Sunday, March 30, 2008

A man in denial

Wales' Deputy First Minister has been addressing his party activists this week at a Spring Conference in Newport. (I keep an interest in what Plaid Cymru are saying and doing because they took so many traditional Conservative voters, and I want them back.) OK, so we have to make allowances for the fact he's talking to party activists, where a certain amount of 'Good News' spin is understandable , but there's a limit. Matt Withers reports in today's Wales on Sunday that according to Ieuan Wyn Jones, the referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly before 2011 is still on track. Pull the other one, Ieuan. You'll remember that this was the issue which persuaded Plaid Cymru to throw in their lot with Labour after the Assembly elections last May. It seems that both First Minister, Rhodri Morgan and he, Ieuan Wyn Jones intend to honour the agreement to have a referendum by 2011 - no messing. And both Labour and Plaid campaigning for a Yes vote as well. That was the deal. He says he genuinely believes it will still happen. About as much chance as Wrexham FC have of being promoted to Division One I'd say.

And then I noticed the qualifier - "That's provided of course that we're satisfied that we can win it". So that's the referendum gone then . The truth is that all the body language coming out of Plaid Cymru's leadership know that the referendum before 2011 is dead in the water. Its just that Ieuan is afraid to tell his party members. The 'Deal' is turning out to be 'No Deal'.

And then Matt goes on to cover the tittle tattle and rumours there's been about 'Coalition Splits'. It seems that the Deputy First Minister has no idea where these stories come from. Now , the easiest way to find out where rumours come from is to work out who benefits. Call me cynical if you like, but the biggest beneficiary from these rumours is Plaid Cymru itself. We are entering a Local Government campaign, and Plaid would like to put a bit of distance (at least in voter's minds) between itself and its coaloition partners, the deeply unpopular Labour Party. This talk of disagreements could be very useful indeed to Plaid candidates on the doorsteps of Wales next month. I hope this ploy doesn't work, and that they all vote Tory instead.


Anonymous said...

glyn, have you seen the promo video on the ibw website? just looking at it today and wondering why and what it means on a website to assist welsh companies to export and overseas companies to invest in wales. its dire.

MH said...

Never mind Glyn. Although I don't hold out much hope for Wrexham staying in the league, I'm STILL quite sure the Parliament referendum is on course for 2010.

And I'm also quite sure it we'll get a "Yes". Which is (I trust ;-) the outcome you'll be campaigning for too ... so why make such an issue out of it?

If you're feeling left out, why not try doing a little bit of positive campaigning for the local elections? Or has David Cameron not come up with any policies yet ... so you're left to pick up scraps like this from Wales on Sunday?

Come on, you're just about the closest thing Wales has got to the proverbial "decent Tory", so you can do better than this. Try working on policies that are specifically Welsh, rather than thinking that what Westminster comes up with is automatically applicable here. Think "clear blue water". Long term, that's your party's only chance for success in Wales.

Yes, I'm sure we (I'm speaking as a member of Plaid) took votes away from you, and that would hurt. But I think we hurt Labour more, and they'll still be our main opponents in May. I'm looking forward to capitalizing on the woes of this "deeply unpopular Labour Party", and I'm sure we will benefit from that unpopularity more than you.

Glyn Davies said...

mh - I just cannot see it. I do indeed support the principle of law making powers being granted where a subject area is devolved. But it also seems to me that there has been such a lack of commitment to this by the Coalition since last May that the possibility of it happening has all but dissappeared. I also think that the hangover from the badly handled AM salary increase has made a Yes vote much less likely. But we shall see. I'm surprised you dismiss this story as a 'scrap'. Its half of the governing coalition making a public statement about how we are to be governed, which I just don't believe. Of course its a story, but I can well understand you not wanting anyone to point it out.

I am indeed taking a role in the Local Government campaign, and we are hoping that for the first time, there will be a Conservative Group on Powys County Council after May.

Stuart Rendel said...

