December 11, 2009

Being noticed.....

There was a good report on the BBC News site today reporting that Carwyn Jones believes that a referendum is undoubtedley winnable.

But the interesting point to note, is that this headline appeared on the UK main page, not buried under UK Politics, Wales or Welsh Politics.

Looks like we are being taken seriously at last!!

December 9, 2009

North East Wales says YES

There is a very interesting report in the Wrexham Leader - it seems that even in this area which is generally considered to be the most devosceptic in Wales, there is strong support for more powers. I have reprinted the article in full here:

SPECIAL REPORT - Should the Welsh Assembly be given law-making powers?
Published date: 09 December 2009 Published by: Rhian Waller, Robert Doman and Holly Evans

THIS week Wales gained a new leader. Carwyn Jones is our new First Minister and will inherit a stacked in-tray from Rhodri Morgan.
One of the most pressing issues forcing its way to the top of his to-do list is likely to be the question of increased powers for the Assembly.The recent All-Wales Convention report recommended further devolution more quickly and is likely to fuel calls for the Assembly to move closer to the level of autonomy enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament.The Leader, working with our sister newspapers across North and Mid Wales, set out to create a snapshot of the region’s opinion on the issue.With the results in, we look at what they say about the Assembly’s impact on us over the past decade and what the future may have in store.

The Leader conducted fieldwork and telephone polling across two days at the end of November.
We drew on a combination of face-to-face questioning and calls to residents across each area in a bid to ensure as representative a sample as possible.
Respondents were asked the single question: Do you support more law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly?
Then they were given the opportunity to discuss their answer and reasons with our reporters. Here are our findings:

THERE was strong support for more powers in Wrexham.Angela Patricks, 37, was among the 21 respondents who backed the plan, and said: “Yes, Wales should be completely away from the government in Westminster, they're only making things worse"Among the 13 residents who said ‘no’ was Arthur Jones, 78, who said: “We don’t need any more changes to the system, it’s fine how it is. I voted against it n 1999.”“I don’t think that anything north of Aberystwyth exists for the Welsh Assembly government,” said Brian Evans, reflecting a view expressed frequently by poll respondents in Flintshire and Wrexham.In Wrexham 16 people said they were undecided.

THE county is traditionally one of the most sceptical about the Assembly, having voted against devolution in 1999. This time the results were fairly evenly split.Of the 50 people we canvassed both face to face and by telephone polling in the county, 19 backed more powers now with several citing specific examples where the Assembly had proved its worth to them.Debbie O’Neill said: “The Welsh Assembly Government have been good to me as an individual. I was made redundant last year and the Welsh Assembly offered me financial support.“I have since retrained and got another job so devolution has worked for me.”And Colin Hughes agreed, adding: “I wasn’t originally a fan of devolution, but when you start looking at what's happening in Scotland – it’s working quite well there with more powers, so why not here?”There were some strong views among the 16 Flintshire residents who gave the idea the thumbs-down.Laura Howard from Mold said: “Wales doesn’t need to make its own laws. Britain is only a small island, not like America where they have different state laws.” Of those polled in Flintshire, 15 people said they were undecided either saying they didn’t care or didn’t know enough about the Assembly.

IN Denbigh, Ruthin, Corwen and the surrounding area, as well as Bala, people were much more clearly in favour of a more powerful Assembly.The area is covered by our sister newspaper the Denbighshire Free Press and our interviewers there found a groundswell of support for the convention's report.Huw Jones from Corwen said: “We’re wasting time and it would be best if Wales had more of a voice in Europe and skipped Westminster altogether.“Think of the money we could save on MPs! And when you look at the bigger picture, there are all these small Eastern European countries joining in and finding a voice with the European Union so why shouldn’t we have a share of the cake as well?”Evan Dobson of Bala, over the border in Gwynedd, agreed. He said: “This could help promote the identity of the Welsh Assembly in the eyes of the population.”

THERE was even more resounding support for increased powers in Rhyl, where of 30 people questioned a massive 22 said ‘yes’.Opinions were more mixed in Colwyn Bay with a third of people voting against, while in Llandudno there was another big ‘yes’ vote.
Residents of the popular seaside resort were in favour of more powers by a 19 to five.

OUR research in the area of Mid Wales covered by the County Times found the highest support of all for the convention’s recommendations, together with a clear sense that the Assembly has a higher profile in this part of Wales.
Whereas elsewhere a significant number of people were undecided or did not care about the issue, in Welshpool, Newtown and the surrounding communities people were much more likely to have a definite view.Typically unequivocal was Dave Cox of Welshpool, who said: “It’s Wales and we should be governed by the Welsh.”Isobel Tibbott of Llangynog said: “Being Welsh I would say yes. I would like to see us have a referendum on full devolution.”A cautionary note was sounded by Phillip Trow of Middletown, who said: “I think it should have some more but not full power across the board because it would cost a lot more in taxes.”The County Times also conducted an online poll of its readers – not included in the results – but which broadly supported the view our fieldwork found – 63 per cent supported more powers while 27 per cent said ‘no’.

WE presented your views to politicians both at Cardiff and Westminster to gauge the initial reaction to the figures.Delyn AM Sandy Mewies said: “I think the results of your poll reflect the changing attitudes of the electorate towards the National Assembly.“We deal with so many things that affect every day life. People are seeing the positive impact devolution is having in Wales, for example the way the Welsh Assembly Government has introduced innovative schemes to help people worst affected by the economic downturn, the ground-breaking learn-through-play Foundation Phase in schools, free prescriptions for all, free bus travel for the over 60s, and more front-line staff in the national health service than ever before.
"It is initiatives like these that are making a real difference to the lives of people in Wales and why more voters are now supportive of the idea that the Assembly should have more powers.”Denbighshire Cllr Raymond Bartley said: “I don’t think it should be any different to Scotland. From a citizens point of view it is very important for the Aassembly to have more powers.”Delyn MP David Hanson said: “Any changes to the current system would have to have the consent of the people of Wales and I would very much welcome my constituents' views on this.”

