Friday, February 29, 2008

A Referendum - when.

Just been watching Dragon's Eye where the only issue tonight was whether we should have a referendum on granting law making powers to the National Assembly. Or more accurately, whether we should grant those powers by referendum before or in 2011 - or carry on granting them bit by bit as is happening now. The programme was based on a BBC sponsored poll, published today, which recorded that 49% supported law making powers, while 42% were against. While this confirms a trend in public opinion towards law making powers, the result is far too close for any meaningful prediction to be deduced about the likely result of any referendum.

I have to admit that I found the whole discussion hopelessly confused - and as soon as I saw the studio set-up, I knew it would be. Most of the discussion seemed to be about whether or not law making powers should be granted, in principle. Only David Melding made the crucial point that law making powers are already being granted under the Government of Wales Act (through the back door as David so accurately said). In passing, I have to say how much I detest this meaningless phrase that Mike German uses about giving the Assembly 'the tools to do the job'. Problem is that 7 people discussing an issue in the studio never produces anything sensible. If there were to be a referendum, I hope that there would some more informative debate than the disjointed non-discussion that I've just witnessed.

The only really interesting bit was the interview with Dafydd Iwan. He said "If Labour backtrack over the referendum by 2011, the coalition will be over and done with". Since it looks increasingly likely that there will not be a referendum by 2011,I thought Rhun missed a trick by not majoring in on this comment, particularly since the father of the current act, Peter Hain had said very clearly this afternoon (on BBC) that he couldn't foresee a referendum by 2011. So when is the balloon going to go up? The Lib Dems are already licking their lips.


The Finch said...

Lets have a referendum, and put the whole sorry thing to bed!

Anonymous said...

Contrast the debate on Dragon's Eye with tonight's Question Time from Scotland.

The Scottish Politicians were coherent, argued their case well and made sense answering most questions on national and international issues.

Dragon Eye was a shambles from start to finish most of the participants couldn't string two sentences together and came across as ill informed and lackluste.

When are the parties going to learn that we the public need to inspired to get out and vote and on this evidence im more depressed than ever.

Glyn Davies said...

finch - I don't think a referendum would 'put it to bed', which I take it as you wanting the Assembly abolished. None of the main parties want the aboliton option to be on the ballot paper. Must admit that I was always keen on this option being there, simply because I like everyone to have the opportunity to express their opinion. But I accepted the party 'leadership's' decision to change our position and drop this option.

anon - I too was depressed by the incoherence - but this is what happens when there are so many involved in the discussion, It was very disappointing that David Melding, who is always logically coherent and not one for a shouting match, managed only about 10 words. A question Time format with 4 guests would have been miles better. We might even have learned something.

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn why does the publication of a poll that shows growing support for a referendum make you think holding one is increasingly unlikely? Also I thought Jocelyn Davies and Jane Davidson were both enthusiastic and committed to it? Maybe you are seeing what you want to see?

Your point about Dafydd Iwan is a little pointless if you don’t mind me saying. Why would you be so interested in the fact that Plaid would have to consider other options if a referendum didn’t come? Of course they would? I don’t think there is any secret in that? However the fact remains both parties have signed up to that. Personally if it did not go ahead, and I have more confidence than ever after these results that it will, then Labour would come out the worse. How could anyone trust them then?

The most interesting point of the show for me is that David Davies exposed the huge hypocrisy of Nick Bourne's position. he touts certain lines for the votes that come with it but clearly he does not have the mandate of the party to get the Tories onboard with a Yes Campaign. The Tories are hugly split on this issue whether you would like to admit it or not and it will lead to a serious make or break time for the party in Wales. If you ask me if Rhun missed a trick on anything it was pushing the split between David Davies and David Melding over their individual positions and which one represents the party view.

Glyn Davies said...

che - my view that the referendum will be deferred is nothing to do with what I want, but an observation on the practicalities. To happen, it would have needed a real drive to get the Convention up and active - and this hasn't happened. I also think the recent comments by Paul Murphy and Peter Hain are significant indications of Labour thinking on this.

