Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Devolutionary Tortoise in charge of Welsh Powers Referendum.

The only conclusion drawable is that both Labour and Plaid Cymru are not as keen as they pretend on holding the promised referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly for Wales before the next Assembly Election in 2011. We've known for a while that most Labour MPs, including Peter Hain are against holding it. And I've long suspected the leadership of Plaid Cymru of being in cahoots (though I have no evidence for this). But I'll try and make my case. Its a case that's featured on this blog before.

Everything was going swimmingly while it was assumed that David Cameron would decide (if he became Prime Minister) that the crisis facing Britain is such that no referendums would be held during his first term of office. All they had to do was delay it until after the General Election - despite having had over two years to move on it. This is what I allege Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones expected. When the Conservative Leader announced recently that he would not veto a referendum, it was a stunning game changer. I recall Ieuan Wyn Jones informing me last summer (on a Radio Cymru panel programme) that he would not commit to calling for the referendum unless I committed a future Conservative Government to a 'no veto' policy. I was a PPC. How on earth could I do that. Utterly ridiculous I know - but true. The upshot of the Cameron announcement was that last week's 'trigger vote' became unavoidable. To make matters worse, both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives backed down from their threat to abstain over the suggestion that the referendum could be held on Assembly Election day. Carwyn Jones' silly little ploy was 'stuffed' when every Conservative AM backed the trigger vote.

So what's the next ruse. Delay and delay of course. Now every one in the land knew weeks ago that the Feb. 9th vote was taking place, and knew it would be a 'trigger vote' - though Carwyn Jones played a silly little game with this as well. And they knew it would be approved, and that he would be asked to write a letter to Peter Hain to formally launch the process. Why on earth was it not written and ready. Its a hugely significant event in Welsh political history. Why was the letter not handed over, with a bit of ceremony, on the Senedd steps the next day. It seems that a week has gone by and nothing has happened. Its enough to make anyone wonder what's going on.

And what has been the response to all this by Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales (a man with whom I find that I share a birthday). Zilch. We know that he has 120 days to respond to the formal letter (when the First Minister gets around to sending it) - but there's no rule that says he has to wait 120 days. It looks suspiciously as if he intends to drag his feet, so that Labour and Plaid Cymru can blame an incoming Conservative Secretary of State for any difficulty in meeting the timetable needed for an October referendum - which is the best date by miles.

Of course the referendum date could be put off until near Dydd Gwyl Dewi on March 1st (or even Assembly Election day in May). They may even think this would help the Yes vote. Well, I think they would be wrong. The No campaign would accuse them of 'gerrymandering'. I can just hear Rachel Banner's persuasive tone throughout the coming summer, demanding the referendum in October, before the vote can influence, or be influenced by the Assembly Election. And she would be right. The delayists are fools. They are asking for trouble. I believe that the Yes campaign would win in October/Novemeber, may just about scrape a win in March, but would lose in May. Come on Carwyn Jones, and you Plaid apologists. Get on with it.


Anonymous said...

You also share your birthday with Sir Geraint Evans and John McEnroe, both blessed with strong vocal cords but put to very different uses.

MH said...

Glyn, I'm sure that if you read Syniadau as frequently as I read your blog, you'll know that this is one subject on which I agree with you ... at least on the date and the urgency of reaching a decision soon. Our reasoning might be different but we both arrive at the same point.

Whether or not the Grey Cobweb catches on as a nickname is something else. But "Cobweb Jones" is still "CJ" and he didn't get where he is today by doing anything quickly.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I fear my voice has much more in common with John McEnroe than Sir Geraint.

MH - Yes, I do follow your opinion. The one point on which we may disagree somewhat is about how long the process will take to complete. I think it may take almost all the 120 days, though there is no reason whatsoever why every effort should not be taken to minimise the time.

Anonymous said...


The trigger has been pulled despite the inevitable opposition of your current Welsh Tory MPs and many of your branches, so please do not claim the moral high ground for the Tories in supporting the entrenchment of national powers, despite your personal support.

Do you really want me to dig up comments from your colleague David Davies on such topics?

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - Why not? Everyone else does! No-one disputes that there are Conservatives who will support the No campaign. Cannot see what that has to do with the accusation of procrastination by the coalition partners. Until recently they have had complete control of the timetable, but did not act until that control had been lost.

Anonymous said...

Chwarae teg glyn, bod agwedd tories wedi newid. Longyfarhiadau a phob hwyl i chi

Penddu said...

Glyn I share your frustration at the attempts of Peter Hain to avoid the referendum, and it is blatantly obvious to everyone that Labour just do not want it. They were hoping that they could blame the Conservatives for wrecking the next stage but now they have been exposed.

