Sunday, October 31, 2010

March 3rd is almost upon us.

Like Matt Withers in today's Wales on Sunday, I'm surprised by the absence of any urgency or build up to the referendum on Assembly powers. The people of Wales will be going to the polls on March 3rd, just 8 weeks after we resurface following Christmas and the New Year. There remains a bit of formality with the orders, but the legalities will be wrapped up by the Privy Council before Christmas.

Long-standing visitors to this blog will know that I was very firmly in the Yes camp. Now I haven't changed my opinion, but my status as a member of the Wales Office ministerial team mean that I am now officially 'neutral'. And I'm quite comfortable with this, because much the biggest job will be persuading people to take a bit of interest in it, and turn out to vote. Wonder whether I'll receive any invitations to speak during the build up, or whether I'll be sidelined because of this 'neutrality'. At the least I will arrange a series of public meetings in Montgomeryshire. Public meetings organisers do so like to create a confrontation atmosphere, which demands that there be argument, even if much of it may not be relevant to the question on the ballot paper. The TV studio usually sheds more heat than light.

The big question is 'Which way will it go?'. If there's a low turn out, the result could be a close call. As Matt rather unkindly suggested, the four party leaders in the National Assembly holding hands in front of the Sennedd, calling for a Yes vote, might have the opposite effect. Remember the first Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland. I can honestly say that not a single Montgomeryshire voter has raised this issue with me over the last two or three years.


JaE said...

Out of interest just over a week ago I conducted a straw poll with the nine people I supervise.

Two Polish employees, long term residents in Cardiff, both not registered to vote told me it wasn't their concern, 6 young employees are not going to vote, there was a colourful variety of negative expletives used to describe politicians and politics, the remaining member of the team will be voting No for much the same same reasons as the young voters.
At what level of apathy would the referendum be considered as not representative of the views of the electorate, should this obvious discomfort with the current democratic process amongst the population be given further consideration.

Stuart Rendel said...

Frankly Glyn for the good of democracy there has to be a turnout threshold. The real danger is a vote either way on a low turnout.Any future controversial legislation if there is a 'yes' vote whichwould only apply only to Wales could be a recipe for disaster. A no vote some might argue could effectively leave the Assembly badly wounded and in limboland. At the moment we are sleep walking into the unknown with most voters as you rightly point out either not aware of the issue or not that interested. The argument that the 'yes' vote will save about £1.9 million a year must be one of the weakest for major constitutional change that has ever been put forward.The referendum will probably be dominated by arguments which have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the question. The no side willl talk about the slippery slope to independence and the yes will argue that more money for Wales depends on a positive vote for more lawmaking powers. The fact that both arguments are a load of cobblers is of course besides the point. Meanwhile in the real world most people are probably more interested in who the likely winner of the X factor will be. There seems to be even less interest at the moment than in 1997 and even then it wasn't an issue which caught many people's interest. Without 18years of Tory government and Maggie Thatcher there probably would not have been a yes vote in 1997.

Anonymous said...

Can we get Christmas and new year out of the way before you start to bore us with this please.
20th January 2011 is soon enough to be talking about this.

Would have to agree with JaE's post.

ps. Montgomeryshire deserves better. We are still waiting...