Lots of excitement following publication yesterday of a BBC Wales opinion poll predicting that over half of Welsh voters would vote 'Yes' in a referendum about the granting of law making powers to the National Assembly for Wales. It was very much in line with what I would have expected. The only surprise to me was that the most popular of a series of options about the way forward (34%) was that tax raising/varying powers should be devolved as well. There was something symbolic about support for a law making parliament going through the 50% barrier. There will not be a referendum before 2011 though. It is no more than another inch forward, even if it is consistently in the same direction.
I enjoyed the performance of Plaid AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas on the BBC's Dragon's Eye last night. He was back to his ebullient best - trying to give the impression that the referendum promised when his party signed up to a coalition deal with Labour to form the National Assembly Government was still on target. There's a bit more to this than meets the part-seeing eye. He could well have been laying down a bear trap for his leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones. He owes him one. Could it be that he is ramping up expectation, so that Ieuan really cops it when he announces that there's not going to be a referendum by 2011 after all. Labour Minister, Carwyn Jones gave us the true 'softening up for reneging' approach of the Government on last night's programme.
The key statistic in any opinion poll on this issue will be the gap between the 'Yes' side and the 'No' side. 13% is just not enough. Personally, I think it would be too risky to go for a referendum unless the gap is 20% over several polls. It could happen. One reason why there has been increasing support for a law making Welsh Parliament is the sheer incompetence of the current Westminster Government. There's a sense that 'We can't do any worse than that'.
Be interesting how much attention is given to this constitutional stuff over the next week. Its 30 years since the overwhelming rejection of devolution in 1979. That was at a time when the nation was facing huge problems associated with economic and industrial unrest. Voters thought politicians should be concentrating on what they saw as more important matters. It may not be wholly logical, but I do think we could see the same response if a referendum were to be called in the current economic chaos.