So my good friend, David Davies MP is organising a No campaign. 'No to what' was my first thought. When I played for Shrewsbury, we used to have a prop forward who worked himself up into such a lather during the warm-up that when the match actually started, he was too knackered to push in the scrum. I've never been one for expending too much energy before the contest starts - particularly without knowing kick-off time, or the rules of the game. I don't think this will do much harm at all. Perhaps they should form their own rugby team.
I've never hidden the fact that since the people of Wales declined to accept my advice in 1997 to reject the establishment of a National Assembly, (and voted in favour of it), I've supported full law making powers for the new body in already devolved subject areas. Seemed to me to be simple recognition of the new reality. Anyway the predictable happened. Confusion about responsibility reigned and accountability flew out through the window. So they had another go at making some sense of it last year. Law making powers are now being transferred to the Assembly by this bizarre arrangement involving Legislative Competence Orders. This system has built into it the potential for constitutional conflict between Cardiff Bay and Westminster on an ongoing basis. In my opinion this system is ridiculously complex, beyond the understanding of most people, and the biggest waste of politician's time since the European Parliament decided to shift the whole shebang to Strasbourg for the odd week.
So what's to be done now? 15 months ago, I believed that Labour and Plaid Cymru had resolved to hold a referendum on whether this LCO system should be scrapped and law making powers in all devolved subject areas transferred to Cardiff Bay. Personally, I would have supported such a transfer of powers. But so lacking in intent has the Assembly Government been that I believe there to be no longer any intention to hold such a referendum before 2011 after all. In my opinion, the reason that the Government is not informing the people of this is because it would be very embarrassing for Ieuan Wyn Jones to admit to his party members that they were sold a pup when they agreed to enter into a coalition government with Labour.
So I really cannot understand why anyone should want to organise either a No campaign or a Yes campaign at the moment. Its like putting together a football team which has no matches to play. I discussed this matter with Martin Shipton this morning. Don't know whether he'll run anything though. Quite properly he asked me what I would do at present. Its not an easy question to answer. I suppose its back to recognition of reality. I'm just not sure its possible for an Assembly Government to ride two headstrong horses at the same time - transferring power to the Assembly bit by bit, or transferring it all in one go. Until I believe there is a genuine prospect of a referendum, my commitment is to seeing the current system work effectively. Its the main reason that I want to be a Member of Parliament.
So I'm entirely happy to see my good friend David Davies arrange his cross-party No campaign. As a matter of hypothetical interest, I probably wouldn't join any cross-party Yes campaign. I might agree with its objectives, and would share my opinion to anyone who wanted to hear it, (as I do) but I've never believed these cross party efforts deliver anything that wouldn't be delivered better without them.