Odd story today about Lembit Opik not declaring income over the past 3 years. What is even stranger is that he was paid in cash not by cheque.

Stuart Rendel said...

All money at this stage is on 2010 being the date for the next UK election. There will not be a referendum if this is the case. The problem with many of those who believe in more powers is that they seem to live in a rose tinted world. The simple fact is that it isn't an issue with most voters at the moment. They are interested in service delivery and many believ rightly or wrongly that the Assembly isn't delivering in so many areas. Those who argue for 2010 should remember what happened in 1979 when a referendum was held at the fag end of an unpopular Labour government's term of office. The real problem is that no one actually knows how the voters who didn't bother to vote in 1997 and haven't shown much interest in Assembly elections since will react. There is unfortunately a real divide between 'political Wales' and 'real Wales'. Political Wales reads the Western Mail, watches and listens to BBC Wales and is interested in the Assembly. Real Wales gets its news through digital TV, if it reads a paper it is the Sun and really hasn't got a clue what is happening down the Bay.Rather than attending seminars with the usual suspects on future powers for the Assembly ' Political Wales' needs to get out a bit more just as you seem to be doing Glyn and meet ordinary people and then the political class might understand the issues that concern the average voter.Voters will vote for more powers for the Assembly if they are convinced that it will lead to better services. The concept of the 'GMTV voter' which is replacing Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman is just as relevant to Wales as it is to the rest of the UK.

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn if I didn't know you better I would think you wanted the referendum not to happen. There is a commitment in the coalition to says a referendum will happen. Both parties have signed up to it. There is no reason to believe that won’t happen as much as you would like to stir otherwise.

The sad fact for you is that for all the rumours the only people that have publicly called for it not to happen is Labour MP's and the Tory party. You still have no policy on the matter and so I seriously think that as it stands it is hard to take your views on the referendum seriously as they are not based on politics you can implement. You have stated in another post that you would always side with the party so if your party is not in favour of a referendum I am sure we will not be seeing you on the campaign trail.

Also in the interest of fairness it should be pointed out that the anon comment is inaccurate. Lembit was paid by cheque and not cash according to the paper.

Glyn Davies said...

stuart - I did know about it already - as did lots of others. Yet again, Martin Shipton was the jpurnalist with the courage to run the story.

And I substantially agree with your second comment as well. I believe that the current settlement is a complex nonsense, and that a law making Assembly is the only logical next step. But I also know that it needed a real sense of urgency to a commitment by Labour to deliver the Yes vote. The general impression at present is one of drift, and luke warm support by Labour, at best. Paul Murphy and Peter Hain have both spoken out against the referendum, and Elfyn Llwyd has gone as far as he can to distance himself. And I don't think AMs have understood the contempt generated towards them by the salary increase issue. Incredibly, I think it may be a Conservative Government that will hold the referendum, sometime before 2015.

Che - I try to post as I see it. I do not think the referendum will happen before 2011. And I would now be seriously concerned if it did, because of the damage a No vote would cause. Now, if there was a sudden surge in momentum, or a strong Coalition-inspired Yes campaign set up, my opinion could change. If there is a referendum, I will be capaigning for a Yes vote. I couldn't possibly do anything else. And if I thought that my blog, with its limited readership had any effect on
public opinion, I might be more cautious about saying what I think. At present, I already find it tough enough remaining politically correct and 'on mesasage'. I'm not going to start worrying about some non-existant effect I might have on public opinion

Che Grav-ara said...

Glyn both parties have signed up to it. Both parties at the Assembly are keen to see it happen. A recent poll put public opinion in favour of a parliament (however marginally). I think your concern of a no vote is founded in the position of the Stephen Crabb and David Davies of this world not the general public who i believe would vote yes if and when it comes. certainly as there will be a yes campaign. That is also a One Wales commitment

The White Tide Man said...

