Thursday, May 09, 2013

Electoral Rules for National Assembly for Wales

Wednesday's 'Gracious Address' informed us that the Coalition Gov't has plans to change the electoral arrangements for the National Assembly for Wales. My understanding (and its no more than that) is that we are considering three changes. At this early stage, I am very much in favour of one, am very much against a second, and am marginally against a third. Let's run through them.

Firstly the possible change that I strongly support - reversal of the ban on 'dual candidacy'. Political parties should be free to choose whoever they want as candidates. Parties should be free to choose the same individual to contest a constituency seat, and be placed in a favourable position on the party's list for an 'additional member' place. The ban was brought in by a Labour Gov't as a blatantly partisan measure. Labour thought it would discomfort the Conservatives. It was shameful 'gerrymandering' - which rather backfired. I suspect there will be support for this change across all parties.

Secondly the possible change I don't support - a ban on individuals serving as an MP and an AM at the same time. Now, this is not to say I approve of such an arrangement. I don't. And I would discourage parties from so arranging. But I just do not think it right that we should be passing laws that unnecessarily restrict the freedom of political parties. If a political party wants to introduce such a rule - that's fine. But if a political party wants to put forward an AM to contest a Westminster seat, or put forward an MP to contest an Assembly seat, we should not be legislating to stop it. In general, I believe the governance of Wales would benefit from representatives moving between institutions and we should not be legislating to make it more difficult.

And thirdly, the change I'm marginally against, but not too fussed - legislating for a 5-year fixed term Assembly. In principle I do not believe we should electing 'parliaments' which cannot be dissolved if circumstances dictate. Westminster (in its wisdom) has legislated for a fixed term Parliament, but there is a mechanism for dissolution - albeit rather complex. And anyway 5 years is a very long time between elections. The 4 year Assembly term seems about right. I suspect international practice points to 4 year rather than 5 year parliaments. And why should there not be an Assembly Election and a General Election on the same date. Its to avoid this situation that such legislation is being considered. So happens, having both elections on the same day would probably help the Conservatives - not that this should influence my thinking. But it does give us an added benefit on top of saving a bit of money.

Now its very early days on all this. There could well be some changes before definite proposals are made. And this post is only me thinking aloud. Considered reflection (assisted by the Chief Whip's armlock!) might have some influence on my opinion. Only joking of course. I'll probably say all this in the next Welsh Grand Committee. Interesting to find out what my colleagues think.


Glyndo said...

Point two, there shouldn't be a ban on a member of one house standing for another. But, there should be a ban on a member sitting in both houses at the same time. So, immediate resignation from the first place would be in order.

Glyn Davies said...

Glyndo - I don't agree with you. That was my point. I don't approve of the dual arrangement on an extended basis, but I believe we should leave it parties, and voters to deal with the issue, rather than the law. Similarly, I have no objection to MPs and AMs serving as Coumcillors if the voters approve through the ballot box.

Jeff Jones said...

Yet another missed opportunity for party political reasons to produce a more democratic accountable way of electing AMs. It cannot be right that individuals who have been rejected by the electorate still find themselves, particularly in a political institution with law making powers, in a position to influence the lives of those who rejected them at the ballot box. The electoral system established in the 1990s was a fudge because the majority of Labour Party members did not support STV. For the Coalition government to give time to a piece of legislation that really is of no interest to anyone bar the opposition in the Assembly is yet another example of a government effectively treading water until 2015 I'm afraid.