Welsh Labour’s Executive Committee has backed a controversial call by the Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain to elect all Assembly members by first-past-the-post IF there are if to be changes to the boundaries.
‘IF’ is the crucial word because as you will see below, Welsh Labour has now set itself firmly against ANY change and has only agreed to back Mr Hain’s controversial call in order to have an agreed position ready.
As we reporter on Sharp End last week, there were some Labour AMs for whom even this was a step too far. Their view was that there shouldn’t even be any debate about what position the party should take.
In the end the Assembly group didn’t put itself at odds with the party’s Welsh leadership and at today’s Executive committee meeting I gather only two members opposed backing Mr Hain’s first past the post plan.
You can find the full announcement from Welsh Labour below and I’ll post any reaction from Westminster as I get it.
Welsh Labour united over Assembly voting system
Tory Secretary of State must accept UK Government has “No mandate for change”
Welsh Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones and Shadow Secretary of State Peter Hain today (Saturday November 11) issued a clear message to the Tory-led UK Government – “You have no mandate to change the current electoral system in Wales.”
In a joint statement issued following a meeting of the Welsh Labour Executive Committee they said:
“Welsh Labour is at one on this issue. The Tory-led UK Government has absolutely no mandate to change the voting system here in Wales. Any attempt to do so without a clear mandate from the people of Wales would be deeply disrespectful to both them and the Welsh Government.
“As such, after consultation with Party members across Wales, we are calling on the Tory Secretary of State to rule out any changes to the Assembly voting system without such a mandate.
“However, Welsh Labour also realises the need for a clear position should the Tory-led UK Government press ahead with proposals for change, to properly inform debate and push for an outcome that best serves Wales.
“Therefore if, as expected, proposals for change are made along the 30 new Parliamentary boundaries, Welsh Labour’s preference would be for a 60 member Assembly, comprising 30 two member seats. This position reflects the preference for first past the post expressed by an overwhelming majority of the electorate in the referendum on the alternative vote for Westminster in May 2011.
“The message from Welsh Labour could not be any clearer. The Tory-led Government have absolutely no mandate for change, but should they attempt to bypass the people of Wales, Welsh Labour is united behind a common goal of securing a voting system that best serves the people of Wales.”
And here’s the response from a UK Government source:
Peter Hain has railroaded Carwyn Jones and Labour Assembly Members into accepting a position which they last week appeared to oppose. It’s clear the First Minister can’t do anything without Mr Hain’s say-so.
“Mr Hain’s proposals would rob the Assembly of proportionality in order to fulfil Labour’s own vested interests.
“This brazen attempt to dictate the Assembly’s electoral system in their favour displays the same attitude Labour had when they changed the electoral system in the 2006 Government of Wales Act without consultation or a mandate.
“Mr Hain’s electoral volte-face would be remarkable if he didn’t make a habit of such things. Only a few months ago he was a cheerleader for the AV campaign. Now because it does not suit him electorally he’s portraying himself as a staunch supporter of First Past the Post.”