THE bottom line is that the people we questioned across the region were, on the whole, supportive of a stronger Assembly.
But there was a marked divide in the margin by which ‘yes’ votes won in each county or area, from the strong support in Powys and coastal Denbighshire to the more divided opinions we encountered in Wrexham and Flintshire. Ensuring the North East’s support for the Assembly does not wane is likely to be one of Carwyn Jones's toughest challenges.
YES - 55%NO - 25.2%UNDECIDED - 19.6%

December 1, 2009

Myth Busters............

I just looked back over one of my earlier posts and updated it:

I aint afraid of no ghosts....

November 24, 2009

Let Battle Commence

Well, that didnt take long for Labour to split! Less than one week after the EJP report coming out strongly in favour of an early referendum, Welsh Labour make this statement:

Welsh Labour's Welsh joint policy committee has met, prioritised the need to campaign for a general election victory, and agreed to start considering the All Wales Convention report in detail as a prelude to stepping up wider party consultation with AMs and MPs, councillors, trade unionists and members as soon as the general election is over

This statement effectively kills a referendum before the 2011 Assembly election, which puts it into direct conflict with the coalition agreement, and interestingly it was made before Labour elects its new leader, which begs the question - is Welsh Labour really run from Cardiff or London???

So if IWJ has the balls he should make preparations for a new Rainbow coalition, and then sit back and wait for the new Welsh Labour Leader to be elected. Then present him or her with a simple ultimatum:

Agree to a debate in the Senedd in January, with a call for a referendum to be held in September 2010.

Become the first Welsh Labour Leader of the Opposition.

Round One to IWJ and an early referendum.

Round Two brings in Peter Hain to tag this space

Second Update:
Peter Hain says .. er .but.. maybe... I never said... um...

November 19, 2009

A Matter of Timing

Now that the dust is starting to settle on the EJP report, it is clear that it is now a matter of WHEN not IF the referendum will be held. So it is worth considering some of the dates:

First of all, there is a commitment in the Labour-Plaid coalition agreement to hold the referendum before the next Assembly elections, which are scheduled for May 2011. For practical campaigning reasons, these should be held at least 3 months before the Assembly elections, so the latest date they should be held would be February 2011.

Then looking at the timing of the UK General Election, this has to be held at the latest by June 2010, but it has been widely leaked that this will take place on May 6th 2010. Parliament will be dissolved 17 working days before this, so taking into account the May Bank Holiday, this means Friday 9th April. Parliament is actually closed on this date, as the Easter Recess is scheduled for 29th March to 18th April, so any unfinished business on Friday 26th March will remain unfinished. Even if the election date moves forward by another week or two, this remains the last effective working day of the current Parliament.

Now coming back to the referendum, this will first need to be triggered by a 2/3rds majority vote in the Assembly. After this, the Assembly will pass the request to the Secretary of State for his (or her) consideration. He (or she) will then have 120 days in which to consider this request and must either respond positively, or provide a valid reason why it can not be considered. If the Secretary of State is in agreement, and has used the 120 days to prepare the necessary draft Order which identifies the exact wording of the referendum, the date, and some additional arrangements, then the Order must then pass through the House of Commons and House of Lords for their agreement. Assuming that if the Labour Government wants to it can bounce the vote through the House of Commons in the week immediately prior to dissolution, then this means that the Order needs to be presented prior to say Monday 22nd March. (I am assuming that the House of Lords vote can be taken after the dissolution of the House of Commons) Working back by 120 days, means that the Senedd would need to pass its vote by the 20th November 2009 for the current Westminster government to approve the referendum, which effectively lets Peter Hain off the hook.

Instead, the Assembly will have to wait until after the UK General Election and submit its request to an incoming Conservative Secretary of State. Moving forward by 120 days, and the earliest that this could be approved by the SoS would be 3rd September 2010. However, Westminster will still be in recess until the 22nd September, so even with David Cameron’s express blessing, approval is unlikely before October. There would then need to be a minimum one month campaign which means that the earliest the Referendum could be held would be the first week of November.

That will please the campaign teams……….

November 18, 2009

It's not over yet.....

While much of the blogosphere has been concentrating on the details of EJPs recommendations, I thought it would be a good time to go back over some of the research behind the report.

While the headline figures quoted for a possible referendum result were given as 47% For and 37% against - if the two polls are averaged and the dont knows/wont votes are excluded then this indicates a result of 57% for and 43% against which looks a lot healthier.

But more interesting were the figures on preferred options:

Taking the average of the two ‘waves’ of polling, and adjusting for the don’t knows, the reported outcome was:

Independence 8%
Full Lawmaking & Taxation Powers 39%
Limited Lawmaking Powers 40%
Abolition 13%

This was an odd question to ask, because we will not be voting on the Full Lawmaking & Taxation option (the Scottish model) and Limited Lawmaking includes both the status quo AND the proposed referendum powers. If combined with the referendum result above, it would seem to suggest that around 30% of people are satisfied with the status quo, but that only 10% of people are supportive of the proposed powers, while an impressive 47% want to go further.

It would suggest that this current settlement will not be final!!!

Sorry Peter......

So finally, the All-Wales Convention, headed by Emyr Jones Parry has published its report.

It is going to take a few days to pick through all of its 120 pages, and I will get back to some of its details later, but for now, here are the key points:
  • The existing devolution settlement is too complex, and lacks public understanding
  • The LCO system is particularly complex and does not meet basic democratic principles
  • Moving to legislative powers would be cost-neutral.
  • Public support for devolution (wether existing or increased) is very strong, with 72% in favour
  • Public support for increased powers is strong but not overwhelming with 47% in favour and 37% against.
  • A referendum could be won if held, but it is not guaranteed and much would depend on timing
So generally good news (unless you are Peter Hain). More later......

