Talk of overstretched politicians won’t inspire the public to back a bigger, more powerful parliament.

More politicians are a good thing for Welsh democracy.

For years this has been chanted rather than whispered at fringe events hosted by Plaid Cymru, though the most important shift in the campaign for Senedd reform happened last weekend. 

Welsh Labour delegates at the party's conference showed overwhelming support for plans to increase the number of parliamentarians to at least 80, with a proportional voting system to match.

Mark Drakeford has another convincing mandate to press on but the road ahead is not primed with red roses.

“Just remember,” the Welsh Conservatives tweeted to remind us ahead of the Llandudno gathering. “That as the Welsh Labour conference is about to kick-off, that Mark Drakeford has cosied up to the nationalists to focus on pet projects, rather than the people's priorities.”

The accompanying poster – titled creatively as the ‘Price of Drakeford’ – had the usual barbs: Welsh Labour was focused on “toxic” taxes, “biased” constitutional reports and “toothless” institutions.

READ MORE: Tories say Drakeford has 'habit of needing hand held by nationalists'

We might scowl, hiss and cringe at such protests but it is messaging that resonates.

The peoples’ “priorities” of helping pupils catch-up, fixing the backlog in the NHS and an economic recovery plan will be more pressing in the daily lives of working families.

Meanwhile, the only time when the Welsh parliament actually grabs attention is when Mr Drakeford is criticising the UK Government and asking for more powers. The narrative is one that can stick.

It comes as policy experts in Cardiff are clear as to why more Senedd members is not only a logical argument but common sense.

Welsh parliamentarians, as they have become, are overstretched and sit on various committees. This makes scrutiny of Welsh Government haphazard.

MSs often represent vast geographic areas, with constituency duties that are extensive.

For Welsh Labour politicians, combine that with ministerial responsibilities, too. The current settlement is not fit for purpose: 60 Welsh politicians, compared to 129 in Holyrood and 90 in Stormont, is disproportionate to the demands of a modern democratic nation in the UK.

READ MORE: Peredur Owen Griffiths on the health of Welsh democracy

Panicked unionists ignore this. Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, they say, are hellbent on nation-building at a cost of well over £10 million. Listen to their diatribes now. “What a waste of money!” they scream. “All for the sake of creating what Mark Drakeford and his helper, Adam Price, really want: an independent Wales run by the devocratic class.”

The latter may indeed see more politicians in Cardiff as a stepping stone to an independent nation. And, of course, a bigger and more powerful parliament is, naturally, tied up with Welsh Labour’s emboldened desire to create a distinctive political entity.

That may worry those further afield in SW1 but the public have embraced greater devolution over two decades; and have decided to recently re-elect a governing party that is confident in its own individual Welsh identity.

This is not to underestimate the challenge of steering through Senedd and wider electoral reforms by 2026. Particularly with the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the wider economic reverberations we are only starting to feel globally, the call for more politicians and an enhanced parliament will be technically complex to implement and challenging to position to the public.

Political think-tanks and academic researchers have made the case for why it must happen now. But little of this will cut through to the public, especially if coupled with Welsh Conservative complaints and anti-devolution messaging that lingers in London newspapers.

READ MORE: Wales TUC blasts Cardiff Capital Region low graduate pay boast 'depressing'

Therefore, the emphasis in discussions between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru over how best to deliver reforms should also consider demonstrating the move not only as a good thing for Wales, but as a necessity for the Senedd to deliver better results for the electorate.

Not all of those “priorities” the Welsh Conservatives identified in their poster will be solved by more politicians. Actually, particularly more than other countries, in Wales it is about ensuring there are not too many bureaucrats yn y siop siarad.

Greater powers flowing to Cardiff, however, demand more hands-on deck.

Delivery, nauseatingly overused as a political mantra, has to become the focus of Welsh devolution this decade; the case for more politicians, a more proportionate electoral system and enhanced Senedd should be one of its core foundations. Otherwise, amidst the policy debates and electoral technicalities, the potential of a bigger parliament may be lost on the public.

To paraphrase Ron Davies, reforming the Senedd is a process not an event.

Since it emerged in 1999, the assembly-cum-parliament has undergone gradual change.

From new powers to different represented parties, you only need to look beyond the bland surface of daily Welsh politics to find an institution, once branded as a glorified county council, that represents the confidence of a nation-at-large. The next challenge for its current leaders is to ensure it moves forwards, not backwards.

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