Interesting that although Lembit Opik says he was paid by cheque a partner in the firm that employed him Luther Pendragon says it was cash. What is also interesting is that Lembit decided to declare 3 years after the event only after his memory was jogged by an article in PR Week.He really wants to start using one of the Japanese games that improves you memory.

MH said...

Stuart, I think the scenario is quite simple. Emyr JP's commission reports in Autumn 2009, recommending a "Yes". By this time the Labour Government in Westminster will be on its last legs, limping through to a Spring 2010 election which they look very likely to lose.

Labour in Wales reluctantly accepts that having powers transfered to the Senedd is the "least worst option" ... a sort of insurance policy. It means that they can continue (they'd hope) to be part of government in Wales without too much interference from a Tory Welsh Secretary. They get the Bill though Westminster before the UK election, but they set a referendum date in Autumn 2010 to allow for camaigning and because it gives them the best of both worlds:

1. If the Tories do win the UK election, they will campaign wholeheartedly for a "Yes".
2. If, by some miracle, Labour stay in power in Westminster they can go "lukewarm" on the promise. The split in Labour will be about the same as it is now: AMs broadly in favour of a Parliament, MPs broadly against (they'll want to keep power for themselves in Westminster for the next five years).

But the referendum will still go ahead and it will be won. The polls (BBC, St David's day) suggest there are ALREADY more of us in favour than against. Or, to look at it another way, Plaid's 22%, the LD's 14% and only half of Labour's 31% in the last election is still more than 50%. Tighter than I'd like, but still a "Yes" ... even if the Tories decided to go all out for a "No".

But that brings us back to the "clear blue water" point I made before. I believe the main reason the Tories did well last May was because the Nick Bourne faction won the day and finally embraced the principles of devolution. If Wyn Roberts' commission now decided to pour cold water on that, it would be a disaster for the Welsh Conservatives. So of course it won't, because it would result the same potentially damaging split between the Bourne/AMs "Yes" faction and the (David) Davies/MPs "No" faction. There is only one way the report CAN conclude. If Roberts were to come out with "this far and no further" for Welsh devolution, it would immediately re-raise the spectre of a new Redwood, and thus be a spur for every non-Tory in Wales to vote for a Parliament ... and Wales has FAR more non-Tories than Tories.


Finally, Glyn, don't clutch at the pay rise. It will be a long-dead issue in 2010. The only thing that will be remembered is the decision of most Plaid members not to take it in full. They came out smelling of roses on that one.

But I am very pleased by your positive comments about wanting primary law making powers for the Senedd. It reinforces my opinion of you as the sort of Tory I could put up with ...

... now, if only you had some influence over your namesake in Monmouthshire ;-)

Blue Tit said...

How does Martin Shipton know that Lembit has registerd his work for Luther Pendragon. The latest entry on the website for MPs interests is dated March 25th and there is no mention of any work carried out for Luther Pendragon.Although it does seem that Lembit is now branching out into journalism with a fee of £5000 from that great Liberal daily 'The Daily Sport'. Clement Davies must be spinning in his grave. I suppose Lembit is employed writing the captions under the young ladies who litter the pages of the Daily Sport. You couldn't make it up.

Glyn Davies said...

Che - If any politicians have influenced what I think will happen its Peter Hain, Paul Murphy and Elfyn Llwyd, plus the deafening silence emanating from the Labour Assembly Members. Pray tell me where is the Yes campaign?

white tide man - Not sure what the significance of this is. Not much interest to me either. I cannot see any significance between cash and a cheque. Usually, when there is a reference to 'cash'payment it doesn't mean actual pound coins but not being presented as income for taxation purposes, and I've seen no suggestion that this is the case.

mh - Emyr Jones-Parry has already announced that he will not be associated with a Yes vote.
Your timetable scenario is the only one I can foresee myself as a possibility, but I still think it unlikely. Even Plaid Cymru would not want to risk a referendum without a consistant 20 points lead in the opinion polls - and theer is no sign of any enthusiasm by the coalition partners. Most people I talk to about this, even those in favour of law making powers, agree with me. My advice to Lord Roberts will be (for what its worth) will be that a Conservative Government will commit to a referendum in its first term of Government.
And I won't hear a word against David Davies. We don't agree on this issue, but you know exactly where David stands, and like me, he would accept a democratically arrived at opinion.

blue tit - I don't know how Martin knows. I suspect he simply telephoned Lembit and asked. If there was anything odd about this at all, its that he thinks if it was not directly linked to hsi employment as an MP, he didn't have to declare it. I know from my time as an AM. that we had to register our spouses income from all sources, let alone our own.

