Wales politics

Labour should be 'its own best rival', says ex-adviser

Labour AMs in the chamber
Image caption Labour has always been the largest party in the assembly chamber

Labour's dominance of the Welsh assembly could be to blame for a lack of public engagement in Welsh politics, says a former government advisor.

Economist Gerald Holtham said the Senedd was "missing the theatre of democracy".

The comments follow a BBC Wales survey suggesting fewer than half of people in Wales know who runs the health service.

Speaking to the BBC's Wales Report, Prof Holtham said Labour needs "a good political spat, with itself".

Prof Holtham also said a lack of genuine competition from other parties means Welsh Labour would benefit from giving big political personalities room to be themselves.

In his former Welsh government role he was an advisor to the finance minister, and also led a commission reviewing how the Welsh government was funded.

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Media captionFewer than half of people in Wales realise the NHS is the responsibility of the Welsh government, according to a BBC Wales poll

In charge

Labour has been the largest party in the assembly at every election since devolution in 1999 and has been the party of government in Cardiff Bay for the past 15 years - including a coalition with Liberal Democrats in the first assembly, and with Plaid Cymru between 2007 and 2011.

Speaking on the Wales Report programme, Prof Holtham argued that a lack of a "hostile press" in Wales could allow ministers to speak candidly about the issues they face.

"It would help them I think as well as the public if they were really able to really talk about those issues and not pretend everything in the garden was lovely - it's not as if they are facing a really hostile press here that would jump on every cough and splutter and try to make a scandal out of it," he said.

Image caption Gerald Holtham says Cardiff Bay is missing the theatre of democracy

"Devolution hasn't resulted in greater public engagement with politics or the democratic process.

Drama and tension

"Perhaps that's because it's missed out on political excitement, the moments the polls can't predict, the tension of a close race and the drama of heated debate.

"There's never a hint of the internal debate or discussions.

"The bay is missing the theatre of democracy so without much genuine competition Labour needs to be its own best rival.

"Interesting politics attracts interesting personalities - giving them room to express themselves would interest people and make the Welsh government more exciting - then you capture the public's attention and then you can engage the people in debates about what we want for Wales," Prof Holtham added.

The Wales Report can be seen on BBC One Wales on Wednesday, 11 June at 22:35 BST.

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