Current Affairs Politics

British Labour Party To Rig Welsh Elections?

After electoral humiliation in Scotland and the breaking of a decades’ long political hegemony it seems that the British Labour Party is determined not to see a repeat performance in Wales. Despite being the nation’s largest party Labour is determined to change the voting system for the Senedd (the Welsh Assembly) to the archaic first-past-the-post system used in British parliamentary elections. This would effectively give Labour a permanent majority in Wales, and is the same sort of gerrymandering that they attempted in Scotland – until it eventually backfired with the election of an SNP majority government to the Scottish Parliament.

As Wales Online reports:

‘A huge row has blown up after Labour proposed changing the National Assembly’s electoral system so all AMs were elected on a “first-past-the-post” basis.

The change in policy – announced by Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain – breaks a consensus between the parties which has lasted since the Assembly was set up following a referendum in 1997.

And it involved Mr Hain making the remarkable admission that Labour had “got it wrong” when devising the current two-tier system for electing AMs.

Under present arrangements, 40 of the 60 AMs are elected from single-member constituencies covering the whole of Wales. The remainder are elected on a regional list system designed to compensate parties whose level of support was not reflected in the number of constituency seats won.

But changes must now be made because of plans to cut the number of constituencies in Wales from 40 to 30.

Mr Hain said he did not accept that having all AMs elected by first-past-the-post would result in a permanent Labour majority: “We can’t predict what would happen,” he said.

Paul Davies, the acting leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly, said: “It is extraordinary that the Labour Party is once again seeking to manipulate the Assembly’s electoral system for its own ends.

“Labour already forced through a change to the Assembly’s electoral system which was condemned as undemocratic by the Government’s own electoral watchdog and rejected in Scotland, while Labour AMs have previously called for a system which gives Labour a massively disproportional advantage.

“At the election in May they won 70% of the constituency seats on barely 40% of the popular vote. Labour is clearly trying to turn Wales into a one-party state as a means of avoiding accountability and scrutiny of its government’s shameful record.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who first raised the issue of the Assembly’s electoral system in a parliamentary question to Mrs Gillan in May, said: “It is typical of Labour to want to replace an unfair electoral system with one that is even more unfair.

“Plaid’s preference would be for all AMs to be elected by STV [Single Transferable Vote]. But with that option not on the table, the fairest solution would be 30 AMs elected by first-past- the-post and 30 from regional lists.”

A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “We are not remotely interested in discussing any voting system that does not increase democracy and put more power in the hands of voters to ensure that outcomes are fair.

“It’s lamentable that Peter Hain, Carwyn Jones and Labour are now looking to form a backward-looking alliance with the Conservatives to force an unfair electoral system on the Welsh people.”’

Given the positive noises coming from the British Government (a Tory-LibDem coalition) in relation to the Labour Party proposals it would seem that the British Nationalists are determined that, whatever about Scotland, there will be no chance of Wales regaining its freedom and nationhood.

1 comment on “British Labour Party To Rig Welsh Elections?

  1. Bill Chapman

    Sorry, Séamas, although it makes a good headline, there is no question of “rigging” proposed. There is not and will never be a “permanent majority in Wales” for the Labour Party. If the Labour Party does well in Wales, it is because it has the confidence and support of a substantial percentage the Welsh people. The current systyem for elections toi the National Assembly for Wales are “rigged” in that a disproportionate number of seats are given to other parties on the “losers’ list”. Labour votes are discounted while the LIb Dems gain seats on the lists.


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