November 17, 2009

5 Reasons to Vote No.........

The revamped True Wales website includes a section entitled 5 Reasons to Vote No. They will almost certainly be publicising these ‘reasons’ this week, which are in reality a mix of misconceptions, misrepresentations and outright lies, so I thought it was worth looking at their claims:

More Politicians.
TW claim that the referendum would result in a further 20 AMs.
This is simply false. There are 60 AMs today and there will continue to be 60 AMs following a Yes vote. Of course, we could reduce the number of Welsh MPs......
Update: EJP report clearly states that there will not be an increase in number of AMs.
Myth #1 = BUSTED

Money diverted from public services to costly buildings and the trappings of government
TW claim that the cost of extra bureaucracy will divert funds away from public services
The buildings already exist. The bureaucracy already exists. There is a cost to Government at any level, and the question in hand is would you prefer that cost to be spent in Cardiff or London ?
Update: EJP report clearly states that move to enhanced powers will be cost neutral.
Myth #2 = BUSTED

The cost of a whole new legislature
TW claim that even more money will be spent on lawyers and civil servants
Again, the legislature already exists, and it is far better for Wales that these people are employed in Cardiff than London. In fact by giving legislative powers directly to the Assembly, we could reduce legislative costs by scrapping the ridiculously complex LCO system
Update: EJP report clearly states that move to enhanced powers will be cost neutral.
Myth #3 = BUSTED

An end to any hope of real devolution
TW claim that this will not bring devolution closer to the people
Well this statement defies all logic and belief ! How does keeping control of powers in London, bring it closer to the people of Wales???
Not possible to bust this one as nothing to bust!!

Slippery slope to separation from the UK
TW claims that the proposed powers are a step to independence.
The proposed powers, which are still significantly less than those enjoyed by Scotland, merely give us a degree of direct control over our own affairs. These powers are much less than those enjoyed by the state of Florida within the United States of America, or the Lander of Saxony within Germany, or Lombardy in Italy, etc. These examples (there are plenty more) have full legislative powers without any threat to the central state breaking up. Or maybe the Westminster UK government is feeling insecure?
Update: Recent opinion polls in Scotland show support for independence slipping to 20%, despite them having more devolution to begin with.
Myth #5 = BUSTED

Of course, far better than allowing True Wales to set the agenda, we need to adopt a positive approach and promote 5 reasons to Vote Yes.

A Big News Week

By the end of this week, we will all learn what Emyr Jones Parry and his All-Wales Convention will be proposing for the referendum on a Welsh parliament.

You can guarantee that certain anti-Welsh politicians such as Paul Murphy will be doing everything in their power to stop any further progress. So make sure that we make more noise than him - make a point of talking to your friends and colleagues about why Wales deserves its own parliament - why are we being treated as second class citizens compared to Scotland - why cant we be trusted to govern ourselves a bit more?

Write to your newspapers - phone your local radio station - saturate the internet. Get people talking - but make sure that they are hearing the right side of the story, and not the excuses of Labour MPs and the lies of Untrue Wales.

Wales First - Cymru Gyntaf

October 7, 2009

Rhodri's Final Act

Apart from the implications of the current leadership campaign to replace Rhodri Morgan, we are in for a very interesting few months in Welsh politics.

Emyr Jones Parry and his All-Wales Convention have now completed their consultation process and are on target to deliver their recommendations by the end of the year. At the last executive committee meeting held on 17th September they were working on a final draft of their report, which should be ready to present to the Assembly Government before the end of November. (I wonder if this was the real reason for Rhodri to delay his retirement date until December, so that he can receive the report in person?)
Update: According to Betsan Powys, the report will be issued on 18th November

Whispers from the convention suggest that the recommendations will be very positive, and that it is only a matter of timing for the referendum. So how might that work?

Well the two key dates to note are May 6th 2010 and May 5th 2011.

The later date is that of the next Assembly election, which according to the commitments made in the One-Wales Agreement, is the date by which the referendum will be held.

The earlier date is the probable date for the next Westminster General Election, where unless there is some sort of political earthquake, the Conservatives will replace Labour to form the next UK government, and this is where it gets interesting…….

In order to hold the referendum, there first needs to be a vote in the Assembly, with a 66% majority required for a positive vote. With the prospects of facing a Conservative government in Westminster, it is inconceivable that the Labour Group will vote against, so this first hurdle should be easily passed, but I envisage some political manoeuvring regarding the timing of such a vote.

There are those who predict that Labour will quickly push this through Parliament before it is dissolved, but apart from the short timescale, this would require Peter Hain to admit that his GOWA 2006 was a failure as it did not represent a a settlement for a generation as he proudly boasted at the time.

Instead, the smart move would be to hold the Assembly vote in say March, which would leave insufficient time to drive a vote through Westminster (both houses) and would force the incoming Conservative government to deal with it. If they refused to implement the referendum this would create a constitutional crisis. This would also make devolution an issue at the UK General Election (at least in Wales) and would force the Conservatives to make their position public. Labour will be clutching at every straw they can to mitigate their losses, and the image of an ‘anti-Welsh’ Conservative party should help them hang on to a few seats - not just at Westminster but at the following Assembly elections.

Which brings us back to Rhodri - Will his final act be to lead the Yes campaign in the referendum?

Interesting times ahead.

September 6, 2009


I have always found True Wales to be an odd mix of Old Labour Dinosaurs and Right Wing Conservatives. But their latest stunt reported by Spin Doctor in todays Wales on Sunday is just bizarre.

According to this petition on the Downing Street website, they want to lock up anyone who doesnt agree with them!

Josef Stalin would have been proud of them.

August 3, 2009

Dafydd Speaks Out

Is this the start of an organised campaign - or is it DW speaking personally?

I suspect that he is being used as a 'Stalking Horse' to measure political support and opposition - The worst solution would be for Plaid to start demanding a referendum now and for Labour to come out officially against.

I think that we will need to read between a lot of lines this week.

