If UKIP did not publish a single leaflet, or issue a single press release, I'd expect the party to do quite well in next year's Welsh Assembly elections. They won't win any 'constituency seats', but the additional member PR system is likely to deliver a few 'regional member' seats. As watching the party's election guru in Wales, Mark Reckless, on TV today, I conclude that the biggest threat to a decent UKIP result is the party itself. I just cannot see how a man of Kent, about as unWelsh as you can imagine, crossing Offa's Dyke to tell us how we should vote will help at all.
But two aspects of the Reckless comments this morning caught my ear, both about devolution of income tax powers. Firstly, he spoke about an emerging consensus that a significant part of income tax will be devolved without a referendum. Well, I didn't know there was an emerging consensus. I've been in favour of this step for years, and have seen my position on this as being a lonely place. But the right place. Such a step would be transformative, making the Welsh Govt financially accountable, and would end the democracy destroying 'one party state' we suffer so much from in Wales. I realise that UKIP want there to be a consensus to 'legitimise' the anti establishment vote they desperately need. It just that I do not think there is one - yet.
The second aspect of the UKIP approach is to interpret the granting of income tax powers as the same thing as raising income tax. It is not. Very definitely not. I would argue the only change to benefit Wales would be to reduce the top rate, bringing higher earning people into Wales (to pay more tax!). But the reality doesn't matter. It's perception that counts. Only reason there's support for a referendum (yet another) is that it can be interpreted as 'the Welsh Govt putting up your taxes'. Cobblers of course. This morning we saw how it will be used. It's no more than a 'blocking mechanism' by those who are still fighting the 1997 referendum. I think it was rather helpful to see the strategy exposed so early in the run up to the Wales Bill. Feeling confident I could be on the winning side on this come the debate next year.