The Welsh Government has opened up an exciting new front in the row over trans issues, after leaked documents revealed that it was planning to classify transwomen as women for the purposes of its new electoral legislation.
As part of Cardiff Bay’s plan for a radical overhaul of elections to the Senedd, ministers intend to scrap the current system, a combination of constituency seats and so-called top-up regional lists, with a full-fat list system.
Crucially, and why the trans decision matters, they also propose to mandate that every party should be forced to propose an equal number of male and female candidates for election.
(The proposals also naturally include adding another 36 MSs to the Welsh legislature, 60 apparently not being enough to partially govern a principality of just over three million people.)
For its part, the Welsh Government insists that the draft legislation has been changed since the leaked version, although it won’t be drawn on precisely what has changed.
Although David TC Davies, the Welsh Secretary, has expressed concern about the plans, there doesn’t yet seen to be any prospect of Westminster intervention. Whilst Mark Drakeford has previously expressed support for a self-ID system like that which Nicola Sturgeon proposed for Scotland, presumably any identification for the purposes of the new system would be based on the current framework.
But whilst it naturally gets the most oxygen, the trans row merely highlights the way our current, laissez-faire approach to the constitution lets the devocrats rewire our institutions.
It’s one thing to create a devolved legislature to discharge various functions; quite another to give it so much control over how it constitutes itself. Given that the constitution is a reserved area, it would have been (and indeed would still be) perfectly sensible to have issues such as electoral systems, legislature size, and the voting age, set by Westminster to maintain some baseline of national uniformity.
At present, the Welsh Conservatives are opposed to expanding the Senedd. One can only hope this attitude endures once they’ve got their share of the new seats.
New poll puts SNP in the danger zone
It’s remarkable what a difference two years can make. Back then, Labour were polling third in Scotland, behind the Conservatives. Now a poll from YouGov has them two points ahead, and another from Redfield & Wilton has them neck-and-neck with the Nationalists.
Projecting either result onto the new boundaries would see the SNP haemorrhaging seats, with Election Maps UK forecasting they would end the night with just 11 or 12. It wouldn’t take the gap to widen much farther to start edging into actual wipe-out territory – and there’s another year yet to go.
Significantly, both projections also see the Conservatives advancing, in one doubling their share to 12 seats. This tracks with the optimism I picked up from the Scottish Tories in Manchester; whilst Labour’s revival hurts their chances of remaining the second party, an SNP slump would leave them well-placed to pick up constituencies where the Conservative candidate is currently best-placed to unseat the Nationalist.
Unless Humza Yousaf can engineer a revival of his party’s fortunes – and there’s nothing on the horizon to auger one, not least with the police investigation into his party’s finances rumbling on – we could see the SNP crash down to earth as brutally as they swept away the pro-UK parties in their 2015 landslide. First Past the Post giveth, and First Past the Post taketh away.