Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill

This is my submission to the Reform Bill Committee regarding Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill. The attempt to hijack ‘Senedd reform’ with a closed list system that even hopes to keep candidates’ names from us.

Stripped of the self-serving bullshit it’s a crude attempt by the Labour party to guarantee itself permanent rule. With full support from Plaid Cymru.

Here’s a link to the (slightly different) version I submitted to the Committee.

I urge everyone to make a submission to SeneddReform@senedd.wales.

EXPERT PANEL

I shall start with the appointment of the Expert Panel in February 2017. Set up to look into reforming and enlarging the (then) Assembly.

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The group reported in November 2017. Here is a link to their report. On page 29, the report recommended three electoral systems. The favoured one being the Single Transferable Vote.

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On page 128 of the report we read the ‘closed list proportional representation’ system was rejected. It’s ‘weakness’ spelled out as, “No choice for voters between individual candidates. No accountability for individual Members directly to voters.”

Yet this is the system now being proposed.

COMMITTEE ON SENEDD ELECTORAL REFORM

This group was set up in January 2020, and comprised Huw Irranca-Davies MS, Dawn Bowden MS, and Dai Lloyd MS. The first two representing the Labour party, the third Plaid Cymru.

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Here’s the Committee’s Report from September 2020, and here’s a summary of its recommendations. Note that it agrees with the Expert Panel in recommending the Single Transferable Vote.

Though it also makes a reference to diversity quotas for protected characteristics other than gender”, without making it clear what these ‘characteristics’ might be.

SPECIAL PURPOSE COMMITTEE ON SENEDD REFORM

Now we move on to October 2021 and a new group, with Huw Irranca-Davies MS providing continuity.

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Their report, ‘Reforming our Senedd: A stronger voice for the people of Wales’ was published on 30 May 2022. Here’s a link to that report.

The Expert Panel’s favoured system of the Single Transferable Vote, endorsed by the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform, was rejected by this latest group because it:

. . . was an unfamiliar system in Wales and that the method of translating votes into seats would be seen as complex and difficult to explain.

Which means that electorates around the world manage to cope with STV, but it seems Welsh voters are uniquely stupid!

The reasoning is so absurd, and insulting, that it suggests something else was going on beneath the surface. With hindsight, we know this to be true.

After considering the three options of the Open List, the Flexible List, and the Closed List, the Special Purpose Committee recommended the least representational of the three.

And when comparing the respective merits of the d’Hondt and Sainte-Laguë divisor systems the committee opted for d’Hondt, which is, again, the less representational.

Now we come to the most remarkable and worrying thing I encountered in all 92 pages. Scroll to page 38, and there you’ll see . . .

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We would anticipate . . . some of the names . . . of candidates will appear . . . “.

There was clearly an attempt from somewhere, by someone, to promote the idea of giving only the party name, and not naming the candidates!

Which means that from the Single Transferable Vote system recommended by the Expert Panel what is now being offered is 16 huge and impersonal constituencies*, and a closed list system using the less representational d’Hondt system. Even an attempt to have anonymised lists.

*The Boundary Commission has recommended that Wales in future has 32, not the current 40, seats for Westminster elections. The proposals being discussed ‘pair’ these 32 constituencies to give us 16 ‘super’ constituencies, each electing 6 Members by the closed list system.

REFORM BILL COMMITTEE

This group was established in July 2023. Its role was to go through the Bill that resulted from the report of The Special Purpose Committee on Electoral Reform. Making recommendations where it felt the need.

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The Reform Bill Committee’s report was published in January, and debated in the Senedd 30 January (No 8).

In his Introduction, the chair, Labour’s David Rees MS, makes clear that he is unhappy with the proposed closed list system.

“We have not reached consensus on all matters . . . But, we are unanimous in our concerns about the proposed closed list electoral system . . . We believe the link between voters and the Members who represent them is paramount.

We therefore urge all political parties in the Senedd to work together to ensure the electoral system in the Bill provides greater voter choice and improved accountability for future Members to their electorates.”

