News that the next Welsh assembly election could be fought with different constituencies with a slight change to the current voting system won't excite many people - save for the elected representatives of the Labour Party in Wales that is and some political anoraks. A Wales Office consultation includes a proposal to reduce the number of constituency assembly members from 40 to 30, and to extend the numbers elected on the regional list from 20 up to 30. Providing the fair votes element remains unchanged, being a democrat I have little or no problem with this, but, naturally the Labour Party does.
The Labour in Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones naturally kicked off saying: "There is no mandate for this. The electoral system for the assembly is a matter for the people of Wales and no one else. "The Prime Minister has assured me that there would be no change to future electoral arrangements without the agreement of the Assembly."
Now the irony is that increasing the proportional element (via list seats) would make the system more democratic and peoples votes would actually count far more. Labour in Wales has a long history of putting self-interest and party-interest before the interests and needs of the Welsh people. In November 2011, they proposed 'a reform' of the electoral system that would give them around 70% of the seats in the National Assembly with barely 42% of the vote.
At the time an Electoral Reform Society report shone a little light on Labour in Wales's dubious proposal to tweak the electoral system to their benefit. Labour in Wales has long looked for an opportunity to make a change to an electoral system that mostly fails to guarantee itself a permanent majority. Having failed to get away with it, they now, as a consequence of the Con Dem Westminster government's plans to cut the number of MPs from 40 to 30, they face being put in a situation where they actually have to go out and actively campaign for votes.
Labour in Wales publicly opposes reducing the number of assembly constituencies to match the boundaries of new parliamentary seats. The ERS report suggested that Labour could win "disproportionately" more seats if all Welsh Assembly members were elected via the first-past-the-post system. Scrapping the semi-proportional elections would have denied thousands of voters a voice. Naturally Labour in Wales accused the ERS of "misrepresenting" its position - actually they exposed the dubious truth of their position.
At the moment, 40 constituency AMs are elected via first-past-the-post contests and the remaining 20 are elected from regional lists based upon the percentage of votes cast. Labour in Wales (after the National Assembly elections in May 2011) was left with a bare majority in the National Assembly, holding 30 seats.
Now reducing the number of contituency seats to 30 and having the remainder elected on the list would balance things out and make our electoral system far more democratic - obviously Labour in Wales would not want that...would they?