A report by an “independent “ academic panel set up by the Labour-run Welsh Assembly Government has recommended that for Assembly elections, Penarth should be part of a giant new Labour-dominated electoral constituency.
This recommendation runs totally counter to proposals already made by the UK Electoral Commission .
The Electoral Commission wanted take Penarth out of the oversized “Cardiff South and Penarth” Parliamentary constituency and put the town into a new Vale of Glamorgan East parliamentary constituency.
However the Welsh Labour Government’s new report would not only force Penarth to remain in the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency for Assembly elections – but would merge it with the Labour-dominated Cardiff Central constituency . The scheme would safeguard the future of Labour AM Vaughan Gething who currently represents Cardiff South and Penarth in the Welsh Assembly
The report has been written by a group which modestly calls itself “the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform” under Professor Laura McAllister and proposes, amongst other things, that:-
- The existing Welsh Assembly constituencies should be “paired” together to form a total of 20 new constituencies – each with 4 or maybe even 5 AMs [ i.e. 100 Assembly Members]
- In the case of Penarth, Cardiff Central would be paired with Cardiff South and Penarth ….with Penarth still inside it. [ This recommendation directly contradicts the UK Electoral Commission’s proposals – see http://tinyurl.com/y7ld3npb ]
- All Assembly members would be elected by the heavily-criticised Single Transferable Vote system – instead of “First Past the Post”.
- Children aged 16 would be allowed to vote [A strategy seen by some as a cynical ploy to increase the Labour vote].
- A “Gender Quota” would boost the number of female AMs – although its not clear from the report how all categories in the full LBTGQI spectrum would be accommodated.
- The Welsh Assembly itself would be renamed as “the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru”
The Welsh Labour Government sponsored report is called “A Parliament that Works for Wales” and says that the Welsh Assembly needs an extra 20 to 30 members to cope with its “growing workload”.
It says “While there may be uncertainty about the powers the Assembly has as a consequence of Brexit, it is clear that its workload will certainly not be reduced and is likely to grow.”
[PDN Note: In fact AMs do very little work. Few people know who they are and there are extended periods of holidays during which the Assembly is closed down.]
In 1979 a Labour attempt to install a Welsh Assembly in Wales was comprehensively defeated in a public referendum. In 1997 the New Labour Government tried a second referendum held under modified rules. Under the rules applying in the 1979 Referendum the wafer thin-majority of 6,721 votes achieved in 1997 would have be insufficient to introduce devolution – but in 1997 Labour had changed the rules so that it would win the 1997 Referendum. Labour also refused all calls for a re-count – although it’s believed the ballot papers for the contentious 1997 referendum are still held in storage.
This year, Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre found that the overwhelming majority people in Wales DO NOT think the Assembly has improved education standards in Wales – or anything else in Wales. 65% of the population of Wales think the Assembly has made “no difference” to their living standards. 20% think they are worse off than before.
Official figures published today show that Wales has seen the largest rise in unemployment of all UK nations and regions, up 6,000 to 71,000. Wales is the only part of the UK where the unemployment rate has risen year on year..
UKIP Wales leader Neil Hamilton has said the proposals in the report should be the subject of a public referendum . He said “The last thing Wales needs is yet more politicians. The Welsh Assembly currently costs £55,000,000 a year and the increase would mean a budget expansion to over £80,000,000 a year”
Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies said AMs should work more effectively and that it is not necessary to increase their numbers.