The closed list system was by now drawing fire from many quarters, and from outside of Wales. One notable contribution was from former Labour Home Secretary Lord David Blunkett, in a letter to the Western Mail.

I naturally wondered what the report had to say about ballot papers.

On page 105 the ‘Member in charge’, Mick Antoniw MS, defends the recommendations of the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform.

When asked by David Rees (page 111) why the Bill being presented to the Senedd does not state categorically that candidates’ names will appear on the ballot paper, Antoniw responds that it is being dealt with in “secondary legislation”.

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On page 129 David Rees MS makes it clear that he believes candidates’ names on ballot papers should be stipulated in the Bill itself, not left to secondary legislation.

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A search of the published Bill for ‘ballot paper’ will draw a blank.

CONCLUSION

What may have started out as a genuine attempt to ‘improve democracy’, and by doing that make Wales a better place to live and work, has been subverted by the Labour party, willingly assisted by Plaid Cymru.

To hide the true nature and purpose of the exercise it must be dressed up in self-serving distractions such as ‘gender equality’, but with 26 out of 60 AMs being women we almost have gender equality now, without any special legislation.

Let me explain what I believe is behind this emphasis on ‘women’. For on the Senedd website, under ‘Information about the Bill’, we read: “Require all candidates on a party’s list to state either whether they are, or are not, a woman”.

I think we’re now in the realm of self-identification, and are no longer talking about biological women. I suggest this because the Welsh Government is the largest single funder to the trans activist group, Stonewall, and Labour and Plaid Senedd Members have made their positions quite clear.

Last year Dawn Bowden MS and colleagues insisted we allow biological males to play rugby with and against women and girls – if they identify as women.

You’ll recall that she sat on the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform which talked of “diversity quotas for protected characteristics other than gender”.

And this goes some way to explaining the attempt to keep candidates’ names off the ballot paper. Because men pretending to be women will not be elected. Unless they can stand anonymously.

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I suspect that another reason for trying to keep candidates’ names off the ballot paper is to facilitate the election of lobbyists, and members of the pressure groups that now seem to direct both Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Again, these would be unlikely to get elected if voters saw their names on the ballot paper and could check on their backgrounds and associations.

Seeing as so many of these ‘campaigners’ are alien to and ignorant of our country, if elected they would simply push their agendas. No matter how damaging those were to the interests of Wales.

We already see it, with Stonewall, but also with 20mph, with the constant attacks on our farmers, and in a host of other ways; serving narrow agendas, but not Wales.

RECOMMENDATION

As it stands, I consider the Bill to be the most dangerous and damaging piece of legislation in 25 years of devolution. A naked power grab.

For in addition to the issues already dealt with, the Bill also makes it more difficult for smaller parties and independent candidates to be elected. This is no accident.

It would have been bad enough if we’d arrived at this point through a mistake, or even incompetence, but I believe we are where we are because this was always the destination.

The Expert Panel was pure window-dressing. It’s hoped we’ll believe that what’s now being offered is merely a ‘tweaking’ of the Panel’s recommendations.

This deception has presented us with a Bill that has nothing to recommend it, and there is nothing of it worth salvaging. It is a step backwards; an affront to common sense, and a threat to democracy.

It must be scrapped.

♦ end ♦

© Royston Jones 2024

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David Smith

More noise needs to be made highlighting the 20% reduction in Westminster repesentation. Democracy is being withered to almost nothing, on both fronts.

Dafis

That’s my goal but the Bay Bubble needs it’s source of handouts like a fix every day.

C R

Jac, There is the option to comment on this ‘Consultation’ online. There appears to be 11 pages in total.
Has anyone here filled this in i wonder?, and more importantly, have a ‘wording template’ of any kind i can refer to, to assist, or, is it preferable typed/handwritten? and again, with a wording/template/guidance if possible?.

Thanks in advance

Wynne

From my experience, they always make it difficult to respond. As you say Jac, a simple email message setting out concerns should be sufficient with a follow-up note if they do not acknowledge receipt.

