Those who demanded that the referendum on whether law making powers should be granted to the National Assembly for Wales in all devolved policy areas should be held next month must be feeling a bit chastened today. The most significant person in this category is the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. I would have liked the referendum to be held in October myself, but realised many months ago that this would not be possible. Its beginning to look as if it will be a tight squeeze to hold it in March - and if March is missed, who knows when!
The issue is 'The Question'. Today, the Electoral Commission has informed us that the question suggested by the Secretary of State for Wales is not acceptable. Must admit I've never been sure that there is such a thing as a question which would ensure that voters would be clear about what they were voting for. I'm no longer even sure it matters that much. I fully expect the 'No' and 'Yes' campaigns to ignore the question anyway. It will be 'Yes' because Wales deserves the same as Scotland - even though what's offered will be no such thing. And the 'No' campaign will be about a 'stepping stone to independence' even though that's no such thing either.
Truth is that we are in a right pickle. There's a commitment by the Assembly Coalition Government that there must be a referendum by May 5th, and a determination by Cheryl Gillan that she will deliver what has been demanded. I should add here that I think she 'splayed a 'blinder' over this. So it seems that we are going to have a referendum in March even though many voters will not understand what they are voting for.
Could be that I will have to change my own plans, reverting to the same stance I took before the referendum on 18th September, 1997, when to some extent I set aside my opinion (I was in the No camp) and held public meetings around Montgomeryshire to outline the issues at stake. I had intended to campaign for a 'Yes' vote in March, and I will make it clear that's what I want to see, but it may be that explaining what its all about will be more important. The timetable is rushing towards us. Will have to make a decision about this before Xmas.