If you’re reading this, you almost certainly know about the ongoing row over the possibility or otherwise of change in the way Assembly Members are elected and the controversy surrounding the position Welsh Labour’s taken on it.
Now Labour’s upping the stakes by challenging the other parties to support its opposition to change to the system without at least a manifesto pledge.
In Parliament it’s tabled an Early Day Motion which has been signed (so far) by 10 Labour MPs. The text is,
That this House recognises that the Government has no mandate to change the current system for elections to the Welsh Assembly; and believes that any proposals for change to that system should be put for decision by the people of Wales.
Meanwhile in the Assembly, the equivalent to an EDM, a statement of opinion has been tabled saying,
This Assembly recognises that there is absolutely no mandate to change the current electoral system in Wales and that any future change should be put to the people of Wales.
It’s been signed by 15 AMs including the two sponsors, but the interesting thing is that three of them are Conservatives.
Darren Millar, Russell George and Paul Davies have all put their names to it.
Mr Millar had previously said on Twitter,
Hate to say it, but I agree with Carwyn Jones on the Welsh Assembly voting system – there is no mandate for change.
Their support hasn’t gone unnoticed by Labour nor by other Conservatives, one of whom remarked how ‘hard hitting’ the statement of opinion is and wondered, ‘are they about to defect?’
I should say there’s no concern from the party’s leadership in the Assembly that the three AMs have broken ranks in this way and there certainly won’t be any sanctions against them.
But on the wider issue of change to the voting system, a party spokesperson said,
A panel of Welsh Conservative Assembly Members is currently examining the options available and will report back in due course. It must be remembered that there are countless economic challenges currently facing Wales. Labour would be wise to spend its time giving them the utmost attention, not persistently navel-gazing at an electoral system that would suit its own interests.
There is, I’m told, a level of ‘annoyance’ at the Westminster end of the Conservative party at the decision of the three members to sign Labour’s statement of opinion.
I had been told that there had been ‘demands’ from Cheryl Gillan’s office that action be taken against them.
But a Whitehall source told me that any such action would be ‘a matter for the Assembly group and leader in the first instance.’