Dafis

Yet more evidence that Welsh local authorities as trying their best to be as daft as the thought leaders in the Bay Bubble.

Ancient Welsh mountain byway threatened by resurfacing plans | Access to green space | The Guardian

Start paving tracks through the Cambrian/Elenydd wilderness and it won’t be long before some twat from Bute Energy, Plaid Cymru or similar is up there planting wind turbines.

Dafis

The closed list is just another step towards the elitist ideal of the “people’s republic”. A concentration of powers among insiders, people who can be trusted to toe the line, making sure that the “right” decisions get adopted in the “right way”. Do the people of Wales have the backbone to turn on this lot and chuck them out? or has the deep state of dependency created sufficient compliance to let this travesty proceed ?

Gruff Williams

Is this a done deal?

Wynne

If the consultation is open until 12 April, I hope they will record my letter sent today – and copied to this blog for your information – as my serious concerns regarding the proposal. I expect protracted correspondence on the subject with Parliament and / or Government as I doubt they can offer any clear explanation regarding their failure to comply with Treasury rules.

Ifor l'engine

I agree that the closed list system is fundamentally wrong. 
From the (limited) research that I’ve seen electoral systems that use a closed list struggle to attract high-quality candidates and to incentivise them; open-list candidates are more experienced and more engaged in their constituencies .

That said, it is true that people tend to vote for the party rather than the candidate. How many times has it been said that a donkey could stand for Labour in the South Wales valleys and people would vote for it ?
Even with open lists few people will trawl through the lists and come to a balanced conclusion on the merits and demerits of the candidates involved; most people don’t have the time, or are simply not interested.

Instructons to reject the results of the original Welsh inquiry have probably come from Labour’s central office in England, rather than Cardiff. There seems to be a concerted effort in England to remove candidates at all levels seen as being ‘Starmer-unfriendly’ and a power grab designed to neutralise local committees.
There are even allegations that internal voting has been rigged. For example Scotland Yard’s cyber crime unit is looking into irregularities involving the use of an online voting system called Anonyvoter in Croydon East CLP
In Wales Beth Winter has apparently questioned the result of the candidate vote in the new seat of Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon, where Anonyvoter was also used .

If you want to understand the back-room machinations behind the proposed electoral reform in Cardiff you’ll have to cast your net wider than your usual bêtes noires.

Dafis

This time of year the betes are lambing so there’ll be even more romping around for you to enjoy soon !

Dai Oakley

Thank you for all your ‘simplification’.
It is not clear to me how, if only the parties and some candidates’ names are to appear on the ballot paper, how the electorate will know who will be sitting as an MS to represent them – Will that information come out after the election?
Canvassing will need to be carried on incognito!
After a quick look through, it was not clear to me how the interests of North Wales were represented by any of the various groups whose recommendations were not taken up.
Is it just me, or is our system of government in Wales becoming more controlling.
Is any of it for the good of Wales and its people?
Have we moved completely away from Cymru Lan to Cymru Lab?

David Smith

The centre of an infinite expanse such as the universe is a meaningless concept as there are no edges to which it can be pinpointed relative to. There is no such thing as absolute motion of an object, it only makes sense to describe motion relative to another body (or in the old days, the æther). Surely these philosophical ideas highlight the absurdity of asking people whether they are a woman, as though that is a definite, absolute concept, when clearly they see it as anything but.

Howell

Wise words jac it really seems that independence seems to be the hardest word for the new plaid Cymru.
I say new because the old would not tolerate such treachery.

Wynne

For your information, copy below of my letter to Welsh Parliament sent today.

Welsh Parliament
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff
CF99 1SN

My Ref:              NCC/WJ/153
Your Ref:    
Date:                  25 March 2024

Dear Welsh Parliament

Subject: Senedd Cymru [Members and Elections] Bill 

I refer to the above subject and specifically to the “Explanatory Memorandum” containing the “Regulatory Impact Assessment” [RIA]. My serious concerns regarding the content of the RIA are set out below in point format.

