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Welsh Labour MP Chris Bryant criticises his own party’s Senedd reform plans

19 Jun 2022 3 minute read
Photo UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor PA Images

A Welsh Labour MP has criticised his own party’s plans to reform the Senedd, saying that they will make elected members “less connected to local people”.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said that his party branch had “voted unanimously” to oppose the plans because the constituencies would be too large.

The Welsh parliament voted last week to rubber-stamp the reforms which will see the number of members expanded from 60 to 96.

The 32 Westminster new constituencies will be paired to create 16 large constituencies electing six Senedd members each. It will also use closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas, in practice giving parties full control over their list of candidates.

“Although we support reform in principle, the Rhondda Labour Party voted unanimously last night against the present proposals for reform of the Senedd,” Chris Bryant said.

“We object to electing six representatives in each 200,000 constituency on closed lists. It will make MSs much less connected to local people.

Responding to criticism on social media, he clarified that he wasn’t asking for them to use the first past the post system.

“I don’t like large six member seats and closed lists,” he said. “There are other better proportional systems. I prefer top up lists.”

‘Secret’

His comments put him at odds with the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, who put forward the proposals jointly with Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price.

Announcing the plans, Mark Drakeford said: “The case for Senedd reform has been made. We now need to get on with the hard work to create a modern Senedd, which reflects the Wales we live in today. A Parliament that truly works for Wales.

“The joint position statement we are publishing today will help support the important work of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee to move Senedd reform forwards.”

The Welsh Conservatives have strongly criticised the Senedd reform plans, with Monmouth MP David TC Davies used his speech at the Welsh Conservative conference to say that the new voting system will “lock in a Labour government forever”.

“By creating huge constituencies and using close PR [proportional representation] lists they’re going to remove the local accountability, which was supposed to be one of the advantages of having a Senedd, and concentrate power in the hands of a few party managers,” he said.

“The simple fact that they kept these plans a secret until the day after the local council elections tells us all we need to know.”


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Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
5 months ago

Os mae materion sy’n briodol i Senedd Cymru yn poeni Mr.Bryant cymaint, dylai fe wedi dechrau wrth geisio cael ei ethol i Senedd Cymru yn hytrach na Senedd San Steffan o ble mae e’n mynegi ei farn am ddiwygiadau i’r Senedd ~ If Mr.Bryant is so concerned with the affairs of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament), he should begin by trying to get himself elected to the Senedd rather than to the Westminster Parliament, from where he opines on Senedd reforms.

CJPh
CJPh
5 months ago
Reply to  Crwtyn Cemais

Druan na gaeth e’r rol llywydd odd e moyn; galle fe ‘di gwir gweini bobl y Rhondda wedyn!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

Chris Bryant as usual is talking rubbish. This is a man, a self-servative, who on numerous occasions abstained on Plaid Cymru motions that could have devolved Criminal Justice powers to our Senedd but voted to devolve powers to Manchester. So instead of being the center of attention Chris put Wales first for once rather than be a cheerleader for the Conservative.party. Also I understand those Labour members in Rhondda concerns. They must not fear change but embrace it. As any loss of identity will not be theirs but Wales if we don’t expand the Senedd capacity from 60 to 96… Read more »

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

This Tory Government is not centrist by any stretch of the imagination. It is a centre right Government in the mold of all the worst elements of Conservatism. You’re right about everything else you say, but wrong about that!

Geoffrey ap.
Geoffrey ap.
5 months ago

Does Chris Bryant seriously believe that people actually voted for him. Wake up Bryant, they vote for the Labour, not you.

Geraint
Geraint
5 months ago

The Boundary Commission reports that the new constituencies will have between 69,724 and 77,062 constituents. The new Welsh double constituencies will have between 139,448 and 154,124 constituents which is large but a lot smaller than the 200,000 mentioned in your report. The Rhondda Constituency Labour Party needs to have the right figures when it debates these changes.

