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Clause 2 — Removal of restriction on standing for election for both constituency — and electoral region

Part of Wales Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 24th June 2014.

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Photo of Siân James Siân James Labour, Swansea East 4:45 pm, 24th June 2014

I wish to speak briefly in support of amendment 13 and against the removal of clause 2. I oppose dual candidacy simply because if a candidate is not elected by a constituency under the first-past-the-post system, it cannot be right for them to be elected under the list system. If the electorate have rejected someone once as their first-choice candidate, it is not acceptable for them to have the opportunity to re-enter the game through the back door. In mainstream society people get one chance at a job; if they are not successful at an interview, they have to accept the decision and they do not go back squealing to the prospective employers saying, “Can we change the rules now? Can I possibly be appointed under different criteria or under a different set of interview processes?” Things should be no different for politicians. There should be no swapping or alternatives; it should be the same for everybody.

Let us examine the attitudes towards dual candidacy. We have heard a lot of pooh-poohing of the Bevan Foundation’s inquiry and report, but my constituency took part in that inquiry and I did not see any party members participating; those who participated all came from local community groups and pensioners groups, were not affiliated to any particular party and were not aligned to any political point of view. Some of them were sceptical about devolution and the political process, whereas others were very supportive of it. Those who participated sent a clear message saying, “We are really concerned about the way politicians are behaving on the dual list system and about what is happening.”

The report found that more respondents said that

“dual candidacy was unfair compared with those who felt candidates should be free to stand in both.”

Someone who was interviewed said:

“I think it is unfair…It’s like people can sneak in the back door.”

Another said:

“It seems unfair in a way, surely if they weren’t popular enough they shouldn’t be able to get in.”

There has also been international criticism of the dual candidacy idea. Moves have been made to improve things in New Zealand and in Canada, and Canadian research states:

“Voters are displeased with the case where a candidate is not successful in a single member constituency, but is elected anyway by virtue of being placed on the top of a party’s list.”

In further support of my argument, I give the example of the unfairness—this has already been mentioned by colleagues—in the Clwyd West constituency. It puzzles most people in Wales that it was possible for all four candidates on the first-past-the post list to end up being elected. When I got into politics, a very wise old bird told me, “Siân, don’t get into politics if you’re not prepared to lose, because there’s only one winner.” We have totally turned that on its head with devolution and now anyone can be a winner, as long as they are at the top of their party’s list. I think the public find that difficult to understand and they are puzzled by it.