Thursday, December 22, 2011


I inadvertently forgot to publish this article on the blog last month as I was away travelling. Still, better late than never.

DAILY POST COLUMN 28th November 2011

Is the Labour Party in Wales in danger of believing that it has almost a divine right to rule in the Assembly?

That seems to be the impression one would assume from the recent spat between Welsh Labour and the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

The argument all stems from the announcement earlier this month that Labour wants to have a first past the post system for all Assembly seats if there are boundary changes to Wales.

This would mean that if Labour had its way, there would be two seats for each of the thirty new constituencies. This would, according to a report from the ERS, give Labour 70 per cent of the seats with only 40 per cent of the vote.

Such a democratic imbalance would perturb anybody and it is only right that an organisation such as the ERS, which believes in a more proportional electoral system, would commission academics at the world renowned Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University to examine the consequences of such a policy.

But, of course, in today's Wales, anyone who offers an alternative opinion to the Labour Party seems to do so at their own peril.

Almost immediately after the publication of the report, Labour wheeled out their "senior sources" to rubbish the ERS report, one of whom went so far as to question the professional integrity of the authors, stating that "this research by a Plaid Cymru-supporting academic is nothing more than guess work”.

Of course, debate and discussion are the lifeblood of a democratic society but when personal attacks are made on the academics who wrote the report and the independent body that commissioned it, then you know that the politics of Damien McBride remain alive and well in Wales.

Mr McBride, if you remember, was the special adviser to Gordon Brown who was caught trying to smear Members of Parliament.

His exposure, and subsequent sacking, shocked many outside of politics who had never thought that such underhand behaviour could be possible.

You would have thought that adopting an approach to attack individuals had disappeared from the Labour Party then but it would appear that some of Mr McBride’s disciples remain in Wales.

In fact, for someone within the Labour Party to accuse an academic from one of the most respected politics departments in the UK of being biased in his research is scraping the bottom of the barrel. 

You wonder why the First Minister is allowing himself to be associated with this style of politics?

In the absence of any apology for such a slur, it reinforces the impression that whenever anyone in Wales offers an opinion or judgment that differs from the edicts laid down by the Labour Party, it is open season to attack them personally.

In fact, such behaviour demonstrates exactly why we shouldn't have an electoral system where the Labour Party gains an automatic majority every four years.

I have often had my opinions in my Daily Post column challenged by Labour MPs such as Albert Owen but that is an expected part of the democratic debate and I welcome it.

The great French philosopher Voltaire is famous for uttering that one line that encapsulates decent democratic debate in any modern society, namely "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

That particular line seems to have passed some of the members of Welsh Labour by and I would suggest that before attacking anyone who disagrees with them in the future, they should repeat Voltaire’s dictum one hundred times and remember that we live in a society where free speech is not only a privilege, but a right for every citizen of this nation.