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Friday, November 07, 2003

I don't believe it!

The Labour Assembly Member for Caerphilly, Jeff Cuthbert writes again to the Western Mail in defence of the Welsh Labour Government. I suppose it makes a change for that constituency to be represented by a Labour AM who is so enamoured of Rhodri Morgan's administration.

Mr. Cuthbert is perplexed because like Rhodri Morgan, he believes that the principle of past service awards for Councillors was given all-party support two years ago in the Local Government Committee. He is right. The difference however is in the detail. In those days the awards were perceived as a one-off payment to retiring Councillors over 65 or 70 in lieu of a contributory pension, which is being introduced but will not be in place by 2004. The scheme that Labour has now pushed through has no minimum age limit and does not stop somebody who receives the money standing for re-election later. A reasoned proposal has become a pay-off for all and sundry and will do nothing to attract younger Councillors.

Jeff also raises the old chestnut of regional AMs. I think he protests too much. I am a regional member elected under a system introduced by Jeff's Labour Party. The system was designed to be closed and under the control of the party machine because Labour do not trust voters. That does not stop my party (and the Tories) of selecting our lists by one-member-one vote postal selections.

I was declared elected by a returning officer in the same way as Jeff Cuthbert, after ballot papers with my name on them had been counted. I hold surgeries, do casework and treat my region as a constituency in the same way as Jeff and his "fellow travellers" in the first past the post seats. Like Jeff I do not much like the system I was elected under, particularly as it handed Labour half the seats on less than 37% of the vote. Unlike Jeff I want the system replaced by a form of proportional representation that will elect all AMs from constituencies on an equal basis and in a way that will see the result reflect the way people voted. That system is called the single transferable vote.

Perhaps if Jeff supported such genuine reform instead of grumbling from the sidelines like the backbench Victor Meldrew stereotype he is becoming then I would be less inclined to throw his accusation of hypocrisy and opportunism back at him.

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