Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So it would seem that, in the early hours of this morning, the House of Lords finally passed the bill introducing a referendum on the alternative vote by 221 to 153.

As well as ensuring that a vote takes place on May 5th on the voting system in the UK, the bill has also ensured the number of MPs in the House of Commons will also be reduced from 650 to 600.

In Wales, this will mean that the number of parliamentary constituencies will be reduced by 25 per cent.

Of course, during the last few weeks, we have seen a parade of speeches by Welsh Labour MPs against the bill which, given that they have the most to lose, will not have shocked anyone.

However, given the growing importance of the National Assembly for Wales, the question is what the consequences of this bill will be for our fledgling democracy?

If the number of parliamentary "first past the post" seats is reduced to thirty, then it makes sense for the same reduction to take place within the Assembly so as to maintain the link between representation in both elected bodies.

However, that can only mean that the number of regional seats across Wales will have to increase to compensate for this change. As a result, each of the five regional constituencies will gain two further members.

What effect will this have on democracy in Wales?

Will this give opportunities to smaller parties, such as the Green Party or UKIP, to gain their first seats in the National Assembly via the regional lists? More worryingly, could the BNP, make a breakthrough via this system?

Overall, given that it is parties other than Labour that have done well out of the regional seat arrangement, could it mean that the Labour Party will never again achieve a majority in the Assembly and that coalition government in Wales will become a permanent feature of the National Assembly?

It would seem that the referendum bill may have far more consequences for Wales beyond the reduction in the number of Labour MPs.