Shake-Out in the Senedd

Around a third of today’s faces that stare out of the National Assembly’s publicity photographs will not be there following the 2011 election. It will be the biggest shake-out of the Assembly’s membership since it was inaugurated a decade ago. And the main change will be within the Labour Group. The fact that Labour holds nearly all the marginal seats in Wales means their number could drop from today’s 26 to around 20 or less, with approaching half of the remaining seats being represented by new people.

Today’s announcement by Andrew Davies that he will not be fighting his Swansea West seat brings the tally of Labour AMs standing down in safe seats to eight. As well as Davies the following have so far announced they will not be standing: Rhodri Morgan, Cardiff West; Karen Sinclair, Clwyd South; Jayne Davidson, Pontypridd; Lorraine Barrett, Cardiff South and Penarth; Brian Gibbons, Aberavon; Irene James, Islwyn; and Val Lloyd, Swansea East.

Marginals where Labour will struggle to survive in 2011 include the Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, Delyn, Clwyd South, Newport East, and Gower. In addition the Mid and West Wales List member Alun Davies has announced he will not be standing there and has opted instead to fight Independent Trish Law in Blaenau Gwent.

In the other parties Mick Bates, the Liberal Democrat member for Montgomery, has announced he will not be standing; the Tories only hold one real marginal, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire; while Plaid Cymru could have two new List members – Dafydd Wigley in North Wales and Adam Price in South Wales West – because the party has changed its rule requiring a woman to be placed first on the Regional Lists.

It seems inevitable, therefore that there will be a major culture shift within the Assembly’s membership following 2011. There will be fewer women to start with, since of the eight Labour members which have announced they will not be standing, five are women and two of these have already been replaced by male candidates. Plaid Cymru are likely to lose two women from their Group who will be replaced by men.

Labour will be the party most affected. It gene pool for selecting Cabinet members will be significantly reduced, both in numbers and experience.

Taken together these changes hold out the promise of renewal in the calibre of the Assembly’s membership, but also underline the vulnerability of an institution which only has 60 members. It is another argument for moving to the 80 members the Senedd has been designed to hold.

John Osmond is Director of the IWA

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