Saturday, 1 October 2011

Hain's latest Petermander

I see that Peter Hain has revived his call for a change to the electoral system for the National Assembly for Wales. When he previously proposed this he said it was in the spirit of consensus and that there would be no advantage to Labour. This time around, in an article to the Labour Party Conference paper he comes clean.

In it he argues:

"Everyone is agreed on the need to avoid decoupling in Wales, and maintain the same boundaries for Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies."

That is a massively sweeping statement that has no clear backing. Many have suggested quite separate arrangements.

Prior to the referendum it was suggested by some that the present 2 constituency to 1 list member be retained and the National Assembly be reduced to 45 members. This was universally rejected by all the parties as it would have reduced the capacity for the Assembly to properly scrutinise the executive and would have considerably reduced the pool of members to chose members of the Welsh Government from.

It has been suggested that the 30 new Westminster constituencies be used to elect 30 members of the National Assembly - the remainder coming from 30 regional list members. Of course that would have the advantage of making the body more representative, not less as Hain suggests. It has the disadvantage that if Wales loses any more seats at Westminster that the number of members of the National Assembly would fall... precipitating yet another change in the electoral geography and/or system of election.

One option is no change, maintain the boundaries of the current Assembly constituencies indefinitely together with the current boundaries of the electoral regions and the ratio of members elected from constituencies and regions.

My preferred solution is an 80 member National Assembly elected by STV using local government as the building blocks for the constituencies. This would give stability and also enable people to identify more closely with their Assembly member.

STV is backed by Plaid Cymru, The Liberal Democrats, sections of the Labour Party, The Richard Commission and many non governmental bodies.

At present the National Assembly is made up of 40 MPs elected by first past the post, using UK parliamentary constituencies, together with a further 20 members elected via regional lists from 5 regions. The attempt is to create a more representative body. As it lacks the German "overhanging mandates" the system is not perfectly proportional. However it is considerably more proportional than first past the post.

In the last National Assembly election Labour gained 50% of the seats with just 42% of the vote.

Constituency vote:

Labour 28 seats and 42% of the constituency vote 70% of the seats
Conservative Party 6 seats and 25% of the constituency vote 15% of the seats
Plaid Cymru 5 seats and 19% of the constituency vote 12.5% of the seats
Liberal Democrats 1 seat and 11% of the constituency vote 2.5% of the seats
Others no seats and 3% of the constituency vote.

The list vote was as follows:

Conservative Party 8 seats and 23% of the list vote
Plaid Cymru 6 seats and 18% of the list vote
Liberal Democrats 4 seats and 8% of the list vote
Labour 2 seats and 37% of the list votes.
Others no seats and 14% of the list vote

Overall the result was:

Labour 30 seats, 42% of the vote 50% of the seats
Conservatives 14 seats 25% of the vote 23.34% of the seats
Plaid Cymru 11 seats 19% of the vote 18.33% of the seats
Liberal Democrats 5 seats 11% of the vote 8.33% of the seats

Not ideal but better than giving Labour a bonus of 70% of the seats - which would be the outcome of Peter Hain's proposals of two first past the post seats based on 30 Westminster constituencies.

The arguments against are neatly contained in Gareth Hughes' blog.

The arguments for STV are put here and suggestions for a sixty member National Assembly, the article also has links to the evidence given by the Campaign for a Welsh Parliament to the Richard Commission. The commission its self came down in favour of an 80 member Assembly elected by STV.

And for a possible arrangement of constituencies for 80 members

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