The cross-party campaign's Parliamentary petition will be presented to Parliament on September 6.


OneWight Campaign featured on Newnight

A report on the independent study for Newsnight on the boundary changes proposed for the next general election features the OneWight campaign. (The campaign is featured from about 11 mintes 30 seconds in).



Over 5,000 signatures for campaign

OneWight bus

The OneWight bus filling up with
signatures on Tuesday in St James's.
Square, Newport

After a weekend of campaigning, more than 5,000 supporters have now signed the OneWight petition.

Over 500 people voiced their support at the Chale Show, whilst the OneWight campaign bus drove around the Island visiting attractions and events. As well as signing the petition, Islanders could write their support for the campaign on the bus itself.

"We were at the classic car show in Yarmouth, and then down in Sandown Regatta on the front. The bus is a real selling point. People love the bus. We've had loads of people sign it and the back of the bus is nearly full already," said campaign helper Becky Hunns, 22.

As of 4pm on Sunday, the petition stood at 5,100 signatures.

Elsewhere, campaign coordinator, MP Andrew Turner, and campaign coordinator, Bob Seely, were gathering support at the Chale Show.

"This is an important first milestone. It is clear there is a lot of support for the campaign," said Mr Turner.

"Islanders have three more weeks to voice their objections to the Government's plans. It's really important that we speak with one voice," said Bob Seely. "We haven't shared an MP with the mainland since 1832, and we don't want to start now."

One Wight is asking Islanders, and anybody else who opposes these plans, to sign the campaign's Parliamentary petition, which will be presented to Parliament on 6th September.


Campaign gathers support

THE OneWight cross-party campaign to keep the IW united as one Parliamentary constituency took to the busy waters of Cowes Harbour this week to spread the message: Don't Divide the Island.

Bolstered by the support of Shadow Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, who said the coalition’s plans to carve up the constituency and slash the number of MPs were 'undemocratic', the OneWight RIB went out to secure signatures from Cowes Week competitors before Wednesday’s races.

Cowes Week campaigning

Setting out to collect signatures, are, from left, Cowes mayor Alan Wells, MP Andrew Turner, Matt O'Crowley, Ian Rees, Becky Hunns and Bob Seely.

Campaign co-ordinator, Bob Seely, said the plan to divide the Island, merging parts with a mainland seat, flew in the face of previous Boundary Commission reports which recognised the Island’s unique history and geography and identified significant communication problems in attaching parts to the mainland.

Mr Seely said: "The Boundary Commission was talking sense and I don’t understand what has changed. "The problem is the IW always gets short-changed. I think we, as an Island, are being ignored."

So far around 4,000 people have signed the OneWight petition, and dozens more have written letters to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Becky Hunns, 22, from East Cowes, one of the campaign’s student volunteers, said: "This is a reality that affects Islanders and mainlanders alike. To have a mainland MP representing our Island is an awful prospect."

Becky went out campaigning in Newport with Simon Haytack, 19, from Whitwell, and Jed Dwight, 18, from Newtown. "We haven't shared an MP with the mainland since 1832 and we don't want or, in my opinion, need to start now," said Jed, a former pupil at Cowes High School. "I haven't ever heard anyone say they feel our MP, whichever party, is unable to represent the whole Island population."

The County Press and Isle of Wight Radio-backed campaign will be out and about at Island fetes and shows, including Chale Show and the Garlic Festival.

Article and picture courtesy of the Isle of Wight County Press.