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New Senedd voting system wrong, says ex-Home Secretary

28 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Lord Blunkett. Photo by ukhouseoflords is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Martin Shipton

Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett has expressed major concern about the proposed electoral system for the expanded Senedd.

Lord Blunkett, who was a major figure in Tony Blair’s government following Labour’s landslide general election in 1997, has taken issue with the “closed list” system, under which people will vote for a political party rather than individual candidates.

Academics and others have argued that the system gives too much power to political parties because of their ability to decide the order of candidates on their lists, and leaves voters without the opportunity to choose which candidates they want to favour, as would be the case in an election based, for example, on STV (Single Transferable Vote).

In a letter to a UK newspaper, Lord Blunkett stated: “Proposals endorsed by three of the four major parties represented in the Welsh Senedd, involving a dramatic expansion of the number of members, has seen a focus on the £18m price tag. However, there is a much more fundamental issue which deserves UK-wide attention. Namely, the proposed method of election and a dramatic expansion, within the UK, of proportional representation.

“The ‘closed list’ system, which involves electors voting for a party, not for representatives of individual constituencies, has profound implications. It does, of course, as all such proportional systems entail, break the link between the constituent and the individual representative. But it does so much more. It embeds, in aspic, the power of party leaders to determine who gets a preferred position on the list put to the electorate, cutting out the local party membership from the internal democratic process.

“The danger to recruiting and maintaining party membership is obvious, but so is a route to a form of top-down politics, which further erodes genuine democratic participation.”

Reform Bill

The closed list system was included in a package of measures that together make up the Senedd Cymru Reform Bill, which was recently introduced formally at the Senedd. It forms part of the Cooperation Agreement negotiated between the Labour Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Under the Bill, the number of Senedd Members will increase from 60 to 96; future Senedd elections will use the closed list system; there will be a return to the Senedd being elected for four-year terms; the Senedd will be permitted to elect a second Deputy Presiding Officer; the maximum number of Welsh Ministers will be increased from 12 to 17, with potential to increase to 19); provisions will be put in place for reviews of Senedd constituency boundaries to be undertaken; and candidates to, and Members of, the Senedd will have to be registered to vote at an address in Wales.

Wales will be split into 16 “super-constituencies”, each of which will elect six MSs.

The Bill does not include two major reforms previously recommended with a view to improving diversity in the Senedd – the inclusion of gender quotas for candidates and the collection and publication of candidate diversity information. These will be taken forward in a separate Bill expected later this year.

Committee

A Senedd Reform Bill Committee was formed in July, chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer David Rees, the Labour MS for Aberavon. Also on the committee are Welsh Conservative MS Darren Millar, Plaid Cymru MS Heledd Fychan and Welsh Labour MS Sarah Murphy. Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds MS can participate as a non-voting member.

The committee’s role is to scrutinise the government’s proposals, and it will be doing that initially between now and January 19 2024, its deadline for producing a report.

On October 5, Counsel General and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mick Antoniw will be questioned at the committee. At later meetings the committee is expected to hear from Presiding Officer Elin Jones, academics including Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University, who chaired the expert panel that looked at the case for expanding the Senedd and other interested parties.

The aim is for the Bill to receive Royal Assent next summer and for its provisions to be implemented at the next Senedd election in 2026.

A further Bill, aimed at creating gender balance in the Senedd, is due to be published before the end of 2023.


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Gareth
Gareth
6 months ago

BBC Cymru interviewed Tory voters in Cowbridge some years ago, regarding the resignation of A Cairns as sec of state, when asked would they support him, they said yes, if he stood, as they vote for the Tory party, not the candidate . Seems it will make no difference to some voters , he has since been re elected. The new voting system aims to give the smaller parties a seat in the Senedd, and could possibly end the run of Labour rule. The Labour party in England also support the discredited FPTP system currently used for UK elections.

Last edited 6 months ago by Gareth
Gareth
Gareth
6 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

The Labour Party in London are also appointing candidates in Cymru in direct opposition to the local party membership, so what is the difference here ? Party leaders in London are already doing what Lord Blunkett is waring about.

Richard Perkins
Richard Perkins
6 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

I agree with Lord Blunkett. There should be a way for non aligned candidates to stand without a party ticket and for members who switch party to remain in the Senedd.

Gareth
Gareth
6 months ago

Will independents now be barred from standing, I have not read that , that will be the case? Neither have I read you must be a member of a recognised party. Can you please help out here as I seem to be under a misunderstanding.

LindaJones
LindaJones
6 months ago

I find it incomprehensible how we could vote for a party without knowing who the candidate is. The two go hand in hand surely?

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  LindaJones

In previous Senedd elections when you cast your vote for the PR candidate elected via the additional member system, all the potential candidates names are clearly listed.

Silenced!
Silenced!
6 months ago

None of English Labour’s business

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago

I cannot understand why a closed system was ever proposed. Plaid Cymru’s policy is to always use the Electoral Reform Society recommended system of the Single Transferable Vote. Like Plaid, STV is also the Liberal Democrat Policy preferred system. It is also the Green Party’s preferred system. Did this ‘closed system’ proposal come from UK Labour’s central leadership in London ? We know what is happening to Labour’s sitting mayoral candidate in Newcastle. …. And of course, former leader Jeremy Corbyn. If I were a Labour supporter I would be taking notice of what David Blunkett said, after all, he… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

MD and VG went to London two years ago and came back changed men. Their cards had been marked and they likely had which side their bread was buttered explained to them and at the same time Baroness Morgan was foisted upon us…I am afraid whatever trust I had in them ended then…

First the refusal to hold a Welsh only Covid inquiry and now to propose closed lists has confirmed my suspicions that all is not well with them or their idea of democracy…

Clive
Clive
6 months ago

What’s it to do with him !

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
6 months ago
Reply to  Clive

He’s a politician. The default behaviour of the species is to approach every matter with an open mouth.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
6 months ago

I agree with him. Closed list is just a way for party headquarters to enforce their will over the public. It’s a terrible idea and should be binned!

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
6 months ago

I have always voted for the person and not the party. Also the party can select anyone to an area say Anglesey even if the live in Cardiff. This is ridiculous.

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

Whats the voting system in the “ Lords “ ?

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