Welsh assembly

Final day to help Wales elect its first Assembly Member

Green Party members have just today left to support the crowdfunding campaign to help elect Wales’ first Green Assembly Member.

Amelia Womack, Green Party E&W Deputy leader, is standing for the proportional list seat of South Wales Central – which covers Cardiff – and is aiming to raise as much as possible of the £2,000 needed to run the last six weeks of the campaign that remain. So far she has raised over £1,000.

The crowdfunder ends at midnight on the 29th March, with the flexible funding model meaning that the money raised will fund a campaigns officer, leaflets and materials, as well as potentially billboards, and could make all the difference in what is a tight race for the last list seat in the region. The seat that could come down to either Greens or UKIP winning it, with UKIP expected to surge this election from zero to up nine AMs.

South Wales Central is seen as the most winnable seat in Wales, alongside Mid and West Wales, and Greens from across the country are targeting it hard.

Crucially, a Labour vote on the list in South Wales Central is effectively a wasted vote, given their high support in the constituency ballot, under the Additional Member System form of PR.

The crowdfunder states that “We have seen the difference just a handful of Greens make in institutions across the country. We have Greens in Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish Assembly and the London Assembly – now it’s Wales’ turn to get the Green representation our nation deserves by electing Amelia Womack to bring our Green vision into the Senedd.

“Unlike other parties, we don’t have millionaire donors, donations from big business, or financial support from trade unions. We rely on you – our members and supporters to fund our grassroots campaigns.

The party has calculated that just under 6,000 extra votes are needed on top of last time to ensure Womack is elected on May 5th, as the candidate at the top of the list.

Womack grew up in local Newport and lives in Cardiff. She is also standing for the constituency seat of Cardiff central.

Can you support the crowdfunder? Chip in what you can here and help Wales Green Party shake up the Senedd.

Don’t rush the referendum: June is too soon

First published on the ERS blog here

On Tuesday, David Cameron announced the details of the government’s initial ‘renegotiation deal’ with the EU in the run up to the referendum. It clears the way for the ballot to be held in June – something some politicians are keen on.

But since that’s only four months away, it’s not a lot of time to have a full debate about this major constitutional issue. There’s also another issue though – it will clash with the May Assembly elections in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

There’s a real risk an EU vote so soon after the May polls could undermine these important devolved elections. It’s vital the EU referendum doesn’t overshadow the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish elections – the former of which in particular receive little UK-wide attention as it is.

There’s a question of confusion and issue-clashing too, with two very different ballots held one after the other – potentially knocking both debates off course and away from issues which are actually devolved.

A June EU vote would only serve to add more busy-ness to an already busy day of elections, with Police and Crime Commissioners also being picked – despite issues of justice and policing not being fully devolved. That’s not to mention the problem of ‘voter fatigue’ – the issue of turnout declining if there are too many votes within a short period of time. People get bored.

April and May will see the EU debate reaching its peak if the vote was to be held in June –overlapping significantly with the devolved elections. Don’t we want to give both debates a clear run?

So here’s a proposal. Let’s have genuinely focused discussions about these two important decisions by conducting the campaigns at different times. Both debates need a decent amount of time, coverage and political space in order to give voters the ballots they deserve.

Josiah Mortimer will be working with ERS Cymru in the run up to the Assembly elections in May

The TV debates in Wales need to include all six parties

First published on the ERS blog

It’s less than 100 days until the Assembly elections in Wales (and Scotland, Northern Ireland and the London Assembly for that matter). The election debate is heating up.

So broadcasters are making their plans for televised election broadcasts – including who exactly will feature on them…

Electoral Reform Society Cymru are calling on media outlets in Wales to include all six major parties in their election debates, to make the upcoming broadcasts as inclusive as possible. We’ve already got the conversation started

Although the arrangements for the TV election debates have yet to be decided, there’s a strong case for including the six biggest parties. Last year’s UK general election debates featured seven leaders. Any fears about timing and messiness were entirely allayed – they were a huge success.

Why should six parties appear? For one thing, there are six parties with a genuine chance of winning Assembly seats this May. Their voices should be heard.

Secondly, the public in Wales deserve as open and inclusive a debate as possible, especially given that the proportional electoral system means there is now a truly multi-party political system in Wales, with a diverse range of viewpoints in the democratic arena.

As well as that, the Assembly is getting more powers. There’s going to be a greater need for scrutiny, including those parties that might join any coalition. Voters should be given a true representation of the options available in May.