I dont share your view that Plaid are backing this do-nothing campaign, because they only have one weapon at their disposal - to pull out of coalition - and this would be a classic case of mutually assured destruction for both parties. Their best option for now is to stick with Labour and pressure them from within - and stick with them right up to the referendum.

But after that they wont need them and I am convinced that the 2011 election will see a rainbow over Cardiff Bay

Anonymous said...


Do you believe that there is an equivalent to the "West Lothian Question" as regards Welsh MPs?

If so, do you think that Wales is currently "over-represented"?

And, if so, what would be your solution to this?

Anonymous said...

"...We've known for a while that most Labour MPs, including Peter Hain are against holding it. And I've long suspected the leadership of Plaid Cymru of being in cahoots (though I have no evidence for this)."

You've hit the nail on the head there Glyn.

What about at local authority and parish council level? I think the same holds true, Plaid soon jumped into bed with Labour in Bridgend!

MH said...

Having agreed with Glyn, perhaps he will let me disagree with him a little, especially with regard to some of the other comments that have been made.

The point at issue is whether Plaid are "in cahoots" with Labour in not wanting the referendum before the end of the third Assembly. I think the question to ask is whether we would have got to this stage at all without Plaid making it a central issue—in fact the main plank—of their coalition with Labour in the Assembly.

Over the last year or two, I remember a few discussions with Glyn about whether everything was still on course to hold the referendum on or before May 2011. I said it was, Glyn didn't think so. Glyn wasn't alone ... half the people in my branch of Plaid didn't think so either!

But as it turns out we are still, just about, on course. The way we achieved this is through the All Wales Convention: it was designed to do a number of things at the same time, some obvious, some not so obvious. Informing and testing public understanding and opinion were obvious. Less obvious was that it was designed to get politicians to stop talking about the issue for a year or so. Once any politician starts talking about things, they then find it very hard to go back on what they've said. If Labour politicians had been put on the spot to give their opinion on a referendum a year or so ago they would not have been keen on it. They have only now come round to the idea because they know they are likely to lose the Westminster election, and because they do not want a Tory Secretary of State for Wales to have the same power of veto over the Assembly as Hain and Murphy have held over it.

Labour politicians as a whole, both AMs and MPs, came to a decision privately to go ahead with the referendum over Christmas. Now the AMs have shown unanimous support for the referendum in public through the vote on 9 February. But I think it is wrong to suggest that the MPs don't agree. All but a handful of them do. The problem is that one of that handful is Peter Hain himself. He doesn't want the referendum for precisely the reasons I gave above: he has spouted his opinions too often in public for him to change his mind now, even though the circumstances have clearly changed. He very last thing he wants is to be seen to have U-turned ... that's why he is so desperate to string things out in the hope that the general election is called before he has to make a decision. To put it bluntly, it's personal.


I'll now move on to the other thing that I disagree with Glyn on. I do not put very much weight on David Cameron's "Broughton Declaration". All it is is a statement that a Tory Government "will not stand in the way" of a referendum. Crucially he has said it will be a free vote ... that means that Tory MPs, if they are so minded, can vote to block it. My belief is that they will definitely block it ... for the simple reason that they will not want to give up a Tory Government's veto on any new areas of legislation in the Assembly. This is exactly the same as Labour MPs not wanting to give up the veto while they were in power.

I believe that the rank and file of Labour politicians are lulling themselves into a false sense of security, believing that they will get a referendum anyway on the basis of Cameron's Broughton Declaration. But others, especially Peter Hain, know that the promise is not what it seems. He is playing a different game.

My advice, as it always has been, is that Labour must get the Referendum Order approved before the general election. That means that Labour have to ensure that Peter Hain doesn't sit on his hands for 120 days. They must force him (behind the scenes, of course) to act ... he must act because it is in Labour's interests to make sure nothing can go wrong while the matter is still in their hands, and Labour's interests must come before Peter Hain's interests.

Penddu said...

Anon 01:17

Ignoring the fact that you don appear to realise that we do not have parish councils in Wales....what difference does it make that Plaid might support Labour in Bridgend - they are also in coalition with Liberals in Cardiff, and Conservatives in Conwy?? Every party joins coalitions - there are only three councils in Wales that have majority one party rule - all others are some form of coalition arrangements which apply equally to all parties!!

Anonymous said...

As far as I am aware, Plaid is NOT in coalition with the Conservatives in Conwy but with Labour and the independents. In fact, is Plaid in coalition with the Conservatives anywhere in Wales? It just demonstrates that if you vote Plaid, you get Labour back in

Anonymous said...

Glyn, you are not a Tory. You want this useless talking shop to have more powers. Why do you want to give power to Labour? Or do you want Conservatives to go into coaliton with Plaid Cymru, which wants to break up our country? Why don't you want the Assembly abolished? Why do you expect Conservatives to vote for you?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe any Conservative would consider coalition with Plaid Cymru, who are a load of separatist traitors.