July 27, 2009

Conservatives to Abolish Welsh Assembly

Yesterday I watched Andrew Marr interviewing David Cameron (available on iPlayer if anyone wants to watch it). When pushed about where Conservatives would make cost savings he said that there were only two defeinite areas for now - ID cards (agree with him there) and 'Regional Government'.

Later in the programme he elaborated further by saying that Conservatives would abolish Regional Development Agencies and Regional Assemblies. Now the last time I looked there was only one Regional Assembly in England (for London), so was he sneaking out a new policy to abolish the Welsh Assembly?

This is the problem with the current devolution settlement - we have to go jump through hoops just to get a referendum on more powers - but in the meantime Westminster can simply abolish the Assembly on a whim.

We dont need more assymetric devolution - what we need is SOVEREIGNTY!

July 2, 2009

Game, Set & Match

I pinched this excellent piece from MH on his Syniadau blog - I hope he wont mind.


There's been quite a lot of talk in the blogs and media in the past week about the Tories' position on devolution. I want to sound a note of caution ... indeed, I'd put it more strongly and call it a warning.

We know full well that there are some Tories in Wales who on principle support primary lawmaking powers for the Senedd. Glyn Davies and Dylan Jones-Evans are two of the most prominent. They have each mentioned it again in the last few days, and David Melding's new book is along the same lines. That's not to forget others who might well want the same thing but are probably not always so forthright about it.

Outside Wales, David Cameron said in a TV programme over the weekend that the Tories had been wrong to oppose devolution in Scotland. So, taken together, it's hardly surprising that there should be a note of optimism about the Tories' attitude to the Senedd getting primary lawmaking powers.

In my opinion this is very dangerous indeed.

Take a step back and imagine first how Labour MPs and AMs will look at it. Of all the things they want most, right at the top of the list is a commitment from David Cameron that the Tories will not refuse to let us have the referendum if, as seems likely, they win the next Westminster election.

Why do Labour in particular want this so much? Because it saves them having to make this tricky decision for themselves before the election. If the Tories were to make this commitment, it would give Labour the luxury of knowing that they could sit back and ask for a referendum whenever they chose (they know that Plaid and the LibDems will vote yes). They would probably like to wait until the deep, dark days in the middle of the Tories' first term, when cuts in the block grant have begun to bite hard. They will then fight the referendum on the grounds of "saving Wales from the Tories" ... which will suit them down to the ground, because being "against the Tories' cuts in public services" is what Labour are most comfortable with. If you doubt that, listen to what Peter Hain is now saying over and over again in every speech and interview he gives.

If nothing else, it simply shows that Labour know their own supporters and what will bring them out. It's the old tribalism. It's always "Labour vs the Tories". They then don't need to present any case on its merits ... they can just rely on instinct and gut reaction. Familiar, easy ground. No effort involved.

Now that would be fine ... if the Tories were to make a commitment to allow the referendum. But, despite these few positive notes, they haven't ... and I'm quite sure that they won't!
My reasons for saying this are simple. The Tories have had ample opportunity to make such a commitment, but they have refused to do so. They commissioned a report by Lord Roberts last year, but they have point-blank refused to publish it, or make any sort of statement one way or the other about what their position will be.

I'd urge people to watch Cameron's much reported contribution to Holyrood and the Search for Scotland's Soul on BBC iPlayer, much of which was repeated for non-Scottish consumption on Panorama on Monday. It is nothing more than a one line soundbite. It is not any sort of commitment or change of heart. It's kiddology. They're quite happy to have people—especially those in other parties—think that they are on the brink of a new vision for Britain. But they're not.

They know that for every Glyn, Dylan and David there are probably half a dozen Tories who want the constitutional situation in Wales to remain exactly as it is. And, whatever their leaders in might think, it's definitely true that the majority of their supporters are firmly against the Senedd getting any primary lawmaking powers.

There was a line in Glyn Davies' blog that was very telling. He said:
What the comments that David Cameron is reported to have said certainly do is tell me is that he's willing to be open minded about this issue. I'd like ten minutes on my own with him to make the case.

And then in one of his replies to the comments he said:
I have not discussed the issue with Cheryl Gillan or David Jones, so I do not know what is their opinion - but we all know that we can establish a party policy position only after discussion.
A view from Rural Wales

Glyn Davies is quite likely to be the next MP for Montgomeryshire (which is better than things are at present, though nowhere near as good as they could be if Heledd were to win). He is easily the most prominent Tory to be unequivocally in favour of primary lawmaking powers, yet he has never had ten minutes with his party leader?

Also he claims not even to know the position of two of the current Tory MPs, one of whom happens to be the shadow Secretary of State for Wales!

To members of other parties, this will seem very odd. The first reaction is that this cannot possibly be true. But I don't think Glyn Davies is a liar. We need to remember that the Tories aren't like other parties. They are the top-down party par excellence. Their policy will be what their leader in Westminster says it is ... not what anyone in Wales might want it to be.

In other words, it shows that David Cameron hasn't even thought about it. Sure, you can spin that as being "open minded" ... but I'd prefer a leader that had actually formed an opinion on the subject rather than one who might get round to thinking about it. What is clear is that the Tories have not reached a position ... or at least not one that they are prepared to talk to Glyn Davies about!

Which brings me to my Machiavellian conclusion:
• If the Tories do make a commitment to allow a referendum, Labour will breathe one huge sigh of relief. They know that there will be no urgency to make a decision, and that will guarantee that there will be no referendum before 2011.
• And, by no strange coincidence, that's what the Tories want. They want others to think that they are about to have a change of heart in order to remove any sense of urgency. If they can get others to think that they might allow a referendum, they achieve their main objective, which is to delay the referendum ad infinitum.
• When the Tories get in at Westminster, they will not allow a referendum. They will do this for exactly the same reason that Labour have not committed themselves to it: namely that the Secretary of State has a powerful veto over the Assembly that no party in power in Westminster will willingly give up.
• So my warning—to all parties, but to Labour in particular—is to keep things in your own hands, rather than allow the Tories to have control of the details and the timetable. We do not need to rely on the Tories for this ... and we would be prize fools to let them take control of the process.
Don't be lulled into a false sense of optimism about what the Tories will allow us to do. Yes, Glyn Davies, Dylan Jones-Evans and David Melding are decent Tories who I believe are perfectly sincere about what they say. But they share their party with fossilized anti-devolutionists like David TC Davies and David Jones. In fact, the old dinosaurs are far more representative of the way the Tory party thinks.