Llywelyn Ein Llyw Nesaf ond Un
Llywelyn Ein Llyw Nesaf ond Un
5 months ago

The problem is the ‘closed lists’ bit. This puts all power into the hands of party managers, not the voters. We have no option to say that we prefer candidate A or candidate B – we get whoever the managers put at the top of the list. If they wanted to, the Tories could give Boris Johnson a permanent seat in the Senedd by putting him top of their list in the Canolbarth – assuming he isn’t in jail. Anything other than pure STV in multi-member constituencies is NOT acceptable, and I’m amazed that Plaid agreed to this anti-democratic abomination.… Read more »

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
5 months ago

Plaid and Labour probably figured that gender equality could only be guaranteed with closed lists. Personally I would prefer STV. Was Labour’s women-only shortlist policy preferable to zipped closed lists?

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

Wrong! Labour are scared of open lists as it takes away their control of candidates. As for STV they know they would probably never gain a majority in the Senedd. What’s clear though is that Labour are so divided that they can’t even all get on board with this compromise because Plaid Cymru will probably gain from it. I worry now that these reforms may be watered down by Labour yet againin order to appease the ditchers wing of their party. 🙄😒

R W
R W
5 months ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

If they did try to water down the reforms, then Plaid would almost certainly vote against it and we’d be back to square one (i.e. keeping things as they are now), which would be a disaster. Drakeford must keep to his word and persist with the agreement he reached with PC.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
5 months ago

No surprise to see the ‘devo sceptic’ wing of the welsh labour party (in the shape of chris bryant) attacking the proposed senedd reforms – wouldnt be surprised to see ‘Lord Bedwelty’ being wheeled out in the next few weeks to denounce the proposals. That said ive yet to hear anyone make a convincing arguments for ‘closed lists’ and the d’hondt method for allocating seats in the Senedd. I hope good sense prevails in the welsh labour and plaid leaderships and they ditch the former and embrace ‘open lists’ and STV for elections to the senedd from 2026.

Last edited 5 months ago by Leigh Richards
Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

I agree Leigh – on the face of it CB has a point – but when it comes from that centre of Labour forward thinking and support for devolved matters that is Rhondda Labour 😎😎😎 I have to take a look 👀 at what I’m drinking !!

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Oh no ! Not the infamous Lord Bedwetter who still wants to be a big shot in the Loyalist/ Unionist pi**ing down on Wales’ ability to self determination. There’s one, or more, in every generation and now Bryant sounds off just to keep himself on the front page.

Opposition to some of the content in the proposed reforms is all well and good but he doesn’t make any attempt to come up with an alternative. This shows contempt for change and an attachment to what works for Labour right now.

Quornby
Quornby
5 months ago

Huh! The self publicist in chief reveals his colours.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
5 months ago

TC ‘tells us all WE need to know’ with his protests against Senedd reform as his hypocrisy seeks to ‘lock in’ Tories to rule over this whole island ‘forever’. It is not a system but the electorate that decides who they wish to be governed by and it is the electorate of Wales that has decided to lock OUT Tories in every election ever held. It wasn’t a problem when they could choose to ignore us in their one nation utopia but now that OUR NATIONAL PARLIAMENT has rebuked them five times, they’re witnessing democracy that is not on their… Read more »

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
5 months ago

I agree with Chris Bryant. The proposed model of large seats with closed lists does not enhance local democracy or bring government closer to the people. It will, in my opinion, only make politicians seem much more distant. In my opinion, we should have either smaller (about 30-36) multi member constituencies electing 2,3, or 4 members each by STV, or we could 96 very small constituencies electing a single member by Supplementary Vote. These models would bring democracy closer to the people. Closed lists and large seats = distant politicians = hated political elites. I hope the WG and PC… Read more »

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

You can’t have STV in 2 member constituencies, it doesn’t work like that. We need multi member constituencies of varying sizes from 3 to 6 members, ideally elected by STV, but failing that open lists under another system will do. The problem is that Labour won’t agree to it. They’re scared of a system they can’t control in which a shift of 5% of the popular vote, to say Plaid Cymru, would see them lose a relatively significant number of seats. Right now Labour are s***ing themselves.

Rob
Rob
5 months ago

Expanding the Senedd and reducing the number of MPs to Westminster can only be a good thing, because the Welsh political mindset will be shifted further away from Westminster and closer to the Senedd. Furthermore we will have less career minded MPs like Chris Bryant, the Kinnocks, David Davies, Robin Millar etc who do nothing but belittle Wales whilst getting paid a hefty salary for it.

