“Can a coalition government work in peacetime? Discuss”. That was a favourite history examination question sometime last century. It arose following a successful wartime coalition; but dismal performances by “National Governments” in the 1930s.

The question arises from Westminster’s “winner-takes-all” casino-type electoral system and may not be relevant to Wales.

Our Senedd has a partial proportional system. Forty constituency members are directly elected. Twenty additional members are elected from regional lists to compensate parties who get fewer directly elected members than their vote justifies.

The present system generates two classes of members and gives political parties more clout than the voters in selecting regional members.

The 1997 referendum assumed ongoing proportional representation: no-one suggests that this should be ditched. But to have stability and far-reaching representation provided by a proportionate system, Wales needs a more co-operative approach.

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Robert Owen, of Newtown (1771-1858), was the father of the co-operative movement. It would be consistent with Welsh social values if this approach underpinned the number of Senedd members and how they are elected.

With sixty members, it’s amongst the smallest legislatures in the world. Scotland’s parliament has 129 members. Northern Ireland has ninety. Even county councils in Wales have more members – Cardiff, Gwynedd and Rhondda-Cynon-Taf have 75 elected members.

Far more relevant is the principle that “form follows function”. The National Assembly, elected in 1999, had no primary law-making or direct tax-raising powers. Over the past decade, the transfer of such powers has made it our Senedd. Its function has changed: it’s now a fully-fledged legislature.

So we need certainty that the scrutinising role of Senedd members matches such responsibilities. And, quite frankly, they don’t. The conversion of policy into detailed legislation – in health, education, housing and planning - is a huge responsibility. Get it wrong and innocent people suffer.

Current Senedd committees are desperately small, giving little scope to ensure experience, ability, specialisation and geographic perspective. Our Senedd should have at least ninety members. As Wales’ voice at Westminster is being decimated, it’s now time to grasp this issue.

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Such change should also consider the Senedd’s election system. I personally would back the single transferable vote – a system used in Ireland and Australia, and which has been recommended for Welsh local government.

But whatever the size of our Senedd, and by whichever system of proportional elections it is elected, it’s unlikely that one party will ever sweep the board.

Consequently, parties will always need to seek mutually acceptable programmes of government. The current discussions between Adam Price and Mark Drakeford should be seen in that context – the emergence of grown-up politics in Wales.

It should be seen as an exciting new opportunity; and we should all put our minds together to make it work.

Coalition governments may be impossible at Westminster in peacetime. But our Senedd isn’t constrained by the gratuitously polarised Westminster system. It is an arena in which cooperation can find its true home.

Devolution was about enabling us to do things in our own way, based on our own values. So let’s get on with it!

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