But enough of the Tory party. I want to move on to talk about how we make sure we do get the referendum.

I don't think it is any coincidence that this flurry of Tory activity comes at the end of the evidence gathering part of the All Wales Convention. Emyr Jones Parry in his recent interviews has told us what we all already know: that the current Government of Wales Act is so much of a dog's breakfast that most people are unable to understand it.

That's not new news! Did they seriously expect to be able to explain its Byzantine complexity in anything but the most broad-brush terms? But yet there seemed to be a sense of anti-climax in EJP's body language, almost a sense of failure. He must be wondering what on earth he can say. I don't envy him that task.

Let me offer this advice. The AWC was never primarily meant to be what it "said on the tin". It was only ever meant to be a means of delaying the decision until such time as we knew in which way the political wind was blowing. Labour politicians were able to say nothing (indeed they were more or less instructed to keep quiet) while the AWC was gathering its evidence. The reason is obvious. Once a politician commits him or herself to a particular view, it becomes very much harder to say something different later. If Labour were going to remain in power (Gordon Brown could have called an election in Autumn 2007—which he would probably have won—but he bottled it) Labour would have resisted a referendum before 2011. They would not have wanted to relinquish the Welsh Secretary's powers over the Assembly.

But that's history. We now know that the election won't be until May 2010. And we also know that Labour are set to lose it.

In other words, everything has worked out perfectly ... for those of us who want the referendum on or before 2011, that is.

There is no real question about which way the people of Wales will vote in the referendum when we get it. Polls and surveys consistently show an ever-growing margin who will vote "Yes" ... which at the turn of the year stood at 13%. We know that the AWC will commission another survey over the summer, which I fully expect will show a margin of 15% to 20% in favour. That's plenty good enough.

The question has always been whether the political parties would let the referendum happen for, despite all the rhetoric and window-dressing, politicians will only let it happen when it is in their own party interests to do so.

For Labour, it is all about party unity. There are two groups, who have up until now held two differing sets of views about further devolution. Labour are not prepared to go into a referendum campaign until these two groups can agree a common position. You can't blame them for that. It's simple political reality.

But it is equally true that the two opposing Labour camps will find a common position when the circumstances are right. The time will be right when Labour are no longer in power in Westminster. To put it bluntly, Labour will not want a Tory Secretary of State for Wales that can exercise the same powers of veto over a Labour-led Assembly government that their own SoSW is currently able to exercise. You can call that hypocrisy if you like, but I'd call it simple political reality.

From Labour's point of view, a "Yes" vote in the referendum allows them to get on with the job they were elected to do without political interference at every turn. They just need the foresight to get the Referendum Bill through while they are still in power.

Once that penny drops, it all becomes a matter of timing. My guess is that most Welsh Labour MPs have grasped this and (whether reluctantly or not) now realize that the only pragmatic way that Labour has any hope of delivering a comprehensive programme of government in Wales is to give the Assembly primary lawmaking powers.

As I see it, the only danger is lethargy. Action is required now. Labour can't simply sit back and wait for the All Wales Convention to report. It will not deliver a report that will make the decision for them, and no one should expect it to. Emyr JP is a diplomat, not a politician. The Convention can explain the situation and make recommendations, but it cannot and will not make the decision about whether or when to hold the referendum.

That is a political decision. We know what Plaid want, we know what the LibDems want. It does not matter what the Tories want. So the decision is going to be made by Labour. Without Labour we can't get the two-thirds majority in the Assembly. Without Labour's current majority in the Commons, we cannot get it through Westminster. All the balls are in Labour's court.
But if Labour leave it until the AWC has reported, it might be too late. You surely don't want the AWC to have to report that there seems to be no appetite among politicians for a referendum. That would be shooting yourselves in the foot. So now is the time for Labour politicians to start saying that they want the Assembly to have primary lawmaking powers.

Up until now you have been urged—if not instructed—not to make public statements on the issue. I would urge you not to hold back any longer. If Peter Hain can make public pontifications on the subject, ask yourselves why you are being told to keep quiet. If even some Tories are prepared to speak out in favour, why shouldn't you?

June 29, 2009

A Political Meteorite?

I was very interested to read David Meldings article in today's Western Mail, where he proposes a radical solution to 'federalise' the UK - not as a way of speeding up Welsh and Scottish independence, as opponents to even limited devolution continually claim - but as a way to protect the union, and to prevent its breakup.

Does this mean that the Welsh Conservatives will now actively support a 'Yes' vote in the referendum, or will they now say that we dont need the referendum as it is a moot point as an incoming Conservative government in Westminster will give us a lot more than is currently on offer.

Could this be the political meteorite that will finally wipe out the Welsh Labour dinosaurs??

June 16, 2009

Cause and Effect

Peter Hain just doesn’t get it – in his interview in the Western Mail today, he acknowledges that Labour are doing very badly in Wales and that the Wales of today is a very different place than before 1999.

And then he goes on to say that he doesn’t think that a referendum on further powers will be held within the agreed timetable of 2011.

Why can he not realise that the two statements may in fact be connected? Yet again, Labour are demonstrating that they consider their narrow party political ambitions more important than the needs and aspirations of the people of Wales. They are more concerned with protecting the golden troughs of their valley MPs than ensuring that the Welsh Assembly is given the powers it needs to protect itself from an incoming right-wing government in Westminster.

If Welsh Labour MPs (and I don’t include Peter Hain in that description) were to actually stand up for their electorate for once instead of continually telling us that they know best, then they might stand a chance of re-election.

