Saturday, November 12, 2011

Welsh Labour Confusion over Constituency Boundaries.

Constitutional arrangements should, in general, be decided on what is right for the people - rather than on what carries electoral advantage for any particular party. Its against this background that the Welsh Labour Party's decisions, taken this morning, about Welsh constituency boundaries should be judged. To be fair, I think Labour is the first party to decide a clear position. But it does look more like political positioning than a genuine attempt to add constructive comment to the debate.

Let's consider the background to this. The Westminster Coalition Government has acted on the manifesto pledge by both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to reduce the number of MPs (by rather less than promised). This inevitably means redrawing constituency boundaries, and reducing the number of MPs from Wales. For the 2015 General Election, there will be 30 Welsh constituencies rather than the current 40. Until today, we thought that all parties supported changing National Assembly electoral arrangements to being based on 30 coterminous constituencies as well. But this morning, Welsh Labour changed its position.

Welsh Labour will oppose any change in the way AMs are elected - if proposed by the UK Government, which does seem a bit childish. Welsh Labour will fight coterminocity if proposed by the UK Government. This means that its highly likely that there will not be a majority in the National Assembly to agree with any proposal to introduce coterminocity - which is a very significant development. For anyone who wants there to be a good working relationship between the Governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, this is deeply disappointing - especially as it just looks like Welsh Labour playing political games.

There is also the rather silly agreement, which had been much trumpeted beforehand by Peter Hain, that there should be no Proportional Representation element. Bearing in mind what Peter has been saying over decades about electoral systems, this is just about as shameless a U-turn as can be imagined. Not much point in taking it seriously really - and I'm not going to.

I note from the BBC's report that the UK Government's position has been put forward by a 'spokesman'. If I'd been invited to comment this is what I'd have said;

"In the interests of clarity and good governance, the same boundaries should be used for Westminster and Welsh Assembly elections. I hope that Welsh Labour will support this principle, which will be helpful to Welsh voters at future elections. It was very surprising to learn that Welsh Labour intends to 'fight' what I've heard Welsh Labour MPs publicly describe as sensible over recent weeks. Welsh Labour does seem to be very confused about what it does actually think. I do understand that there will be different opinions about the balance between 'constituency' AMs and 'regional' AMs - but not about the boundaries being the same. I remain hopeful though, that cross-party agreement can be reached despite today's confused decisions. We owe it to the future voters of Wales to put their interests before narrow party advantage, as Welsh Labour seems to have done today."


Jake said...

You shouldn't have to justify the reduction of Welsh MP's- as soon as the LCO system was removed; there was clear justifications for reducing the no of MP's. Although I question why there hasn't been an increase in AM's (which there is a clear need for [bearing in mind the no on Gov payroll, no of committees etc])

In my ideal world I think Wales should have STV. But I know that won't happen.

I certainly don't think going to 60AM's via FPTP would be a good idea. Firstly it would give Lab an outright majority if the current level of party support remains. But more importantly I just don't like FPTP and it would look like Wales is going backwards.

AV is out of the question, unless a referendum is called (due to May's "no" vote).

So the compromise:
Carry on with the same (which some say is complicated- but I don't see why; all it is, is inconvenient for the parties not the people).

Or even better:
30 AM's via FPTP (and tied to Westminster)
30 AM's via AMS- although I hope Glyn you could raise the possibility of 'national lists' rather than regional ones- I think it would be better.

Anyway.... can you reveal what your PERSONAL view is, and then what you THINK the view of the Conservatives will be, and then the view you think the UK Gov will take.

N.B I also find it strange that Carwyn/Peter go on saying UK has no right to meddle with this- wasn't it Peter that wrote GoWA 2006 and ensured that Elections weren't devolved!?

Glyn Davies said...

Jake - I was pointing out why I voted for the bill to reform Welsh constituencies. Welsh Labour MPs made a huge hoohah, but their position was not credible - there being no allowance at all for some powers being devolved.
There is a case for 80 AMs but politicians have to take note of public opinion - and there is little support for more of us.

Its not easy for me to say exactly what I think, because I'm a PPS to the Secretary of State. I try to go as far as I can without breaking Parliamentary conventions.

But I can say that my personal opinion is that we should move as litle from the current position as possible, which suggests 30 constituency members and 30 regional members. I also prefer there not to be a national list - because without AMs responsible for mid Wales, we would be completely ignored ! Its bad enough now.

I really do not know what view the UK Gov't will take. There is a genuine desire to achieve consensus - which does not seem to be on Welsh Labour's agenda. I could guess what the view of our AMs would be, but its probably best if I pass on that at present.

Jeff Jones said...

In terms of practical politics the Welsh Labour Party NEC yesterday excluded the Labour Party from any influence on the future electoral arrangements for the Assembly. No one is going to support the idea of two member constituencies which was first suggested by some MPs before 1997. The sensible approach for any radical party would have been to look at the alternatives and argue for a system which best reflected the intentions of voters and increased accountability. Both Kilbrandon and Richard which were independent commissions recommended an Assembly elected by PR. There are serious flaws with the present additional member closed list system.Too many second Labour votes are wasted for a start and that isn't good for democracy. I never use my second vote for this reason. It is also absurd for parties to gain or lose sitting AMs because of results in the FPTP section as happened in your case and this year with Nick Bourne. Basing the regional lists on artificial Euro constituencies which never made sense and no longer exist also doesn't seem right. It also cannot be right in a lawmaking legislature that politicians who make the laws are effectively accountable not to the electorate but to a small dwindling band of party activists. In 2008 a regional AM was elected who had obtained the support of just 14 party members in the party's internal process for selecting list candidates. Any future list has to be open to allow electors to give their verdict on regional members some of whom in the past have proven to be washouts whilst others are amongst the best Assembly members.