Friday, July 15, 2011


According to the Western Mail yesterday, a row has broken out as "Labour backs proposals to elect all AMs (Assembly Members) by first-past-the-post" with Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain calling for a change in the voting system in Wales.

According to Mr Hain “The only acceptable option given the AV referendum result is to have all AMs elected by first-past-the- post, and we believe that each of the 30 new constituencies should elect two AMs by that system".

As is usual with the Labour Party, this was not a rogue voice but part of a co-ordinated campaign and Leighton Andrews had already softened up  members with exactly the same message last week, stating "that they can expect a bid by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition to change the ratio between constituency and regional list AMs".

Mr Andrews went on to state that "“There is no electoral mandate for these fundamental changes. No party put it in their General Election manifesto, in their Assembly election manifesto or raised it in the referendum held just months ago".

Of course, such logic, if it applies to any changes to the regional list, also equally applies to Mr Hain's proposal, something that  the Labour Party has conveniently forgotten in its follow up yesterday.

Not that creating red herrings over the electoral system in Wales is something that Peter Hain does not have a track record on.

Back in November 2009, he was scaremongering by suggesting, along with Rhodri Morgan, that any future reductions in the number of MPs would result in an Assembly with just 30 constituency AMs and only 15 AMs from the top-up list. Clearly, that was never going to happen but why let the truth get it the way of the headlines in the Western Mail.

At the time, I responded in this blog stating that the Hain-Morgan logic was flawed and that if any changes were to happen, then

"one would assume that any incoming Conservative Government, in changing the number of MPs across the UK, would also make legislative provision for changes to the Government of Wales Act to enable the regional list calculation to change accordingly i.e. this would allow for the reduction in the number of MPs whilst maintaining the current number of AMs, as has happened in Scotland. Of course, if the reductions in MPs were to be made and the link maintained between Westminster and Cardiff Bay constituencies, this could mean that there would be 30 first past the post AMs elected and a further 30 from the regional lists".

Such an approach is clearly common sense if you are to maintain the same number of AMs and maintain the link with Westminster constituencies and there is no reason why this should be in any manifesto as it is the only rational conclusion to such changes, given that we already have the mixed system in place in Wales.

Whilst we would all like to think that both Mr Hain and Mr Andrews have the democratic concerns of the Welsh electorate at the centre of their arguments, unfortunately the real truth is that their attacks have more to do with maintaining Labour's grip on power in Wales.

Indeed, as I said back in November 2009 about the adoption of a new 30-30 split between first past the post and regional Assembly Members, "I wonder what that would do to Labour's election prospects in any future Assembly election?"

I think we all, including senior Labour members, know the answer to that question.