When I told my fellow Senedd members of my intention to stand for the role of Diprwy Llywydd (Deputy Presiding Officer), the general reaction was, ‘why on earth do you want to do that?’. The post doesn’t allow the holder to speak in the chamber during debates, nor ask questions of ministers.

My purpose was to try and press the case for the reform of the Senedd. Such a task requires a relatively apolitical approach and the deputy presiding office suits that nicely. 

In the event I lost the vote by 35 votes to 24. I’m informed that the Plaid group of 13 voted against me almost en-masse, because I’d had the temerity to win the Caerphilly seat with an increased majority and it was thought unwise to provide me with a further platform.

This was rather short sighted, given that I was advocating the abolition of the current dysfunctional constituency/top-up list system by which the 2021 election took place.  

Plaid though have a right to feel aggrieved. I won Caerphilly with 46% of the vote, slightly short of an overall majority. Welsh Labour as a whole was elected to government on just about 40 per cent of the Wales wide vote, taking 50 per cent of the seats.

If the Labour Group had not contested either the Llywydd or Diprwy Llywydd election then they could have attempted to manufacture a majority of one. Fortunately, backbench Labour members were not keen to countenance that.   

My argument for reform has always started with how we elect our Senedd Members. The hard work of finding a new system has already been done by an expert panel led by Professor Laura McAllister. The panel advocates ‘a single transferable vote system, with the flexibility to elect 80 to 90 members on the basis of multimember constituencies’.

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Such an approach should allow the allocation of seats to reflect the percentage of votes cast. Allied with more members, it gives all parties a stronger voice and enables greater scrutiny of government. If you were a minister, what would be easier- fewer or more members watching and questioning you?  

Both the Senedd and the Welsh Government are underpowered. I am amazed for example that we have only one person responsible for all aspects of education policy in Wales. Similarly, opposition spokespeople double up as committee chairs. With those two roles being very different, there are often conflicts.

The Welsh Government can take a lead. They will establish a commission to examine the constitutional arrangements within which Welsh democracy exists. However, reference to the Senedd itself has been notably limited. Instead the focus seems to be around ‘radical federalism’, which, as good an idea as it is, will require UK wide agreement. 

During the pandemic, Mark Drakeford understood exactly the extent and limits to his authority. He didn’t under reach; never were difficult decisions left to the Westminster government.

Nor did he overreach; for example, following a UK approach on foreign travel. Yet now the Welsh Government seems to be doing both; overreaching towards federalism and underreaching by not fully grasping the chance to build a better parliament.

It is fine to have high ambition but unfortunate to ignore the opportunity for change when it’s directly in front of you.

As the mid-point of the Sixth Senedd gets closer, all eyes will turn to the next election. Debates will become more hostile and consensus that much harder to achieve. It looks therefore that we have around two years to create a parliament that works for Wales.

That time will pass quickly and so then too will the chance to re-imagine our democracy.

Hefin Wyn David is Member of the Senedd for Caerphilly.