Party-switching regional AMs are making a mockery of democracy – sign my petition to stop it

Mark Reckless and Nigel Farage. PjrNews / Alamy Stock Photo

Ifan Morgan Jones

Please sign my petition calling on the Welsh Assembly to stop politicians elected on the regional list from switching parties.

This may seem like quite a technical and dull issue to be petitioning about, so let me explain why it’s important.

Today, four Assembly Members in the Welsh Assembly have decided to join the Brexit Party. This is a political party that did not even exist when we cast our votes back in 2016.

This might not be a problem if these politicians had been elected in their own names as constituency AMs.

The problem is that all of them were elected on the regional list. When voting on the regional list, the people of Wales vote for specific parties, not specific candidates.

The people who voted in one of those who switched today, Mark Reckless, voted for UKIP, not Mark Reckless.

When a politician elected on a regional list switches party they’re essentially taking the votes of thousands of people, and giving them to another party people didn’t vote for.

The ability of regional AMs to switch parties did not matter much in the past because it very rarely happened. But in this fifth Assembly, a number of AMs have made a mockery of the rule.

Mark Reckless has now switched twice, first to the Conservative Party group and now again to the Brexit Party. No one voted UKIP in 2016 thinking they were giving 1/3 of their vote to the Conservatives and another 1/3 to a party that didn’t even exist until a month ago.

Another AM, Mandy Jones, left the party she was elected to represent within less than a month of being inaugurated to become an independent member – and has now jumped ship again.

All these Assembly Members were elected because people put a cross next to their party, not next to their own names. There is, therefore, no democratic mandate for them to decide to represent another party.

The rules as they stands mean that a third of the Senedd has little accountability to the electorate, who did not vote for them but voted for the party they originally represented.

Amendment

My petition is calling for a sensible rule change that means that if an Assembly Member on the regional list decides to change his or her political affiliation, they stand aside and allow the next candidate on the regional list from that political party to take their place.

To prevent abuse of the system an Assembly Member who is involuntarily dismissed from an Assembly group should be allowed to sit as an independent.

Unfortunately, there is already a perception among some people that regional AMs are ‘second class members’ who do not have the same mandate as those elected to their constituencies.

However, this is a disadvantage inherent to the additional member system and is the lesser of two evils compared with the debasement of the political process.

Ideally, the Welsh Assembly would move to a Single Transferable Vote system. Voters could then choose not only parties but also members by a numbered order of preferences. Each AM would then have a proper, individual, mandate.

However, under the flawed Additional Member System that we currently do have, this rule change would be a fair compromise.

The Welsh Assembly now has power over its own elections and can make this change. It just so happens that the Welsh Parliament and Elections (Wales) Bill is currently making its way through the Assembly.

This bill could be amended on its second reading to include this change and it could be in place by the time we elected a new crop of Assembly Members in the 2021 elections.

It would stop AMs making a mockery of democracy and ensure that a vote cast for a party by thousands of people can’t be annulled according to the whims of one person.


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