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Back to first past the post?

Labour’s Shadow Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, has called for a return to first-past-the-post voting system in the Welsh assembly elections and is meeting with Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan today to discuss the matter. The proposal is prompted by the reduction in the number of Welsh constituencies for Westminster elections from 40 to 30, which is likely to take effect at the next election. The Welsh Assembly currently has a top up system with FPTP elections for the current 40 Westminster seats, and 20 top-up seats for each of five regions. It seems all parties accept that there must be a change, since two different sets of constituencies don’t make sense (as experience in Scotland has shown, says Peter Hain).

Peter Hain’s argument (although he personally favoured AV in the referendum) is as follows:

As we’ve seen in Scotland, when you separate assembly seats from parliamentary seats, it creates a great deal of confusion for voters, for parties and for the wider public. If that happened in Wales, you would be likely to have a situation where one assembly seat straddled three parliamentary seats, which leads to confusion for voters, political parties and their representatives.

The only acceptable option given the AV referendum result is to have all AMs elected by first-past-the-post, and we believe that each of the 30 new constituencies should elect two AMs by that system. I think in retrospect we have to accept that we got it wrong when we set up the assembly with a two-tier electoral system that has two kinds of AM, and it should now be changed. We believe the only change that would be possible without a further referendum or general election manifesto commitment is a change to first past the post.

Plaid Cymru say the plans are motivated by “self interest”, and certainly Labour did win 70% of the constituency seats in May with 42% of the vote (60% with 32% of the vote in 2007). However, as the table shows, even the top up system gave Labour a considerable proportion of this extra benefit.

[table id=18 /]

The fact is that May’s referendum does now justify a return to first past the post rather than a move towards more proportional representation.

One Comment

  1. RTG says:

    Fantastic logic. Wales votes in 1997 for an assembly elected by a semi-proportional system. In 2011, Wales votes to confer legislative powers upon said assembly elected by said electoral system. Thus, it follows that a rejection of AV (a non-proportional variant of FPTP) for Westminster (a completely different institution) means that the Welsh Assembly should adopt FPTP.

    Astounding. I have yet to hear of anyone from Scottish Labour advocate such a change for Holyrood, something which consistent logic would surely demand? Funny that. I wonder why?

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