Answering the Clwyd West Question

Forget the West Lothian question.

Consider instead the Clwyd West question, posed on the night of the Assembly election back in 2003 when the four main parties fielded four candidates and every single one of them won.

How come? Because the three losers won a seat in the Assembly by also standing on their parties' regional list. In fact, they really couldn't lose. Failing to win the seat would almost inevitably mean a gain on the list - and that, Labour decided, was a cardinal sin against democracy and proof that the system they introduced in 1999 was flawed. Their candidate, Alun Pugh won Clwyd West incidentally, but he would have been the only one of the four who didn't have the list parachute ready to open.

By the time we next elected AMs, Labour had used the 2006 Government of Wales Act to ban dual candidacy.

Come off it, howled the other parties. Clwyd West was less proof of the need for a shake-up than an excuse for a shameful, partisan change to the electoral system that was introduced to benefit Labour. Now that they can, they intend to change it back.

This was the Welsh Secretary, David Jones, speaking this morning:

"The changes made in 2006 were really partisan changes, that were put in place to favour the Labour party. That is what we are rectifying now. We're rectifying it to reintroduce the system that existed back in 1999, which I think most parties apart from the Labour party thought was fair and which importantly, respected political commentators thought was fair."

And this was the unrepentant former Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain:

"This doesn't affect any particular party, in any way that discriminates against other parties. This seems to me to be a fundamental principle of democracy. If the voters don't want you and reject you, you shouldn't still defy their wishes and become and Assembly member. That is party blind. You shouldn't be able to lose and then win. What sort of democracy is that?"

The sort of democracy that would now allow Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, to keep to her word and fight for a constituency seat in 2016, but - just in case - keep her name right there at the top of the regional list.

Is that what she will choose to do?

Hedging her bets would certainly draw derision from her political opponents. It may not impress the voters either who might argue that your head is either on the block - or frankly, nowhere near it. Then again deciding not to hedge her bets could put a party leader out of a job. Brave but bust.

If 30 of the 60 AMs are delighted with David Jones' announcement on dual candidacy, they'll be less pleased, I suspect, with his views today on the debate over whether that 60 should be expanded to 80.

"There is a lot of spare capacity in the Assembly," he told my colleague David Cornock. "They could sit longer. At the moment plenary sessions are very short. Broadly speaking the working week at the Assembly is two and a half days. There is plenty of scope for them to emulate Westminster sitting hours."

Not quite so welcome, perhaps.