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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

So what do MPs do anyway?

Peter Hain has decided to jump the gun after all and set up his own enquiry into how AMs are elected. So much for the common criticism levelled by Government Ministers at their detractors that they are more interested in process than substance. It seems that Peter Hain prefers to talk about process as well. We are all tempted of course to remind him that the system of election that is in now was a compromise imposed by a Labour Government to convince the people of Wales that the Assembly would be representative. Peter Hain was not shy about using it to get his then political master, Alun Michael, elected nor was he slow in promoting it in the referendum in 1997. I agree with him that the present electoral system is a poor one, but for different reasons. The argument is not about the insecurity of Labour Constituency members but about the fact that it does not work. It is not proportional and it does not achieve its aim of electing a representative Assembly. That was obvious when Labour won 50% of the seats on less than 38% of the votes last year.

Now we are faced with a proposal that will elect two AMs in each of 40 constituencies using STV. That will guarantee a Labour majority, it will be less proportional than we have now and it will alienate North Wales even more by establishing a permanent South Wales majority. How strange then that Labour might promote such an option! I support the use of STV but for goodness sake use a realistic size of constituency, five members per electoral area should be a minimum and if we are to get smaller parties like the Greens into the Assembly then we need constituencies electing 12 or 16 members. Of course that would require a committment to pluralism and democracy, a characteristic that Welsh Labour has been very short on in the past.

Reaction has been muted largely because we all have far more important things to talk about but I did like this blog entry from David Cornock. He concludes "So you wait ages for a review, and then three come along at once. They have grown like award ceremonies. Even politicians have award ceremonies these days. It's probably only a matter of time before we have an award ceremony for award ceremonies - Oscards for Oscars." The Assembly itself decided that actions speak louder than words. At 1am this morning a sheet of plate glass, the size of a snooker table, situated on the first floor level of the atrium, spontaneously shattered. Take that Peter Hain!

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