Wales worth following for democracy

Photo: Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0)

Julie Morgan says Welsh Labour demonstrates a new progressive path

It is important at the current time to prioritise voting reform in the context of the attacks on democracy particularly by the UK government.

We held our Senedd elections in May 2021. For the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds voted, as they will in local government, but not to elect MPs. We are analysing the results but we know it was an opportunity to have debate in schools. The change showed our confidence in young people and the future.

There was no automatic increase in turnout – the average General Election turnout is up to 20 points higher – but there was perhaps more engagement. This year the voters got rid of the seven UKIP members who came in from the list in 2016.

Back on 1st April 2018, the Welsh Senedd had taken over powers on size, electoral arrangements and the franchise in Wales. It was no April Fool joke. It was Wales on its journey in its own democracy. We had the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform, which produced the McAllister Report, A Parliament that works for Wales. We accepted widening the franchise but other recommendations remain to be decided.

There is consensus around the need to increase the numbers of Senedd Members from 60 to 80 or 90. There is discussion about our voting system, the Additional Member System, which has 40 constituency seats and 20 top-ups. Labour only has three additional MSs because we win so many constituencies. It does mean Labour has no overall majority and has to win the arguments.

One proposal for the voting system is for 20 multimember constituencies. The reduction of parliamentary constituencies by eight, from 40 MPs to 32, in the Welsh boundary commission report, will have an impact. There are also proposals for gender quotas and job sharing arrangements.

We have already been able to legislate so that local authorities can opt to adopt a proportional system for their elections following the Scottish example.

After 20 years of devolution, this is the most opportune moment to go forward on all political fronts. We need a two-thirds majority for change. The Senedd will then speak up for the people of Wales with much more legitimacy.

All this discussion has had an effect on Welsh constituency Labour parties thinking about how we elect MPs. Our First Minister, Mark Drakeford, is in favour. It is a time of great hope. The mood has changed.

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