Guest post from Helen Mary Jones, Morgan Academy Deputy Director
At a personal level I should declare an interest.
I served as a member of the National Assembly for 12 years between 1999 and 2011, so I have some strong views about how our Assembly works, and how it could be made more effective.
But this is not about my views. March 12 is just one of many opportunities for everyone in Wales to look at the changes proposed and put their views forward.
There has been quite a lot of coverage in the media about some of the Expert Panel’s proposals, including increasing the number of AMs, changing how we elect them and constituency boundaries to improve representation, and reducing the age at which people can vote to 16.
These are really important issues but I would like to draw attention to two other issues the Consultation addresses.
For the first National Assembly election in 1999 the two largest parties elected, Labour and Plaid Cymru, used different affirmative-action procedures to ensure women were selected in winnable seats.
This wasn’t straightforward for either party to achieve.
The result was a large proportion of women elected, then the Western world’s first gender balanced parliament in 2003.
The resulting balanced Parliaments – which were subject to numerous academic studies – went on both to create a different political atmosphere, with more attempt to work by consensus, and to pay due attention to issues that often fall off the radar, such as the promotion of equality and children’s rights.
Since then we have seen the percentage of women elected to the Assembly decline. The Expert Panel suggests measures to halt this decline, including legislating for gender equality quotas and enabling people to stand for election as a job share. I think this is well worth considering. What do you think?
Then there is the question of who should be eligible to vote.
There has been considerable discussion of the proposal to reduce the voting age to 16. Another interesting proposal has received less attention. At present UK citizens, Commonwealth citizens and citizens of other EU member states who live in Wales are able to vote in Assembly elections. We don’t know of course what the status of EU citizens currently living in Wales will be after Brexit.
One simple way to resolve all the complexities that may arise is just to allow everyone who is legally resident in Wales to vote, in line with the Welsh Government’s proposals for local council elections. This seems fair to me. Everyone who lives here, regardless of their technical citizenship status, has a stake in what happens to Wales. So surely they should have a say in who runs Wales? What do you think?
I’d urge everyone to think about the issues this consultation raises.
This sort of constitutional debate can seem as dry as dust. But in fact this is all about how we get the right people in place to make and scrutinise the right decisions about issues that affect us all; our health service, what our children study in schools, our environment.
This is our chance to contribute to the debate around building a Welsh Parliament that really represents us all and will really work for us all.
Come along on March 12, attend one of the other meetings, go online and respond to the consultation there.
Make your voice heard.
The Morgan Academy is a new public affairs unit established by Swansea University.
Our aim is to take world-class research and use it to inform the development of policy to address the most challenging issues facing Wales and the world today.
We are very proud of our developing partnership with the National Assembly for Wales and we are pleased to be hosting this important event on March 12 to enable citizens of Swansea and the region to have their say on the exciting proposals being put forward by the National Assembly’s Expert Panel to grow and strengthen our democracy here in Wales.