Monday, September 18, 2017

20 yrs ago today, the voters of Wales decided.

On 18th September 1997, the voters of Wales decided that a National Assembly for Wales should be established. Well, around 25% of them did. But as someone once surely said "one is a majority". And 6,000 votes is a lot more than one. Even if it wasn't a thumping 52%/48% victory. A majority of 0.6% ignored my advice that they should reject this expensive extra layer of bureaucracy. I was the only No person at the count in Llandrindod Wells in the early hours of Sept 19th when the last result came in from Carmarthen giving the Yes campaigners victory. I was surrounded by dancing, singing, whooping and tears of joy. I could see immediately that there was not to be any going back. Case of "if you can't beat them, join them"! Not quite perhaps, but I did accept the result immediately, and have worked to make a success of it ever since.
I stood for election to the National Assembly at its first election in 1999. I was defeated in Montgomeryshire by the all conquering Liberal Democrats in the form of Mick Bates. But I was elected as a 'regional' Assembly Member' for Mid and West Wales. Same thing happened 4 yrs later in 2003. But by 2007, the Labour machine banned 'duel candidacy' and I had to choose which hill to climb. Since I'd represented Mid and West Wales for 8 yrs I went for the 'list seat' and my political career bit the dust because my Conservative Party did too well. I was sad about that. That sort of thing happens with PR systems.
Anyway, in 2010, I rose from my political grave to be elected MP for Montgomeryshire, vanquishing the colourful Lembit Opik, and repeated the performance with increasing majorities in 2015 and 2017. Earlier this year I was very pleased to be a part of the Wales Office team that took the most recent Wales Act through to the statute book. I was especially pleased that responsibility for raising income tax and that the 'conferred powers' model of devolution has been replaced by the 'reserved powers model.
Its my desire to see devolution be a success, I do not think it has been yet. Services have not improved. If anything the reverse has been the case. And disappointingly, the politics of the National Assembly has not changed as I would have expected. Labour has formed the Government since day one, supported for part of that time by Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and by Lord Elis Thomas. No fault on Labour for this. It's a matter for the opposition parties. Unfortunately, the Welsh Conservatives have not persuaded others (notably Plaid Cymru) to lie in bed beside them. Maybe someday. When Labour are in opposition, the Welsh Parliament will have 'grown up'. Hope we don't have to wait 20 years for that!

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