Friday, 2 May 2014
An inordinate amount of time was spent last Wednesday afternoon during the committee stage of the Wales Bill on the subject of dual candidacy. Labour MP after Labour MP stood up to defend the change that Peter Hain made in 2006 to the original voting system for the National Assembly fpr Wales , banning a candidate from both standing in a constituency and appearing on a regional list. Clause of the Bill would restore the original arrangements.
As both Welsh Office ministers (David Jones and Stephen Crabb) pointed out, that made the Welsh system virtually unique among Additional Member systems in the world. It disadvantages parties with a smaller pool of talent, among which Mr Jones freely admitted the Conservatives stood at the inception of the Assembly for Wales. New Zealand had looked at changing to a ban on dual candidacy, but had decided against, as had Scotland. It is significant that the Scottish Labour Party, which benefits from dual candidacy, had not pressed to abolish it.
Labour's case is that a candidate who has been rejected by the voters in one contest should not get a second chance in another. Put another way, Labour is mandating parties on who they should choose for their lists. The only valid argument put forward on Wednesday was that voters did not have a choice of top-up members - but that is an argument against closed lists in general, not against dual candidacy.
Huw Irranca-Davies put it this way in an intervention:
However, does the Secretary of State accept that if a candidate who, for very good reasons, was wholly objectionable to the electorate—not a Lord Bourne, but somebody wholly objectionable—was No. 1 on a closed list because of the party selection, Conservative, Liberal or Plaid Cymru voters would have no choice but to vote for them? That is one of the big problems with the reversal that he is proposing.
I would be more impressed by the sincerity of this view if Labour had not ensured that names of list candidates did not appear on the ballot paper in the Welsh general election of 2011.