Last year’s Westminster TV debates drew in millions of viewers because there was a real debate with clear differences of opinion. It makes for good democracy.

So, here’s the long and short of it: it would be wrong for broadcasters in Wales to exclude the Greens and UKIP. Their support has grown significantly since the last Assembly elections. And both parties are in the race to secure their first Assembly Members this May. It’s only right that they should face the scrutiny of the public and other parties.

Let’s open up these TV debates to reflect the diverse political landscape Wales has today. To exclude serious contenders for seats would be a missed opportunity and would only let down voters.


I’ll be working with Electoral Reform Society Cymru in the run up to the Assembly elections in May.

ERS Cymru will be releasing three mini-manifestos ahead of the Assembly elections, as well as polling, research and seat projections.

Petition to #InviteTheGreens onto Wales TV debates hits 1,000 signatures

petition to persuade the BBC to invite the Greens onto the TV debates in Wales has garnered more than 1,000 signatures in just a week.  

The campaign, launched by Wales Green Party, adds weight to a letter written to BBC Wales last week, noting that “Over the last 12 months, membership of the Wales Green Party has tripled. In May we will be fielding candidates in constituencies across Wales, and already have our candidates for all regional lists. In the most recent polls, the Wales Green Party equalled the support of the Welsh Lib Dems on the regional level.” Activists fear the party is facing a media blackout, despite its growing support.

The petition states that the Wales Green Party is a “serious contender” in the upcoming elections and has “a strong chance of winning its first seat in the Senedd. Despite this, the Wales Green Party has been excluded from participation in recent broadcasts by BBC Wales.”

The campaigners claim that “a proper democracy requires that voters are well informed and can make a proper choice.”

The petition reflects the Green Party of England and Wales’ similar push last year ahead of the May election, when over 280,000 people successfully called for the Greens to be included on the major broadcasters’ televised debates. It arguably spurred on the #GreenSurge – an enormous growth in Green membership and support across the UK.

A spokesperson for Wales Green Party told Bright Green:

“We are the delighted by the wide range of support we have received from people who believe the Wales Green Party should be included in leadership style debates and political programs in the run up to the Welsh Assembly elections.

“We will be presenting the petition to the BBC this week and are awaiting for an official response to the letter Alice Hooker Stroud sent them.”

Think the Welsh Greens should be invited to the debates? Sign the petition here.

Devolution for Wales is good, but where next for the UK?

David Cameron and Nick Clegg were in Wales this morning, announcing further powers to be devolved to the Assembly.

The UK Government is proposing to devolve control over elections to the National Assembly which would see AMs handed power to:

  • Change the voting system for Assembly and local elections
  • Introduce votes at 16 for Assembly and local elections
  • Increase the number of AMs to cope with extra powers devolved since 1999
  • Rename the National Assembly the ‘Welsh Parliament’

Such changes are clearly good news for Wales, bringing power closer to Welsh citizens and paving the way for policies which the Electoral Reform Society (who I work for) has long supported.

Several ERS recommendations have been adopted. Firstly, any change to the ‘rules of the game’ will require the support of at least two-thirds of Assembly Members. This makes sure that these powers require cross-party consensus and that major changes are not used for partisan self-interest.

There are also changes to governance. The Welsh devolution settlement will move to a “Reserved Powers” model, as is the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland, meaning the Welsh Government will have powers over everything except for what it is explicitly stated that it cannot do. This makes it clearer for voters to know who is in charge of what policy area, and makes for clearer and better governance.

But today’s move – including the fact that the government hasn’t been able to offer a comprehensive set of powers – raises again the need for a serious debate over the constitutional future of the UK. We need to decide where power lies, how we democratise our nations and what shape Britain will take in the years ahead.

It’s a debate that needs to be led by citizens – not politicians making back-room deals and delivering powers in dribs and drabs. After the Scottish independence referendum and with more devolution on the cards for Wales, it’s important for the whole of the UK – including particularly those in England – to have their say on our democratic future.

How do we have such a discussion? We need a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention to give people the power to decide our country’s future, rather than Britain arbitrarily drifting from change to change without democratic debate.

Where the UK goes next as a union of nations is as yet unclear. A Constitutional Convention would give us all the chance to discuss where power should lie.

So, a good day for Wales. But where next?

Reposted from my blog for the Electoral Reform Society