Blue Tit said...

It seems that in 2001 and 2002 Opik realised that income from Luther Pendragon had to be declared because they are two entries in the members's register dated 14 May 2001 and 31 October 2002. It seem strange that he should then try to use the ignorance defence to justify the failure to declare other income from work carried out for Luther Pendragon in 2005. This smacks of someone who deosn't like Opik leaking to the press and the Hon Member for Montgomeryshire then trying to find a good excuse for not abiding by the rules. It looks as if the skids are under him Glyn.He is starting to make too many mistakes at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the Montgomeryshire Lib Dems are aware that Lembit Opik writes for that revolting rag The Daily Sport? And that he picks up 5k for doing so? Whilst the paper -if it can be called that-is about his level, focusing on scantily clad tarty women, surely the same Lib Dems can't then turn round and defend the Idiot for trying to prevent Sian Lloyd's book from being published?
Failure to declare rent for his flat and earnings, writing for a rock bottom red top, making a total prat of himself time after time on national television, what does it take for the Lib Dems to get rid of him????? Instead of telling him to shape up or ship out, they continually bleat in his defence - alarmingly frequently nowdays - and act as if his behaviour is par for the course. This in the seat once held by Emlyn Hooson! Their hypocrisy defies belief. Due to Lembit Opik's awful behaviour, I will never vote Lib Dem, at least as long as he remains MP for my area. And I am one of many saying this. Glyn, I think it's about time you commented on him from a moral point of view

alanindyfed said...

To be fair, I see that both Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives will benefit from the travails of the deeply unpopular Labour party, though as we are Wales, and not England, Plaid Cymru will be seen to garner far more votes than the Conservatives. For one thing, the Conservatives, however well-meaning, are a Unionist party, as are the Lib-Dems, and belief in the Union is fast diminishing. Look around you and you will see it. A new resurgence has gripped the nation!

Glyn Davies said...

In general - I've been quite shocked by some of the comments on this thread, and I've refused to publish several because they could be actionable. I've allowed just two through which make what seem to me to be fair points. Firstly blue tit makes an interesting point about why money was registered in 2001 and 2002, and then stopped for the next three years. If this is the case, I'd expect it to raise a few eyebrows. And anon, I don't think many of his constituents know that he writes for the Daily Sport - and I don't think they would be impressed if they did know.

I accept that its easy to make mistakes in registering. I only made one, (and it was along with several other AMs) when I didn't realise that I had to register MacDonalds hospitality at the Annual Parliamentary Shield Football Competition, in association with the Charity Shield. Its value was over the limit of about £200. Problem was that Phill, who was a stickler in making sure I broke no rules, didn't know that I'd stayed overnight in the Hotel, taking me over the limit. He was furious with me at the time.

I'm not going to make any moral judgement on all this. In a democracy, judgement is a matter for the voters. I was stunned today when I spoke with a friend that I would have described as quite straight-laced, and she didn't mind at all.

Sorry but I can't publish any more of this sort of comment. The point's been made. It just makes me look as if I want to undermine my opponent rather than focus on what I can do.

Glyn Davies said...

Alan - I do believe that the Union is a positive structure as far as Wales in concerned. This belief is perhaps the strongest reason why I so despair over the current Government of Wales Act, and support the idea that where a matter is devolved, it should be completely devolved. I see the current settlement as deeply divisive as far as the Union is concerned, and a recipe for conflict between Westminster and Cardiff. Odd that we agree on outcomes (at least as far as I'm prepared to go) from such different perspectives.