The reason I thought Dafydd Iwan's comments were so interesting was that he clearly said that the Coalition would end if Labour don't go ahead with the referendum - which increasing numbers of us think will not happen, including those of us who would like it to. I've not heard a leading Plaid member say this in public before.

And the reason I saw nothing noteworthy in the opposing views of the two Davids is that we all knew this before. I was asked about this issue by Radio Cymru yesterday, and expect to be asked again at our Conference on Saturday. While I personally agree with David Melding's position, I'm not particularly concerned about the differing opinions. If the LCO system works as we expect it to, I think those opposed to the progressive devolution which we have now will eventually be the ones asking for the referendum - but not until after 2011 I fear. I have not spoken to David Davies for a while, so I'm not sure whether he favour's a referendum.

Southpaw Grammar said...


Before i post on my own thoughts, which will link yours as there is alot of sense in what you have said, i really wanted to make clear the conservative position. Not a cast iron one, just a feeling...

My own understanding is that there is a general support within the Senedd group that a referendum SHOULD take place, my confusion is to whether they have taken a position regarding whether they will vote yes or no?

I fully understand if they havent reached that decision yet, just wanted to make sure i had some inkling.

A quick aside, i was really interested to hear what David Melding had to say far more than everybody else, who seemed to shout over his often well thought views.

alanindyfed said...

If a referendum does not occur before 2011 Plaid will certainly have to consider its options as it forms a basic element of the One Wales Agreement.
The Scottish politicians are far more coherent, argue their case intelligently and consistently produce results. Their strategy is effective and highly commendable.

DaiTwp said...

I think I with most people agree it was a pretty poor quality production last night.
I would agree with you Glyn that Dafydd Iwan is the 1st "senior" Plaid member to openly state Plaid would leave the coalition if there's no referndum before 2011. At least since the parties began governing together. The tren like you say has been one of backtracking bit by bit and let the LCO process do the job for them.
I'd also agree with Che though about the split in your party and how little was made of it. It's very rare to have two people of very differing views from the same party about the topic under discussion and this not to be even mentioned by the chair.
You talk of no "split" as such - just healthy debate and that you all agree on the principle of a referndum. However I think it's pretty clear that David Davies and others would be very keen to campaign fo a no vote and only intervention and pressure from above would prevent them doing this (at least publicly) and any sign of this intervention has been non-existant so far. This of course is som what understandable - why would Cameron make such an anouncement on a thorny issue (and risk causing a split in the party -at least in Wales)when at the moment there is no need for him to do so and opinion in Wales is still so split (allowing for the general trend towards favouring a yes).
THis is obviously annoying for Plaid in particular as Nick Bourne tries to present a Welsh and devo friendly front as he chases Plaid votes in marginal seats. So I can understand why they try to play up the split (or division of opinion) in the Tory party.
As far as the debate about further powers, like you, I find the most frustrating part is that really the question is not do you think the assembly should get primary powers as it's already doing that through LCO's. THe question is should it get them in one chunk in the devolved areas where by it would be cleary defined and much less messy. Everything else just complicates the issue where in reality there is no complication.

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn if you watched the whole show last night I am sure you will know the answer to the question does David Davies want a referendum. Giving the toys out of the pram approach he took I think it is safe to say that he certainly will not be coming around to further devolution.

I can't see how you can make a big deal about the contrasting views in Labour without accepting the real flaws of a Tory party pushing forward with the pro devolution line whilst the majority of the party are against it. The Tory party is a real mess on this issue.

I accept your point about dafydd Iwan publicly stating it but I guess the reason Rhun didn’t make a big deal out of it is that I am sure no one would expect Plaid to stay in a coalition when the other partner breaks a major commitment. I can’t see why that stance is such a shock. You wouldn’t expect any coalition to stay together if any partner did so. Having said that I still think that the referendum will go ahead and it is a shame that even the pro devolutionists in the Tory party would prefer not to see one and the One Wales Government fail than to accept the fact that this poll shows a drift towards favouring greater powers makes holding a referendum more likely than ever.

Anonymous said...

If their is enough support for a refendum by 2011, I don't really see anything that will stop it, apart from disputes on holding it during or close to an election.