  1. The costs and benefits of alternative options has not been assessed by Welsh Government.
  2. The cost of the preferred option over an 8 year appraisal period – discounted to present value using the Treasury discount rate of 3.5% – is assessed as £83.8 million to £100.5 million. As monetary benefit has not been quantified the preferred option, as currently presented, has a negative Net Present Value [NPV] amounting to minus £83.8 million to £100.5 million. This clearly does not represent value for public money.
  3. A failure to assess monetary benefit of the preferred option is a breach of the appraisal methodology outlined in H M Treasury Green Book.
  4. A failure to assess monetary costs and monetary benefits of alternative options is a further serious breach of the appraisal methodology outlined in H M Treasury Green Book.
  5. An appraisal period of only 8 years appears to be inappropriate for the important proposals under consideration.

Welsh Government should be requested to provide an explanation to Welsh Parliament why they have failed to comply with the appraisal methodology outlined in H M Treasury Green Book. Compliance is required to ensure value for public money.

I look forward to your observations when you have received feedback from Welsh Government regarding the serious concerns outlined above. Thank you. 

Yours sincerely

Wynne

I am only asking questions that Parliament overview and scrutiny committees should be asking. Do they not understand what their role is: to hold Welsh Government to account. Are Committee members not conversant with Treasury rules to ensure value for public money. My question to them, as set out above, is an obvious one. How can Parliament approve proposals that have a negative NPV of up to £100.5 million. Will update you on the reply in due course.

Dafis

Wokies don’t do sums. Arithmetic is far too unambiguous. Difficult for them to deny a big negative value so they don’t engage with it at all.

Dafis

That’s about right. The inability to relate to real world numbers is a key factor in the habitual, persistent production of crazy policies and forecasts which have no hope in hell of being achieved. Perhaps pissing into the wind once is forgivable but our lot keep trying it with alarming regularity just to show how engaged they are with the goals of equality, diversity, inclusivity, net zero ……net bloody sense more like !

David Smith

Longstanding IT terminology like ‘blacklist’, or ‘master/slave’ for a database server hierarchical relationship, they are now trying to ‘phase out’. Where does it end? Any utterance which may have a historic, tangential, arcane, highly context-specific, or even apocryphal allusion to a past injustice real or imagined is to be sent to the lexicographic landfill.

Funnily enough, in the job before last there were a couple of black African guys in the department with the job title Scrum Master (nothing to do with rugby). I doubt the past associations of the word even remotely registered with them.

David Smith

Is there a politician in Britain who could be considered ‘serious’, and not in the sense of career advancement and self-interest?

Dafis

Some of Adolf’s less endearing traits seem to be making a bit of a resurgence among our current crop of defective politicians. Not tolerating any alternative views, adherence to absurd dogma …. need I go on ?

Neil Singleton

But he did get the trains on time and he loved his dog. Both sure fire vote winners.

Howell

Plaid Cymru are on the cliff edge if this new system gets the light of day, they Will be swept away with the incoming tide.

Liz

Democracy is Dead Jac, sorry…but it is…thanks for your efforts…

Mathias

Howell, I hope they do get swept away. They have got in to bed with Labour with the hope of more power, and then they might be swept away anyway. A devious party playing games with the electorate. On the one hand they have helped Labour get through some of the most divisive policies in recent years and on the other claim that is only a cooperation agreement.

Liz

very true…they had the opportunity what was it 8 years ago to go in with the Cons…but they didnt and we are here in this awful mess…Anything is better than Welsh Labour who only look after themselves and mates of mates….Wales is in the Pits, not a metaphore..lol…But sadly I have come to the conclusion over the years of fighting the BlessedWGov…there is nothing you can do absolutely nothing…they are supposed to publish monthly figs of what they spend over25K but they are now lagging 6 months behind…something they have been doing for 4 years…and everything else is now going through the Bank they own!!.so we cant see it. Democracy is dead…sorry Jac o the North…it is…its shut up and put up and Snakeford was a demon and the Gethlin isnt far behind…tragic…for Wales…they only blame it on Westminster and never take any responsibility for their own mess. This will now close the doors on democracy…