Sunday, October 03, 2010

Being Neutral.

You can bank on the BBC's David Cornock to ask the awkward question. I suppose that's why the BBC are so proud to retain his services. Don't know why but I quite like him, despite everything. I look on the Western Mail's Martin Shipton as a good friend as well. It must be that I find the awkward squad more interesting.

Anyway after today's Welsh 'fringe' at Birmingham, I agreed to an interview. And what does he do? He asks for my reaction to the Secretary of State for Wales' announcement that, as a PPS I would now be 'neutral' on whether I support law making powers for the National Assembly for Wales in the March 3rd referendum. Must admit I'd missed this snippet during the hour-long Iain Dale comfy chair platform chat with Cheryl Gillan and Nick Bourne, so felt a bit less than my normal assured self in responding. I suppose it does depend on what you mean by 'neutral'.

Lets look at the history. Until September 1997 I'd been opposed to establishing the National Assembly for Wales at all. But the Welsh people ignored my advice and voted 'Yes'. So, since the circumstances had changed, my opinion of the way forward changed. I took the view that the Assembly would now be a permanent feature of our democracy, and that the only route to a stable UK constitution was to grant the Assembly full powers over devolved policy areas. This blog has very 'un-neutrally' sought to campaign for a 'Yes' vote throughout its existence. So what now. This is what David Cornock wanted me to tell him - and the following is is what I told him.

Not a problem. I don't think anyone is going to think I'm actually 'neutral' because of what is on the record. And in any case, I decided years ago that I would not participate in any campaigning. I refused to sign a very good letter prepared by Cymru Yfori last year launching the 'Yes' campaign - despite agreeing with its content. I'd also already decided to throw myself into trying to spread an understanding of what's at stake in the referendum. And since its my belief that greater understanding leads to greater likelihood of support, I can just about get away with describing myself as 'neutral' - or allow others to do so truthfully. I know this reads a bit 'thin', and I'm not at all sure that David cannot edit this unfavourably. But it seems logical and reasonable to me.


alanindyfed said...

Surely the answer Glyn is to announce that you are wholeheartedly in favour of a parliament for Wales and a "yes" vote in the referendum. Many politicians are prone to equivocating and hedging their bets, but it does not suit your character in my opinion. A good place to do this might be at the conference ;-)

Anonymous said...

I am dissapointed Glyn.

You are on the record on this very blog saying you would back a Yes vote if elected yet now you've been given an establishment job you've dropped that promise. Its quite weak to be honest.

Anonymous said...

and here was I thinking we had got rid of one mp that liked to sit on fences???

Glyn Davies said...

Alan, Anons - I think you are rather missing the point if I might say so. My total support for the granting of law making powers to the Assembly on devolved issues is a given. But over the last year or so, I have varied my opinion about how I can best help acheive this. Whenever I've been asked about what role I would want to play, I've always said that I do not want to be part of any 'official' yes campaign - and taken some criticism for this. I felt I could be more use speaking to audiences in parts of Wales where the No vote is likely to be strongest - and I wouldn't be able to do that if aligned to an official Yes campaign. A few weeks ago (long before I became a PPS - or even an MP), I concluded that the biggest threat to a Yes vote is ignorance about what is involved, and my most effective personal effort would be holding meetings to explain what its all about. Actually, I did hold 3 in Montgomeryshire (before the General Election) but at that time not many turned up, despite heavy leafletting. Also, all of this will have featured in posts on this blog. Now, I could switch back to joining the Yes campaign, but I would have to sacrifice any influence I have as a voice reaching out to sceptical audiences, and probably lose my influence within the ministerial team. I reckon, maybe wrongly, that I might have some impact as an 'explainer' while as a Yes campaigner, I would simply disappear into the background behind leaders of Cymru Yfori and other high profile supporters. My political approach has always been based on 'outcomes'. Anyway, how on earth can I be seen as 'neutral' after what I've been writing on this blog over the years. You just didn't read my post carefully enough.

gareth said...

I’m one of your regular readers. I do not doubt your support for a Yes vote but I do question your commitment to the campaign.

By joining the Yes campaign you claim, “I would have to sacrifice any influence I have as a voice reaching out to sceptical audiences . . .” I suspect that sceptical audiences will remain sceptics whether you speak too them or not. That is their nature. If you took your place on the Yes campaign platform your influence and indeed that of the Welsh Conservative party would be greater.

This semi-detached position is silly. It damages your credibility and weakens the campaign.

Glyn Davies said...

Gareth - I respect your opinion, but I've thought through my approach carefully. From a Conservative Party perspective, I expect most, if not all, of the Conservative AMs to be in the Yes camp. I have quite a good record of persuading sceptical voters to vote Conservative. I believe that people sceptical about law making powers can be persuaded to reconsider by logic and understanding.

Anonymous said...

You persuaded sceptical voters to vote Conservative from within the Conservative party.

Why can't you persuade sceptical voters to vote yes from within Cymru Yfory?