Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Question.

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.


Jeff Jones said...

Frankly Glyn the research report shows how little impact the idea of devolution has had on ordinary voters. They like the free services but many of them haven't got a clue about what happens in Cardiff Bay or who is taking decisions in some major policy areas. If it wasn't so sad the confusion between 'devolved' areas and 'deprived' areas mentioned in the report would be really amusing. It also illustrates how out of touch with reality so many of the Welsh political elite have been. They assumed that a' yes' vote would be a walkover when Joe public it seems didn't even understand what they were talking about. Confusion reigns I'm afraid. It's a referendum held at the wrong time and asking the wrong question. That's of course assuming that they ever agree on the question.

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - Agree with you on most of this. Over the last 2/3 years this blog has expressed frustration because of the way Assembly Coalition has played games with this issue. The prevarication has only made matters worse. When asked, I have said that I think there will be a 'Yes' vote - just, but I feel far from certain about it. Even now, alwost no-one understands the implications of Shedule 7. And holding the referendum at the start of campaigns for the AV referendum and the Welsh General Elction on May 5th is going to make things worse. 40% turn-out?

Anonymous said...

As our MP, (and former AM) how can you support a yes vote when the assembly has generally ignored us here in mid wales. What have they done for us since it began? oh yes, the improved road lay out in Newtown. PAH!
The referendum could be held tomorrow for all I care. I will be voting NO to new law making powers.

MH said...

I wouldn't be so critical of Cheryl Gillan, Glyn. I don't think she's gone off at an angle down a blind alley at all. At least I guess that's what "splayed a blinder" must mean ;-)

And even though the EC's version of the question is wrong, not just for the reasons I've given but because of what Alan Trench said too, I don't think Ms Gillan is the sort of person who would change it. Why should she take flak when she can just accept the EC's version and let them take the flak instead? But she might surprise me. Changing EC's question only slightly would solve a lot of problems.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I agree with you that it won't really matter what the question on the ballot paper is. Most people will probably vote not on the actual issue itself ... and neither True Wales on one hand, nor Carwyn Jones on the other, show any sign of focusing on it.

But I'd urge you not to be discouraged, Glyn. You are capable of explaining the issue, and in fact we need you to do so, for I still fear that Labour think the best way to get their supporters out to vote will be to make it into a party political "it's us or the Tories" issue.

Anonymous said...

i have to say im intrigued by the fact that various so called 'commentators' continue to repeat the mantra about this being the 'wrong referendum' and there being no interest in devolution among the welsh people - when every opnion poll conducted on the issue shows solid support among the welsh public for primary lawmaking powers for the assembly. Opinion polls of course being the only current real measure of public feeling on this issue we have.

So if there is a disconnect in wales on the issue of extending devolution then it it would appear to be between these self appointed commentators and 'joe public' who stubbornly refuse to play ball with the likes of jeff jones doom laden 'analysis'

While his oft repeated aside that the members of the welsh assembly represent some kind of unaccountable and aloof 'elite' is deeply offensive and entirely without foundation. Every member of the welsh assembly is democratically elected by the welsh electorate and must submit to re-election every 4 years - i know of no 'elite' that submits itself to the good judgement of the public in this way!

I also have to say i have no issue with the way in which cheryl gillan has handled this issue at all (and i am certainly no conservative by the way).

When assuming office she promised to deliver the referendum within the timescale agreed and her actions since have shown she is clearly sincere in that! It has been dissappointing therefoe when some have tried to score party political points by criticising her handling of the referendum. This really is too important an issue to play party politics with.

In all honesty - given the scant preparation that was done before she took office - i dont know what more cheryl gillan could have done in her short time in office to bring about the holding of the referendum within the agreed timescale. I wouldnt expect any "favours" on this issue from cheryl gillan...only "fairness" and from what ive seen of her on this issue she appears to be scrupulously fair!

It's clear that she means to make good on her promise that the 'question' will be put to the welsh people at the end of march 2011. And if there is goodwill on all sides on this matter and a genuine committemnt to seeing this referendum come about there is no reason why this timescale cannot be met.

Then it wil be up to those of us who believe in the case for direct lawmaking powers for the assembly to convince enough of the welsh electorate to vote yes!

Leigh Richards

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I do not disagree with your assessment of the Assembly Governmnet's attitude to Mid Wales - but that is the fault of the Government, not the institution. Law making powers are being transferred already. The referendum is about how they are transferred.

MH - 'played a blinder' is a term of high praise! And since I think law making powers are an extension of logic, I expect many Conservatives to support a Yes vote.

Leigh - Agree with all you have written - except your certainty that a Yes vote will be delivered. My view was that the politicians in Cardiff Bay should not have pussyfooted about for three years, but developed a positive strategy and gone for it last year. Trouble was that they thought (perhaps some still do) that antipathy to a Conservative Government could be manipulated to deliver 'protection' from Westminster. I always thought that was a bad mistake. Now we shall see whether a price will be paid for it.