I don't see any secertary of state for Wales actively vetoing it, a Secertary of State vetoing an attempt for a referendum would cause damage to whatever party is in government by 2011, both internally between the Welsh branch and the Westminsiter branch of the party, and also electorally at the Assembly election.

Glyn Davies said...

southpaw - This is a difficult question for me to answer. I don't know what the opinion of Conservative AMs is, and I really don't want to guess, but I sense agreement with what I've been saying openly for years now. In principle, I'm in favour of a referendum by 2011, if there is genuine support for a Yes vote - but it becomes logistically more difficult as time goes on.

Alan - I think that Plaid have boxed themselves into a difficult corner. Elfyn Llwyd is already preparing the ground for a backtrack. It wouldn't surprise me if Dafydd El were to be the next to go public on the argument "Lets give the LCO process more time".

Dai - I'm just surprised that you are surprised that David Melding and David Davies should have such different opinions on this issue. Both have been entirely open about their opinions for many years - and both represent strands of opinion in my party. My point is that this doesn't make much difference now that the 2006 Act is on the Statute Book. Quite a lot of last night's discussion was about whether power should be transferred, which is yesterday's issue. It is being transferred. The issue now is whether it should be transferred by LCO without a referendum, or all together with a referendum. I know perfectly well that David D and many others would prefer law making powers not to transferred, but it may be that at some stage they may start to object to it happening without the people's specific say-so. I would anticipate that if there were to be a referendum, Conservatives would proably be allowed to support either the Yes or No side. I cannot imagine either of the Davids changing their opinion, though I have to admit that I don't actually know what the position will be. There is just nothing new about this stuff. In general, I agree with your assessment of the position.

Che - I don't think we are on quite the same wavelength. I certainly don't think that David D (and the many others who share his position) will want to see a Yes vote or further devolution (though I don't claim to know this with certainty) - but if the LCO process is successful, they may decide that they are opposed to granting law making powers 'through the back door'. We shall have to wait and see.

The difference is that Labour is in power - and has promised a referendum before or in 2011, together with a promise to campaign for a Yes vote. What I've been suggesting is that Plaid itself is starting to accept that there the referendum will be delayed until after 2011, to avoid breaking up the coalition. The key to this is when the Convention begins its work, and the delays only confirm what I'm saying.

You make much of the support for the Yes vote gaining ground, which it is, but only very slightly. I don't think any serious politician would want to go for it while opinion on this is so finely balanced.

Anonymous said...

the debate in dragons eye was badly chaired by Rhun ap Iorwerth He is useless, he didn't give people a change to speak. The setting was all wrong for a serious debate too - two soft couches for heavens sake. Why was the UKIP person there?
I watched the two programmes, hang our heads.
David Melding looked as if he was going to sleep it was so boring
I don't think they should wheel David Davis out all the time, to me he is not a reflection of what the Conservatives in Wales are all about. He is very right wing.
The debate was a non starter on Dragons Eye.
I don't think the public in Wales are really interested in a referendum. The debate remains wit a very targeted audience

sir humphrey said...

Never mind the state of welsh politics compared to scotland, the welsh media, including dragons eye (and of course the western mail) is very poor and needs a good shake up.
As for the actual issue of a referendum, well I am a dyed in the wool suporter of the Assembly, but until what we have improves in terms of representatives, policies, finance and governance, I cannot possibly support any extra powers.
There is no rush.

DaiTwp said...

Sounds good old Lord Roberts will be chairing the conservative own review on the "mood" of the party over devolution.
An excellent touch finder which will prevent the ball fromcoming back in play until at least the summer.

Glyn Davies said...

vm - Agree with a lot of what you say, but you are being unfair to Rhun. He didn't have a chance with that number of panallists in such a short time.

sir humphrey - you seem to miss the crucial point, as well as most other people. Law making powers are being transferred to the Assembly under the 2006 Government of Wales Act now - and without a referendum. The debate is not about whether, but about how and what pace, and whether the people should have a say in a referendum.

daitwp - Well Yes! But the summer is just around the corner. If this had been a delaying tactic it would be reporting until next year.