June 12, 2009

Virtually Yes

Alwyn ap Huw has posted an interesting article on his MOF blog, which makes a very good point about people voting in referendums on issues other than the question in hand. For example:

- If Plaid are seen to be promoting a Yes vote then Labour activists will mobilise a No vote just to give Plaid a bloody nose.
- If Labour are seen to be promoting a Yes vote then many people will vote No just to give them another deserved kicking.
- If all parties are seen to be promoting a Yes vote then many people may decide to register a protest vote against politicians in general.

When the referendum was first proposed, it was never done to further democracy – quite the opposite – but there was at least a clear and achievable way forward. However, following the collapse of Labour in the wake of the expenses scandal, it is difficult to see how a referendum campaign could be conducted without it becoming another anti-government protest vote.

Labour will clearly be out of power at Westminster for many years to come, and Welsh Labour must realise that their only hope of power rests in Cardiff Bay, yet their referendum strategy may backfire on them (and all of us).

So maybe it is time to be a bit creative with the terms of Emyr Jones-Parry and the All-Wales Commission. They have been conducting research into the opinions of the Welsh electorate, and it is clear from the evidence published so far that opinion is broadly in favour of further powers.

So what if Labour were to amend the GOWA Act such that the referendum were to be replaced by the considered recommendation of the All Wales Commission? Treat Emyr’s findings as a ‘virtual’ referendum, as under the current political climate it is apparent that a referendum would not accurately reflect public opinion on the subject.

There would of course be objectors, claiming that this is undemocratic, but there is already a precedent for this at Westminster – whatever happened to the proposed referendum on the Lisbon Treaty??

So as an alternative approach, why not propose an alternative referendum, to be held two or three years after transfer of powers – to ‘recall’ the additional powers. Effectively grant the extra powers under probation, with the onus on the Assembly to prove it can handle them.

June 3, 2009

Not To Be Trusted

Just in case there are any Labour AMs out there who can not make up their minds as to whether to support the call for a referendum on law-making powers, and then campaign for a Yes vote, then this story should swing it.

When (not if) the Conservatives form the next Westminster government, we can expect another appointed English Secretary of State (Cheryl may be Welsh born but has no Welsh mandate) to make policy decisions on already devolved matters without reference to our elected AMs - while insisting we need a referendum or a convoluted LCO process to get more powers.

We need that referendum voted through the Senedd and then Westminster without delay, as it is looking increasingly like Labour can not cling on in Westminster till the new year, so we will need this vote passed before they collapse. If we do not we can kiss our existing settlement goodbye, let alone further powers.

May 29, 2009

Sieze the Moment

At last, it seems that Plaid are starting to stir - or at least IWJ is - I was getting worried that with all of the distractions about our thieving grasping MPs (can the DT please hurry up and print Peter Hains....) that Labour would miss the opportunity to vote the referendum through the Senedd and Westminster before calling a UK General Election.

The referendum will have to be held within 12 months of the Senedd vote (I need to check the extact detail on this) which would then be after the Conservatives have won the General Election, which should actually improve our chances of winning the referendum.

It sounds like a plan may be about to come together.

May 14, 2009

Agile Government for Fragile Times

Paul Flynn recently commented on his blog about a conversation he had with Rhodri Morgan, which nicely sums up why we should have more powers in Cardiff Bay:

Our First Minister said that it was a manageable task to run a country with three million people. In Westminster there are rubber levers. The ministers pull them and nothing happens.
In Wales decisions can be taken quickly and implemented with certainty. Or as he put it

'It's agile Government for fragile times'

May 6, 2009

Snakes and Ladders

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the first Welsh Assembly, there has been a lot of related articles published in the mainstream media this week. This included an interview with the Speaker where he suggested that a referendum could be held in 2011 to coincide with the next Assembly election.

I consider this referendum to be a bit like a game of snakes and ladders. We are currently on square 22, and in front of us is a ladder which will take us forward to square 36 in the case of a Yes vote, and also a snake which will take us back to square 18 in the case of a No vote. But there is also another way forward suggested by Emyr Jones Parry – which is to avoid the snake and the ladder altogether by simply not holding a referendum. We could still get to ‘square 36’ eventually but it would need to take a series of smaller steps over a longer period.

This might sound a good risk-free tactic for a diplomat, but I think we have waited long enough for our parliament and it is time for us to roll the dice. I have no doubt that we would comfortably win a Yes vote, and could climb the ladder quickly to give the Assembly the powers that it needs.

UPDATE: It seems that other people have different views on timing.

April 29, 2009

Its the Economy.....

In a recent conference to discuss the first 10 years of devolution, the Western Mail reported that:

THE man behind the 1997 Yes campaign bemoaned the failure of devolution to deliver an economic boost for Wales in the Assembly’s first decade.
Raising concerns that Wales’ economy had not improved in the way he had argued it would, he said: “I’ve spent a long time over the last 10 years thinking with intensity about that missing dividend.”
Describing the absence of a link between prosperity and autonomy as “devolution’s dirty little secret”, he said: “On the basis of the economic trends over the last 10 years, it is at least arguable that we have been devolving our way to relative economic decline.”

To try and put Professor Morgan's comments in context, the Welsh economy (measured by GVA per head) was a poor 77% of the UK average in 1999, and the gap has now worsened to 75% in 2007. We are clearly the poor relation of the UK and getting poorer, and I have to agree with Professor Morgan that devolution has not delivered in this respect.

There are inevitably those who say that devolution has failed and should therefore be abandoned – but remember that it was direct rule from Westminster that led to our relative poverty in the first place, and the initial devolution settlement gave us very few real powers in any case.

Contrast the Welsh performance with Scotland – who were able to close their gap with the UK economy from an already respectable 95% in 1999 to 96% in 2007. Is it mere coincidence that Scotland’s fully empowered parliament have been able to develop laws and strategies to suit their economy and particular conditions, while we have had to rely on hitching a ride on the back of Wesminster legislation, or trying to negotiate the painfully slow drip-feeding of powers by the LCO process?

