Sunday, March 02, 2008

I Want A Referendum

Truly amazing result - no matter how much the pro-EU media tries to play it down. 36.8% of people eligible to vote in Aberconwy turned out, 86.25 of them wanted a referendum on whether Britain should sign up to the treaty which will establish an EU Constitution, and 87.9% of them said they would vote No. The astonishing figure of10,700 people in Aberconwy turned out to vote.

The referendum was arranged by an organisation called 'I Want A Referendum' and it was overseen by Electoral Reform Services. This is the second post tonight where I have noted the heroically pathetic nature of a politician trying to rubbish an important development. This time it was Wayne David MP. His comments can be seen on BBC Online.

There seem to be two lines of attack comprising the Government's strategy to undermine this referendum result. The first is that not everyone was entitled to vote - which is true. I would like everyone to have had a vote, but it wasn't legally possible. Because the referendum wasn't approved by the Government, there wasn't access to the full electoral roll. I'm told that about 34% of voters tick the box that says they don't want their names to be passed on to those who ask for the full list of voters. A pity - but there is absolutely no reason to think the 34% who do tick the 'privacy' box would vote any differently from the 66% who don't.

The second line of attack is that its a 'Tory' referendum - despite some of the organisers being Labour MPs! This seems to be based on the fact that the 10 referendums that have been held so far are all in Labour and Lib Dem held seats. Well, of course they are stupid. Its Labour and the Lib Dems who have reneged on their manifesto promises to hold a referendum. There has been a totally unjustified amount of publicity given to 5 Conservative MPs who have said they are against a referendum, the latest being John Bercow. They just don't think referendums are an appropriate constitutional mechanism. Well, they may be right. But that is not what this issue is about. Its about the trust in politicians that David Cameron was talking about yesterday, and honesty in our political process. A referendum was promised by all major parties - and Labour and the Lib Dems broke that promise in a deliberate and shameful way. The group, I Want A Referendum, have exposed this great deception, and an astonishing number of voters have turned out to express their disapproval.


Nigel Roberts said...

Given that apathy landed us with the assembly, I am sure that given a chance we would have no such repetition second time around.
I therefore look forward to being able to ask my vote as to whether the assembly should be given more law making powers.
I suppose it is too much to ask for a referendum on it's continuing existence.

Glyn Davies said...

Nigel - At present, there is not any suggestion that any referendum should include the 'abolition' option. At the last General Election, the Conservative manifesto promised a 'preferendum' with linked powers to numbers of MPS. Leave it at 40 if the Asembly were to be scrapped, a cut to 32 if it were to be left as it was then, or a cut to 26 if law making powers were to be granted. I was content with this policy, but it was changed after the Election. Now its likely that there would be only 2 options - leaving things as they are with power being transferred on an incremental basis, or law making powers in devolved subject areas being granted all at once. I don't know whether there is any likelihood of reference to MP numbers this time around. And there are several other tangential issues as well that Lord Roberts could make recommendations about. Of coure, its possible that he may come up with something different.

Stuart Rendel said...

Although any referendum will not include the abolition question ,any'no' vote to more law making powers will set the devolution project back years. This is why those in favour of more powers are so relunctant to go for a referendum at the earliest opportunity. The opinion polls are too close to call and there are real worries about the silent majority who did not take part in either the 1997 referndum or subsequent assembly elections. In the present anti politcs atmosphere anything could happen. Ironicallly the best chance of a 'yes' vote is a Tory government in Westminster. Any referendum held whilst the present Labour government is in power could produce a really interesting result. If Ken Livingstone loses in London in May don't expect any enthusiasm for a referendum from Labour.

Nigel Roberts said...

Thank you for your informative reply.

Anonymous said...

In any case, take the chance and vote at

Glyn Davies said...

stuart - Agreed. There will not be a referendum unless there is a very high probability of a Yes vote - because you are correct in that a No vote would bring an end to the momentum that the current constitution is giving to the devolution process. Even though, theoretically, a No vote would leave the current position in place, it would strengthen the arm of those who might wish to resist the passage of a Legislative Competence Order. For some time I have predicted that it may well be that the devo-sceptics may want the referendum, while the enthusiasts may be content with the current position. It will be really interesting to see what happens with the Welsh Language Act LCO when it finally emerges.

Crabwall said...

I hate the expression "devolution project". It sounds like a conspiracy.

It really is a one-way ratchet though. Plaid Cymru won't be satisfied until the country is broken up.

