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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Revisiting the past

I had a fascinating conversation with a group of students in the Assembly today. They were there on a fact finding tour and as is the custom were given the opportunity to engage with local AMs in the visitor's gallery of the main chamber.

There were two colleges represented, Gorseinon and one in Cardiff so there were a fair number of AMs there to take part in the discussion. Some of the Cardiff students in particular were intent on revisiting the referendum result from 1997. They were querying how we believed we had a mandate to do anything on the basis of the support of only 26% of the electorate.

It is an old discussion and I do not see the point in rehearsing it again. The question did occur to me however, that if the positive support of such a small proportion of the electorate is considered sufficient to undermine the legitimacy of an institution then what does this say for Tony Blair's administration, which secured the support of only 21% of those entitled to vote last May?

One of the other issues raised was that of all-women shortlists. The Western Mail reported this morning that some women AMs are strongly of the view that quotas and all-women shortlists must continue to be used to select Labour candidates for the National Assembly. It was this policy of course that led to them losing Blaenau Gwent. Whether Labour has learnt any lessons from this experience has to be seen but the article suggests that some of them would do it all again no matter what the consequences.
You're right that Blaenau Gwent was a very difficult situation for Labour and I don't think that anyone in the Labour Party is suggesting that all-women shortlists are a perfect solution.

But the alternatives don't work.

From our experiences, anything less than all-women shortlists doesn't have the result that Labour is committed to - which is increasing the representation of women in representative politics.
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