We have not been able to benefit from the flexibility that devolution should have delivered, because we were never given the powers that we needed. The new powers that will be voted on in the referendum will still not match the powers of the Scottish Parliament, but it will at least give us more of a fighting chance to address our underlying economic problems.

The proposed referendum is not about independence –
it is about empowerment
– giving us the ability to react to rapidly changing circumstances and to develop Welsh solutions to Welsh problems.

April 26, 2009

Wales First Blitz Swansea!

Setting up stall outside a shop closed down by the incompotent policies of the UK government, the Wales First show rolled into Swansea this Saturday. Members leafletted the middle of town, and then went on to leaflet the Labour Party conference!
In both cases we recieved a warm and favourable response.

Swansea has always been a natural supporter of greater devolution, and the majority of members of the public, both young and old, thought that more powers seemed like a good idea. It was also interesting to note that strong support was to be found amongst trade union delegates and grassroots members of the Labour Party also.

Based on this good initial response, we aim to widen the net a little, and start leafletting the surrounding areas, including Llanelli and Neath Port Talbot. If you're free for a few hours over the next few months, why not give us a shout? Help us to build the broad base of popular public support we need to demonstrate that the Welsh public are ready for the next step - full lawmaking powers!

April 15, 2009

Continuing Success

Wales First - Cymru Gyntaf continued their success story by signing up its 2,000th member this week. This is another demonstration of the strength of support by people across Wales for the goal of establishing a law-making parliament for Wales. Our supporters include politicians from all parties (together with a few celebrities) but more importantly are mostly ordinary people.

We believe that our success has been due to promoting our goals truthfully and objectively, and not engaging in personal attacks. This is in stark contrast to the untruths, misrepresentations and downright lies adopted by True Wales and its campaign for the abolition of the Assembly altogether.

Congratulations to all involved.

April 6, 2009

Learning from America

There was an article in the Times recently, which was picked up by some of the unionist commentators, suggesting that the UK was over governed, and quoting the fact that the US House of Representatives has only 435 members for its 300 Million population. This was then compared with the 635 MPs, plus 60 AMs, 129 MSPs and 108 MLAs, and suggesting a radical reduction in all of these numbers, and predictably the abolition of the devolved Celtic Assemblies.

What the Times forgot to mention was that every State in the US also has its own State Legislature, and taking the example of Mississippi, which like Wales has a population of around 3 million, this elects 122 members to its House of Representatives and 52 members to its Senate, as well as a State Governor. This is in addition to electing members to the US House of Representatives and Senate.

And the US is not unusual in this respect – taking federal Germany as another example. The German Lander of Schleswig-Hosltein (population 3 million) elects 69 members to its State Legislature or Landtag, while at the same time sending members to the Bundesparliament in Berlin.

And again in Spain, which is divided into a series of Autonomous Communities, which includes Galicia – population 3 million. Galicia elects 75 deputies to its legislative Parliament in addition to sending representatives to Madrid.

Even France, one of the most centralised countries in Europe (apart from the UK of course) is divided into a series of Regional Counsels which have legislative and executive powers. This includes Bretagne (population 3 million), which elects 83 Councillors to its Counsel as well as sending politicians to Paris.

So despite what the anti-devolutionists would have you believe, devolved governments with legislative powers are the norm around the world and it is the UK which is out of step. And none of the examples quoted above is on the ‘slippery slope to independence’.

March 25, 2009

More Polling Data

Following the recent publication of the All-Wales Conventions polling data, I looked up the comparable polls on this subject for the last few years, which showed:

May 07 Yes 47% No 44% Yes Margin +3% (BBC)
Feb 08 Yes 49% No 42% Yes Margin +7% (BBC)
Dec 09 Yes 48% No 35% Yes Margin +13% (AWC)
Feb 09 Yes 52% No 39% Yes Margin +13% (BBC)

(The dates are when the polling was conducted, not when the poll published)

I understand that Labour want a +20% margin before they risk a poll, but things are certainly headed that way, and we could be on target for a 2010 referendum after all.

March 24, 2009

More Polling News

The All-Wales Convention have now published their poll findings, and despite the spin put on the findings by the Western Mail, it again shows that a Yes vote would be won.

The figures show Yes 48%, No 35%, Undecided 9% - So not yet a resounding Yes, but still largely in favour. So let us vote!!

The poll also confirms that the overwhelming proportion of voters want the Assembly in one form or another, with only 11% supporting abolition. David Davies and Don Touhig please note.

March 12, 2009

Abertawe yn dweud “Ie” i bwerau deddfu.

Mewn cyfarfod cyhoeddus poblogaidd a gynhaliwyd gan Gonfensiwn Cymru Gyfan yn Theatr y Grand, Abertawe, neithiwr, cafodd ymrwymiad ail ddinas Cymru i Ddatganoli ei gadarnhau o’r newydd. Ond cododd cwestiynau difrifol hefyd am natur y pwerau a gaiff eu cynnig. O’r ddwy awr ddwys o drafodaeth, daeth anniddigrwydd i’r amlwg ynghylch y pecyn sy’n cael ei gynnig – mae llawer o bobl yn teimlo nad yw’n ddigonol.

Yn wir, y consensws cyffredinol ymhlith aelodau’r gynulleidfa yw y dylem gael pwerau tebyg i’r Alban. Roedd yr archwaeth am Ddatganoli cryfach yn amlwg a diamwys; canlyniad pleidlais a gafwyd ar ddiwedd y sesiwn, gyda thros 100 yn bresennol, oedd 80% o blaid mwy o bwerau, ac 20% o blaid glynu wrth y drefn bresennol.