But I think STV is far more preferable, and gender quotas should be done away with.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I was with you until you said gender quotas should be done away with. The fact is that most men don’t vote for female candidates if they can avoid it and that’s before we even start to talk about Transgendered or openly Intersex ones. Gender quotas are necessary. The moment that Plaid Cymru stopped requiring women to be at the top of their regional lists and the Lib Dems started losing seats in the Senedd we went from having 32 to just 24 female AMs/MSs. Diversity is needed. Most white men don’t have a clue what life is like for… Read more »

whatismyname
whatismyname
5 months ago

The quotas worry me. I don’t want to be stuck with incompetent representatives, who only get in because they are used to make up the quota. It is pointless to push through people incapable of doing the job, a total disservice to the public who will have to rely on them, and frankly an insult to under-represented groups. The solution is surely to EMPOWER members of those groups by means of education, training and confidence building until they they have the personality, knowledge and skills to succeed in becoming selected on their own merits.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  whatismyname

You think white men get elected because their competent 🙄 Really!? Are you daft or full of Bovine Excrement?!

George
George
5 months ago

The Senedd does need to be made larger and more representative of Cymru/Wales.

In some ways I agree with Bryant, but Westminster saw off the 2011 AV referendum which was imperfect but much better than what existed and no one has dared suggest changes since.

I suspect the Tories are trying to use same tactic of amplifying somewhat justified criticism as a way of blocking improvements, but what is Bryant’s game?

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  George

It’s old Labour being scared of change they can’t control. It wouldn’t take much in this new system for Plaid Cymru to start winning many more seats and then be seen as a viable alternative to Labour.

Last edited 5 months ago by Owain Morgan
DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
5 months ago

We are being brought into line with the other 2 devolved countries Scotland has about a Million and a half people more than Wales and have 120 seats, Northern Ireland has a Population of about a Million and a quarter less than us and have 90 seats and the Tory Government is taking M P,s out of Wales as well as the rest of the U K to benefit the Tories

R W
R W
5 months ago

No real surprise to see Bryant and his Labour cronies in the Rhondda working hand in hand with the Tories to try and derail these plans!! I hope Drakeford will have enough sense to ignore Bryant and his fellow turncoats.

Kurt C
Kurt C
5 months ago

Back to his normal hating us form. Better be careful as Rhondda Cynon Taf is loosing an MP under Westminster changes. Maybe people are suck of his ultra unionism and dismissive in person ways

Arwyn
Arwyn
5 months ago

This isn’t just Bryant. And those with whom he agrees have a point. That is, that the closed list system has some significant flaws. And I agree with them. There are better proportional systems. Consider this. Those of you who live in South Wales Central … how do you vote Andrew RT Davies out under the list system? You can’t. His is a party seat and he is top of his party’s list. The proposed electoral system will mean that this is the way ALL the Senedd members will be elected. It’s not often I say this, but for once… Read more »

Arwyn
Arwyn
5 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

What concerns me more is the false headline on the BBC Wales News site – “Rhondda Labour members against party’s Senedd expansion plan.” They’re not. They don’t like the electoral system not the principle of expansion – stated in the article but contradicted by the headline.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

What do they want instead then?

Keith Parry
Keith Parry
5 months ago

MSs need to be elected by the STV system so people have a choice. The list system proposed will full the Senedd up with Yes men and Yes women chosen by party leadership. It will also keep smaller parties and independents out.

R W
R W
5 months ago
Reply to  Keith Parry

How many independents are there in the Senedd right now? Smaller parties will have a much better chance of getting someone elected through this system than they ever would with the first past the post system.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  R W

The d’hondt method adds a non existant vote to party’s tally everytime they win a seat and their votes are halved. The system is designed to benefit larger parties at the expense of smaller ones.

R W
R W
5 months ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

I agree, it’s not perfect by any means. However, it’s a compromise we have to accept in order to achieve change and progress. It is still true that smaller parties will have an improved chance of winning more seats with this system than they have with the current system. For instance, the LibDems won just one seat at the last Senedd elections, and I would expect them to win at least a few more with the new voting system.

Last edited 5 months ago by R W
SundanceKid
SundanceKid
5 months ago

Always intriguing to see “Welsh” Labour MPs quarrelling with their Senedd counterparts…

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