So Lord Elis Thomas, the National Assembly for Wales' Presiding Officer has suggested that the referendum on Assembly powers should be held in Autumn 2011. This does not surprise me at all. A few weeks ago I read a piece by Martin Shipton in the Western Mail, postulating the same date. Perhaps Martin had written his piece uninstigated, but my immediate thought was that a very senior and very cunning politician had been involved somewhere behind the curtains.
I'll go further. October 2011 may have been the preferred date all along - by very senior and very cunning politicians that is. Lets look at the circumstantial evidence. It was May 2007 when Plaid Cymru and Labour formally agreed that the referendum should take place on or before the May 2011 Assembly Election. What followed was an exercise in pointless procrastination of epic proportions, that delayed the vote by which AMs formally asked the Secretary of State for Wales to hold this referendum until February 2010. Legal advice (which remained private) fell into my hands at the time pointing out how difficult it would be to meet an October/November 2010 deadline. Despite that advice, First Minister, Carwyn Jones, delayed sending on the AM's 'request' for over a week, and Peter Hain, the SoS then left the letter lie on his desk. We suspect this because of the false vociferousness of his protestations. So when Cheryl Gillan took over in May, it was too late to hold the referendum this year, before winter sets in. Again we can tell this was a pre-planned stunt because of the orchestrated protests both in Cardiff and Westminster - which I notice have died down now that the Assembly's latest legal advice has been made public. No-one seemed to have told Welsh Labour MPs before PMQs last Wed. though. They did sound daft.
So what are the choices before us. 1) We could try to hold the referendum in the late autumn/early spring - when the weather is decidedly suspect. 2) We could hold it on the same day as the Assembly Election - a stunt which would lead to inevitable defeat (in my opinion). 3) We could do as his Lordship has suggested today. I know where my money's going. What would be odd is if the Secretary of State called a referendum earlier than the Labour/Plaid Coalition actually wanted it.