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Opinion

Why I’m calling for the Senedd and Westminster to share the same electoral boundaries

25 Sep 2023 4 minute read
The Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

Mike Hedges MS

There are lots of different electoral systems, whilst a lot of attention has been given to election results much less attention has been given to boundaries and voting systems.

In democracies gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral boundaries with the intent to create undue advantage for a party.

This word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts Senate election districts under Governor Elbridge Gerry to benefit the Democrats, as the boundaries were said to resemble a Salamander.

This is why we use the independent and impartial boundary commission to decide parliamentary boundaries, within the rules set down by Westminster.

American Presidential elections have shown that winning the most votes does not win you the election.

In 2000, Al Gore polled more votes than George Bush but the electoral system allowed George Bush to win.

In 2016 Hilary Clinton polled almost three million votes more than Donald Trump – but Donald Trump won.

We recently had changes in England for mayoral elections which moved from the supplementary voting system and went to first past the post giving the Conservatives the Mayor of Bedford.

Police and Crime Commissioner elections previously used the Supplementary Vote but now voters will choose a single candidate on the ballot paper.

Seats

We do things differently in Wales where other parties bring in electoral systems so they could win a majority. Labour in Wales brought in one to make it very difficult to win a majority.

If we had used the first past the post system, there would have been a large Labour majority in every Senedd election as Labour has won the majority of constituency seats in each election.

Ron Davies brought in the additional member system telling the Labour party it would not stop it winning elections in Wales.

The best results Labour has achieved has been winning exactly half of the Senedd seats and the best regional result has been winning three seats.

The electoral system allowed UKIP to win seven seats on 13 percent of the regional vote. They did not come close to winning a constituency seat, but these types of systems can benefit minority parties with limited support in constituencies.

We now have a suggested electoral system of six members for each of sixteen constituencies created by merging two parliamentary constituencies.

The new map will form the basis for the larger 96-member Senedd, with the Welsh Parliament creating
sixteen constituencies which will be served by six MSs each.

Under, the plans the new Senedd constituencies will be paired combinations of the thirty-two set out for Westminster.

Many people including me were concerned about the size of the parliamentary constituencies with Brecon Radnor and Cwmtawe stretching from Knighton and Presteigne on the English border to lower Brynamman and Gwaun Cae Gurwen on the Carmarthenshire border.

To create a 6-member constituency it will involve joining Brecon, Radnor and Cwmtawe either northwards with Montgomery and Glyndwr, westwards with Ceredigion and Preselli or with Carmarthenshire. Southwards produces a choice of Monmouthshire, Neath and Swansea East, Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney or Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare.

Whichever way of creating a 6-member constituency, the constituency will be very large and involve communities with little in common.

Whilst this is the most extreme example there will be many others outside the cities which will also be covering a large geographical area.

If we go to sixteen, six-member constituencies, we will have the Welsh government bringing in the opposite of gerrymandering where they are promoting an electoral system where Labour will do less well than the current system and where the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru combined will have more members than Labour.

Predictions based upon 2021 results are Labour 44 (between 42 and 46), Conservatives 29 (between 27 and 31), Plaid Cymru 22 (between 20 and 24) with the Liberal Democrats gaining either 0 or 1 seat with no other party gaining representation.

We could elect the ninety-six members using the parliamentary constituencies with three from each elected via D Hondt.

The advantage is that these constituencies will have already had a general election for voters to get used to the new seats and whilst some will be large they will be much smaller than any joint seats.

This is I why I am asking for thirty-two, three member constituencies where the Senedd and Westminster parliament will have the same boundaries.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

.. and M Hedges neatly avoids the dreadful party lists, a matter that needs to be squashed before any change is implemented.

Steve George
Steve George
6 months ago

I’m not opposed to Mr Hedges’ proposal, but I’d like to see some projections of what sort of overall result it might produce.

The real problem however, is not the size of the constituencies but the use of the d’Hondt method for allocating seats. Apart from giving voters no say in which individuals represent them (you can only vote for a party), it also tends to favour bigger parties.

While it is not problem free, the Alternative Vote system would be more democratic and representative. If combined with Mr Hedges’ proposal it would be a real improvement on current arrangements.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago

I have my concerns in regards to 16 larger constituencies. What happens if for example Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire merge into one constituency and all the elected representatives come from the Aberystwyth/Lampeter area.? That may not go down well in Haverfordwest, Milford Haven or Pembroke who would still have a representative in Westminster.
I would go for 32 constituencies each with 3 MSs elected via STV (Single Transferable Vote).

Annibendod
Annibendod
6 months ago
Reply to  Rob

This 👆 Furthermore, Mike does not mention reform of Westminster elections where a minority of voters, even within England, end up returning a majority of MP’s whose party to whom we in Wales have never given a majority yet are governed by them without mandate and a flimsy excuse of consent. Democratic my backside!

Ap Kenneth
6 months ago

If Mike Hedges thinks that voters will get used to massive constituencies such as Montgomery and Glyndwr, eg suburbs of Wrexham to Machynlleth and Newtown I think he will be disappointed. How that helps party activist engagement I do not know or voter engagement in a very artificial construct.
Using d’Hondt in addition reduces engagement leaving the power with the bigger parties.

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
6 months ago

The problem with 3-member constituencies is that there is less room for manatory zipping to take effect. If we are going to have 3-member constituencies I would prefer STV with the progressive parties imposing all-woman candidate lists in a significant number of constituencies.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

Most people don’t care about the gender of the candidates. It is the ability to represent the electorate and to do the job properly is what matters most.

Dafydd Thomas
Dafydd Thomas
6 months ago

Would this mean Ynys Môn would get three members?

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