Wednesday, 9 December 2009

It's a Matter of Trust Thing

It's just a personal thing. I don't want to sound worthy, but my faith compels me to honour democratically elected institutions such as Parliament and the National Assembly. I also view public service - gained either through election or appointment - as a sacred trust.

For me, honouring those who hold public office is a matter of faith. For others, it may well be a matter of integrity, honour or personal conviction. I'm comfortable with the personal imperatives of all those who share such values whether they are of faith or not. I have very little time, even after recent scandals at Westminster, for those who approach politics and politicians with cynicism.

Since yesterday however, I have thought a great deal about the issue of a regional list Assembly Members switching parties. The whole thing has left me troubled.

I know that the representative mode of politics spawned by Westminster is long used to politicians commanding considerable integrity switching parties. Some of my Parliamentary heroes did so. Constituency Assembly Members switching has already happened in devolved Wales. The late Peter Law commanded considerable respect.

I readily accept that all Assembly Members are equal. They are however, not all the same. Regional Members have a different electoral mandate. Crucially, they have found their way into the National Assembly through a mandate given to their party. That's the bit that bothers me.

The different electoral mandate is clear. When Alun Michael returned to Westminster, the Labour Party, without a by-election, provided the very able Delyth Evans as a regional Assembly Member. Val Feld's tragic death as a constituency Assembly Member, in contrast, demanded a constituency by-election in 2001.

There is something else. To be honest, I was never totally convinced of the case that individuals who stood in constituency elections should be prevented, following the passing of the Government of Wales Act 2006, from standing in regional lists. I am willing to consider the counter argument, but I was always anxious that Wales' political parties found a means of ensuring that their most able people found their way into the National Assembly. I'm of the view that if switching from constituency to region was unacceptable, switching parties is even more problematic.

I'm not in the business of telling individual Assembly Members what to do if their consciences take them to a different party - whoever they are. I have sufficient challenges handling my own conscience issues thanks very much.

However, I am of the view that Welsh civic society should reflect on the need to amend legislation if the practice of regional list Members switching sides becomes commonplace. Such switching undermines the whole electoral process regarding the "second vote". It's a matter of trust.

Yes, it's a personal thing. As someone who takes voting very seriously, I would be pretty cross with any individual politician who took liberties with my vote for a party of my choice expressed through the ballot box and deposited it elsewhere without my consent. However political cultures view switching, that's the bottom line.


Penderyn said...


Dwi di blogio sylwadau nid anhebyg ar fy mlog i, Yr hyn sydd wir yn fy mhryderu yw'r ymgais yn ol yr hyn sydd wedi ei ddweud i gelu'r gwirionedd er mwyn gyrfa - sydd ddim er tegwch yn nodwedd o unrhywun o'r grwpiau pleidiol yn y Cynulliad, ac ymhell iawn o ddiwylliant anrhydeddus y lle.

Aled Edwards said...

Diolch am y sylw. Sylwadau treiddgar arferol. Mae'r cyfan yn parhau i beri pryder i mi.