Alice Hooker-Stroud explains the reasons behind election talks between the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats.February 12th, 2016
Our electoral system in Wales needs a good shake up. Wales will not thrive until people put their heads above the parapet, challenge the status quo and dare to do things differently.
Progressive voters regularly have to hold their nose and vote for another term of a Welsh Labour government that has run out of ideas and has nothing left to offer but excuses. Over the entire existence of the Welsh Assembly, Welsh Labour have held power, but never in a majority government. Over that time, key indicators on education, health, and the economy have worsened.
Whilst the media struggles to accept there are more than four political parties to vote for in the Assembly elections in May, representatives of the Wales Green Party entered into talks with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways in which we might transform the politics of Wales. Breaking the one-party-state mentality, moving towards a progressive plurality of voices more common in Europe.
People want real change and exploring the possibility of progressive alliances is a vital part of creating a new kind of politics in Wales. Across Europe in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Germany, new alliances are revolutionising politics, giving the electorate a real choice in voting for change.
Although no proposal to take to our members for final agreement was reached, the Wales Green Party believes that parties with different priorities but common ground should be working together to fix our broken electoral system, giving voters a real alternative to make a better Wales.
Almost a quarter of the Welsh population live in relative poverty. Wales is completely off-course on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change. Ambitious targets are set, but quietly dropped or missed. Legislation is drawn up, but not delivered on.
Welsh Government is running out of steam.
Less than half the voting population in Wales take part in Welsh Assembly elections. How we end up with any particular government remains largely unquestioned by both the Welsh public and our media. Our system of ‘additional members’ or ‘top-up’ seats perhaps gives us some sense of electoral legitimacy: it’s a better system than that in Westminster.
But given that the current Conservative government in Westminster was given a mandate to govern by less than a quarter of the voting population, being ‘better’ is not hard.
If Wales instead compares itself to Scotland, we find that a much smaller percentage of seats is made up proportionally in the Senedd than in Holyrood. As a result, the ‘score’ of proportionality in Wales is much worse: our Welsh Assembly does not represent the political views of our people.
The truth is that the number of top-up seats in Wales is too small to ensure proportional outcomes from our elections, and especially so when one party holds the majority of constituency seats. When this is the case, smaller parties need to get a much higher percentage, a disproportionally higher percentage, of the overall vote in order to be represented in the Welsh Assembly.
In the Welsh Assembly election in 2011, Welsh Labour won 28 out of 40 constituency seats. There is no doubt that the top-up seats were insufficient to ensure proportional representation of the political views of the Welsh people in the Welsh Assembly. Welsh Labour, once again, formed a government after this election with a higher percentage of the seats than their share of the vote. They have now been in government in Wales for seventeen years straight.
There is a disconnect between our government, and our people. Political opinion is diversifying, changing and evolving, but our government is stagnant.
The Wales Green Party stands for grown up, inclusive, pluralist politics, and a political system that puts the people of Wales first. We are a party on the ascent and we will work, whether together or on our own, to ensure the next Welsh Government is accountable to those who want a fairer Wales, run for the common good.
We will continue to be a voice for a better Wales: progressive, sustainable, inclusive and innovative. An economy based on our strengths: based on the creation of new energies, worth billions in decent, sustainable jobs and cutting our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels. Education: free, for all and throughout life. A healthcare system that keeps everyone healthy, as well as caring for us when we are sick, and free at the point of use. Warm, sustainable and affordable homes for people to live in; cutting energy use and carbon emissions, and reducing fuel poverty. Decent public transport, that allows people to move around freely, cheaply and with low impact on the environment. A Wales where our LGBTIQ+ community can thrive, where our elderly are protected and respected and women are empowered. Where we appreciate, support, care and respect each other, for the diversity in what each of us brings to society.
A Green voice in the Senedd will fight to bring that diversity to our political system and build a better, fairer, more democratic Wales.