Glyn Davies said...

crabwall - Sorry. I don't like it either. I'll try not to use it again. But it is a one-way street, which is why its easy to fall into the trap. And I always thought it would be a one-way street since the referendum in 1997. I do not believe the current position is sustainable or stable. Any position between abolition and a law making Assembly (in devolved subject areas that is) is unstable. This is what makes the whole thing look a bit like a process.

There are many Plaid members who do want to destroy the UK, but not all of those currently supporting them share this view. Many Plaid supporters used to vote Conservative, continue to right-of-centre, and vote Plaid simply because they think we empathise less that they do with cultural issues. We've done a lot to change this perception. Over the last few years I've tried to persuade those people to come back to us.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I Approve This Message (3 times)

Glyn: the Conservative Party has clear blue water here. Also, the now dated and out of date argument that Labour politicians will make about how nasty the Conservative Party are. Recall that the Welsh Lib-Dems and Plaid Cymru were up to do a deal with the Conservative Party (Rainbow coalition, which the Welsh Lib Dems blew up).

On at least two fronts then, the CP has an edge. The referendum being the sharper edge (for now). If the Welsh CP (WCP) can develop a third edge (in terms of the Welsh economy), then vola, a tripled edged sword.

Three is a good number; it’s the first prime number after 1.

Recall that Plato, "split the soul into three parts: the appetitive, the spirited, and the rational". (See, e.g., Wikipedia's entry on "3 number").

The WCP could do no worse than applying Plato's logic to winning the next WAG election.

Essays are written in three parts, the beginning, the middle bit, and the end bit. It seems a natural way to win the next WAG election.

Why spend thousands of pounds with a PR agency to generate ideas, when there is Plato sitting there along with 3 (the number)?!?

crabwall said...

This devolution business is very depressing. I feel a stranger in my own country. I will move to England if it gets any worse.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

This 'I Want A Referendum' is great. The CP should pull out all stops to promise a Referendum on the Treaty if they are elected. This is a sure fire winner for the CP - the Lib-Dems and Labour have been caught out lying to the public on an issue that the Public clearly care about. Cameron has it 'bang on'. Even if Gordon Brown, the great pretender, adopts this policy too and goes for a referendum the damage is done. Gordon Brown is not fit for purpose and should be disposed of ASAP by way of a national election. I am a natural Labour man, but I no longer recognize Gordon Brown's government as a Labour Government, they are a bunch of charlatans.

Glyn Davies said...

crabwall - I'm afraid there is no escape, because devolution applies as much to England as it does to Wales! Whenever a power is devolved to Wales, it is automatically devolved to England. There remains an anomoly here in that MPs from Wales and Scotland still have an involvement in deciding on policies which apply only to England - an issue that will eventually have to be addressed. The one consolation I offer you is that so much of life is nothing to do with politics. If I try to identify a basis for my own political philosophy, its that you should be even less troubled by politics.

christopher - couldn't have put it better myself.

Matt Wright said...

The current debate is not actually about devolution its about what form of centralisation might advantage which party. The public are sick of it. Its time to put the people first and have real devolution ie return power to communities and families wherever possible.

alanindyfed said...

I agree with the last comment, and would like to add that unless the major parties take note of the mood of the public they are going to see a big change in the composition of local and county councils.
Another point is that the independents are often Tories in disguise and they even enter into alliances with the Labour majority which in my opinion should not be allowed (e.g. Carmarthenshire C.C. and Burry Port LC). Let Independents be truly independent or not at all!

Glyn Davies said...

matt - point accepted. There are always debates about where power lies - and always will be. Currently we have power being transferred from Westminster to Brussels and the devolved governments. And power is being transferred from local government to the devolved administrations as well. We are both Conservatives and instictively want less power vested in all of them, and genuine power transferred to individuals and communities. But perhaps the biggest change in where power lies is the transfer of power to global business. Over the years, I have rather approved of this trend, but its in danger of going too far.

alan - there is no such thing as a genuine independent. If anyone wants to have influence they almost always have to create alliances. In Powys there are two supposedly 'independent' groups who vote as groups. What earthly difference is this from political party groups?

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

"Another day, another Lib-Dem car smash".

The news wires and blogs (e.g., see John Redwood's remarks) are predicting another "car smash up" for Clegg and his Lib-Dem party ... this time in the Upper House. Same topic (EU treaty), different venue.

PS ... coming sooner or later ... USA/Canada/Mexico are going to merge currencies ... Merodollar or something like that. Canada is the #1 supplier of oil to the USA, and Mexico vies for the #2 spot. South/North highways going to be designated as a Mexico/Canada trade route, Mexican trucks will ply the route to take loads to/from Canada/Mexico.