Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Right to Disagree

I like Councillor David Fouweather, even if I quite often disagree with him. One reason I like him is that he has opinions and isn't afraid to express them. This week he wrote to the Western Mail, outlining his disagreement with Welsh Conservative Party policy on devolution. Fellow blogger, Peter Black describes this rather melodramatically as 'Open Revolt'. Lets examine this proposition a bit further.

David would like to see the National Assembly scrapped. There are a lot of people in Wales, across all parties (except Plaid Cymru) who agree with him. I'm surprised that Peter doesn't know Liberal Democrats who agree with him - because I know some. The only question to be asked is what percentage think devolution should be unwound. Its my belief that its lessening, and that there is no prospect of the Assembly being abolished.

David Fouweather and I were of like mind until the referendum in September '97. But I accepted the result, even if it was only a wafer thin 'Yes' vote on a 50% turnout. As driving home from the Powys count in Llandrindod Wells, I also accepted that the only constitutionally sound devolutionary settlement is full law making powers in devolved areas. It may be that there isn't a majority in our party for either David's opinion or mine. But we are both free to express our opinion. Far from being 'open revolt', that is exactly how it should be.

Tolerance of dissenting opinion is crucial to any political party. In Cameron's Party at Westminster at present, there is a wonderful flowering of ideas driving the Renaissance in Conservative politics. Over the next 12 months there will have to be tough decisions about what becomes 'party policy'. I will be very surprised if I agree with everything - but I will accept the majority opinion. Its called democracy. "So carry on holding your opinions David Fouweather. I don't agree with the contents of your recent letter and I will carry on trying to persuade you otherwise. Mind you, I'd prefer if you didn't write to the Western Mail again until after May 3rd."

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