The Welsh Assembly has renamed itself. It is now a Parliament – the cherry on top of the cake for the devolution fanatics in Cardiff Bay.
It has been an eventful couple of months for the Welsh Government. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to dominate proceedings but, squeezed in between this crucially important business, Assembly politicians have been nodding through drastic changes that will affect Wales in future elections.
Labour were forced to “shelve” their plans to give prisoners the vote in Wales – evidently a top priority in the current climate. However, largely unreported was that foreign nationals and 16-17 year olds have been gifted the right to vote by the Assembly. Some might suggest that Labour politicians are drastically trying to shore up their voting base ahead of next year’s Assembly elections (but, of course, we wouldn’t be that cynical...).
Elections are very much on the mind of politicians. Today marked exactly one year until the next elections to the Welsh Assembly. No one can excuse the Labour Party for feeling a little nervous, not when you look at their record. After 20 years of devolution in Wales, more and more people are aware of the Assembly’s record on the health service, education, incomes, and poverty. In this term alone, the Assembly has green lit deeply controversial measures. Against the majority of public opinion, Bay politicians voted through a second Brexit Referendum, the smacking ban, votes for non-British citizens, and minimum pricing of alcohol.
It should come as no surprise that, unlike previous elections, this Assembly term will end with one party in the Senedd arguing for the institution to be scrapped. Today, UKIP launched its election countdown on social media: “12 months to Save Wales and Scrap the Assembly”. As the polls show, a record number of voters now support UKIP’s policy to hold a referendum calling for an end to the “Cardiff Bay Gravy Train”.
As the Assembly crowns itself a Parliament, 2020 could prove to be the high watermark for devolution. Next year, Welsh voters will pass their verdict on two decades of governance from Cardiff Bay and the results could be something of a surprise!
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