‘Stale’ Senedd system must be overhauled to capture public’s interest, says Andrew RT Davies
The Senedd is too “subdued” and its “stale system” needs to be overhauled in order to capture the public and news media’s interest, according to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
Andrew RT Davies has suggested a number of changes, including taking computers out of the debating chamber and moving the First Minister’s Questions earlier in the day so that they have time to impact the news cycle for the rest of the day.
Elections should be fought every four years rather than five, he said, backing calls for reform by Labour backbencher Alun Davies MS.
Andrew RT Davies also called for allowing members more Urgent Questions so that the Wesh Government could be asked about topics that are relevant that day, and allowing opposition leaders greater opportunity to question the First Minister.
Any Covid announcements should also be made in the Senedd rather than at press conferences, he said.
“Even though the Senedd now is so much more powerful in terms of its legislative competence than it was when I was elected in 2007, the turnout in this year’s election was barely 3% higher than it was 14 years ago,” he said in an article for the Institute of Wesh Affairs.
“Over half of the eligible Welsh public are not engaged in Senedd elections. The Welsh Parliament’s powers have grown, and the democratic engagement needs to grow in line with those powers.
“So far, sadly, it has not. If the institution is to be relevant, it must change and change with the times.
“The Senedd needs to adapt to the way in which news is produced and consumed. Since I was elected to the Welsh Parliament, or Welsh Assembly as it was then, very little has changed when it comes to the business schedule.”
He added that under the Senedd attracted more than 50% of the vote at Welsh elections, its democratic legitimacy would always be questioned.
“In short, if we are to engage the public in the proceedings of the Welsh Parliament and its far-reaching powers, we have to stop expecting them to come to us,” he said.
“There comes a point at which it is our responsibility to be innovative and modern in order to pique people’s interest so they will show up at the ballot box.
“Some of the above might fail to do that, and there will be far greater minds than myself to bring this place closer to the people, and by eck it needs to.
“Because until we do that, then our democratic mandate might never break through that 50 per cent ceiling, and as such will always be questioned.”