MH said...

Glyn, I meant no disrespect to David Davies (hence the smiley). I obviously don't AGREE with him, but he is quite straightforward in his opposition to devolution ... and politics is like horse racing: yer pays yer money and takes yer choice.

However what I did find surprising was the detailed breakdown of results from the BBC's St David's day poll. Areas that had in 1997 been firmly against the Assembly have quite remarkably turned in favour of more powers for it. Here are the SE Wales county areas in favour/against:

Monmouth ... 49%-49%
Newport ... 48%-39%
Torfaen ... 47%-40%
Blaenau Gwent ... 50%-38%
Caerphilly ... 53%-33%
Merthyr ... 61%-32%
Cardiff ... 52%-42%
RCT ... 46%-45%
Vale ... 50%-47%

So David Davies can hardly say he represents the majority view in his constituency ... on this issue. Nor can Don Touhig claim that his constituents are as devo-skeptic as he his, nor indeed Paul Murphy; because Torfaen is 47%-40% in favour of more powers. This seems to be the time for gracious acknowledgements that "public opinion has now begun to change".

On this basis I'm very positive about the outcome of a referendum. There are no great "pockets of resistance" to further powers for the Senedd anywhere in Wales. As I read the situation, the lack of enthusiasm you mention it is not a matter of public opinion, but of party unity. There's no doubt about which way Plaid and the LD's will campaign, is there? The problem is going to be potentially damaging splits in the Labour and Conservative leaderships.

Things have been kept deliberately low key up to now because of the upcoming local elections. But the Jones-Parry and Roberts commissions both serve the same purpose ... to put things on hold until Labour and the Tories can each internally arrive at a consensus to minimize the chance of damaging splits if forced into declaring a public position too early.

Now, if both eventually come to the SAME conclusion, the referendum will be a walk over. I've set out the situation as I think Labour will see it. You, Glyn, can better speak for your party. But in so far as WELSH AMs and MPs are concerned, I'd expect the views of Nick Bourne and yourself to prevail. You have more AMs than MPs. I know you won't preempt the outcome (is the interim report still expected in July?) but perhaps you can tell us whether the Roberts terms of reference will include just Welsh opinion, or that of the UK party as a whole.

Yet, even if we get the messy scenario of both Labour and the Tories being split 50-50, the maths in my previous post changes to Plaid's 22%, the LD's 14%, half of Labour's 31% and half of the Conservative 22% adding up to 62.5% for, leaving 37.5% against. That's a 25% differential - even better than the 20% margin you suggested.

I don't want to be complacent, but we have absolutely no reason to be pessimistic about the outcome.

Glyn Davies said...

mh - interesting comment. I hadn't seen these polling figures before. While I'm not shocked, they are more slightly favourable towards the Yes side than I would have expected, in some instances.

I don't accept your thesis that the Jones-Parry and Roberts 'reviews' are just to delay matters until May. I think they will delay any real discussion until after the General Election. I'm still expecting an interim report from Lord Roberts in the summer. No change from original announcement. I do not know for certain who can write to Lord Wyn, but it was announced by David Cameron. So while its aimed at members of the Party in Wales, I would expect that any Conservative member can write in.

If the General Election is delayed until 2010, the only window for a referendum is that autumn (Sept 18th perhaps). I can only repeat that I think that unlikely, because while you seem very confident, I don't think that the Coalition leaders (if it hasn't collapsed by then) will be willing to risk it - especially if the Legislative Competence Orders process is working satisfactorily.

Dai Twp said...

Just out of curiosity, does anyone have any idea of a (very) rough ball park figure, of how many LCO's would need to be passed until the Assembly had pretty much law making powers in all the devolved areas anyway.
I know it's hard to put a figure on because of the differing amounts of power that is transfered with each LCO, But someone must have some idea.