To the extent that Brexit allows room for any other political issues to be debated, there has been some discussion in Wales over the last few months over electoral systems. This follows publication of the McAllister Panel report in December last year – which examined the size of the National Assembly, and how it is elected. This report, in turn, followed previous discussion on that issue.
and the transfer of legal powers over National Assembly elections to the Assembly itself in the 2017 Wales Act.
The McAllister Expert Panel made several main recommendations, and also gave several options for ways forward. Among the main recommendations of the panel were:
- An increase in the size of the National Assembly from the current 60 to between 80 and 90 AMs
- Use of the Single Transferable Vote system to elect the Assembly; or, if this were not politically acceptable to enough of the parties, a form of flexible list system
- The use of gender quotas to ensure balance in elected representation
- The consideration of forms of job-sharing for AMs.
- Reduction of the minimum age for voting at Assembly elections to 16
The debate on whether or not to adopt the McAllister proposals is ongoing. But this is not a debate without a context or a history. In work for a forthcoming book I am writing – also called Elections in Wales – I have been researching much of this history. As I have discussed at numerous points in the past here, and elsewhere, the history of electoral politics in Wales is overwhelmingly one of one-party dominance: by the Liberals up to 1914, and the Labour party from the 1920s onwards.
In the next few blog posts, I’ll be drawing from some of my work in the book to examine what role electoral systems have played in sustaining this dominance – and what the consequences of change might be. I hope that you’ll all find this interesting reading – and that it might whet your appetite for the book, when that is finished!