Ac nid teimlad a geir ymysg y cyhoedd yn gyffredinol yn unig yw hyn. Yr un yw’r farn ar draws pleidiau gwleidyddol a sefydliadau’r gymdeithas sifil. Mewn cyfarfod cyhoeddus a gynhaliwyd gan Cymru Gyntaf yr wythnos ddiwethaf, roedd y siaradwyr yn gytun mai’r hyn sydd ei angen arnom yw gweithredu argymhellion Comisiwn Richard – argymhellion a daflwyd i’r neilltu er mwyn cuddio’r craciau yn y Blaid Lafur.

Wrth i gefnogaeth ehangach dros bwerau deddfu barhau i dyfu, mae Llafur mewn perygl o fod wedi’i hynysu ac o golli cysylltiad â’r cyhoedd yng Nghymru ar y mater hwn...

Swansea says “Yes” to lawmaking powers.

A well attended public meeting held in Swansea’s Grand Theatre by the All Wales Convention last night reaffirmed the commitment of Wales’ second city to Devolution. But it also raised serious questions about the nature of the powers on offer. Two hours of serious, in depth debate and discussion revealed a strong thread of discontent with the package on offer - many people feel that it just isn’t enough.

If anything, the general consensus amongst members of the audience was that we should have Scottish style powers. The general appetite for stronger Devolution was clear and unambiguous: a vote held at the end of the session attended by over 100 people showed 80% in favour of more powers, and 20% for the status quo.

And this isn’t just a sentiment that’s widely held amongst the general public either. It’s also held across political parties and civil society organisations. A strong consensus amongst speakers at a public meeting held by Wales First last week was that what we need are implementation of the Richard Commission’s recommendations – recommendations kicked into touch to paper over the cracks in the Labour Party.

As wider support for law-making powers continues to acquire momentum, Labour runs the risk of looking increasing isolated and out of touch with the Welsh public on this issue...

March 11, 2009

Wales Can - Not Sure About Plaid

For years, Plaid have sat on the fence about independence, but have finally had the courage to open the debate with their Wales Can website.

While I am pleased that Plaid have stopped hiding behind weasel words and vague aspirations, and put their heads firmly above the parapet, I am staggered about the timing of this initiative, which can only be described as naiive!

At a time when we are fighting just to achieve a referendum on law-making powers (let alone win it), Plaid have shown True Wales and their ragbag collection of rabid conservative and labour dinosaur supporters an open goal.

The anti-devolutionists will use Plaid's campaign to reinforce their message that a law-making Parliament is nothing more than a step towards independence, and will be scouring the site for further evidence to misquote and add to their collection of untruths and lies.

Why could Plaid not have continued this debate behind closed doors for a little longer, with a simple statement that they were committed towards a Parliament and would only consider a discussion about independence after the goal of a parliament had been achieved.

Why open the debate now??

March 2, 2009

Evening Post Editor tells Sir Emyr to Take a Running Jump!

A friend of mine has e-mailed me the following story. A few days ago he attended a meeting of the All-Wales Convention in Llanelli. Sir Emyr was there as per usual, and informed the audience present that in his attempts to get local publicity for the event, he had fallen foul of Evening Post supremo Spencer Feeney, a man not renowned for his love of Wales or devolution.

It's not clear whether the following was relayed to Sir Emyr over the phone or face to face, but apparently Mr. Feeney's words were:

"Don't expect any help from me to publicise your work - If it doesn't effect Mrs Jones in Bonymaen - You can forget it cos it's not going in the paper."

So much for impartial, unbiased journalism then! Maybe it explains why publicity for a public "Yes" meeting on Wednesday, featuring two prominent local AMs, has yet to hit the pages of this particular paper...

But what episodes like this really highlight is the need and relevance of the Internet, and social networking groups like Facebook. Anti-devolution groups like True Wales seem to get regular media coverage on Television, on the web and in print media, but any grassroots "Yes" campaign will have to surmount formidable obstacles to get it's message out. Nevertheless, it costs nothing to set up a blog like this, and relay this information to nearly 2000 people at the touch of a button.

Anti-Welsh media Moguls like Spencer Feeney can raise their media blockades, but we have the technology to by-pass them.

It also takes next to no time to relay your feelings on this matter to the good Editor either, if you feel so inclined. Here's his e-mail address:


Polls, commissions, surveys and even groups like Wales First show consistent public support across Wales for more law-making powers, while Swansea, a city served by the Evening Post voted "Yes" to Devolution last time around.

So just how in tune with popular sentiment is the Evening Post, and it's erstwhile Editor...?

March 1, 2009

Our Rhodri

A few days ago I suggested that any opinion poll on further devolution would in reality only reflect the public's views on our politicians.

The subsequent BBC poll which reported strong (but not overwhelming) support for a referendum, also reported a strong personal level of support for Rhodri Morgan. and this must have influenced the thoughts of some of those responding.

So this begs the question - what will happen when Rhodri steps down as FM?? Will the electorate be as supportive of further powers if Carwyn Jones, Andrew Davies or Huw Lewis are "leading" them. I doubt it.

So maybe a solution would be to ask Rhodri if he can chair the YES campaign as his final political act. Not only would he provide his inimitable style of leadership and charisma, he would also be free from any accusation on the part of the "True" Wales group that he was only interested in personal gain.

February 26, 2009

Opinion Poll

I am pleased that the BBC has published its latest opinion poll findings, and subject to my misgivings which I published a few days ago, I am reasonably happy with the results.

Apart from the headline figure which says that a referendum would achieve a 52% Yes - 39% No vote, I was more pleased with the alternative "Preferendum" question which asked how Wales should be run -

This found that the combined vote of those preferring more powers (up to and including independence) was 57% - those preferring the status quo 21% - while those wanting abolition are 19%.

Or to put it another way, those wanting further powers outnumber the abolitionists by 3-1.

I suspect that this wont be quite enough of a lead for the politicians to risk a referendum, but as I said before - until we start to have a proper debate, we wont find out the true result.

Lets get things started.

February 25, 2009

Wales First - Public Meeting

With two new opinion polls in the offing, and St. David's Day around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to announce a public meeting making the case for full law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly. Hopefully this meeting will mark the beginning of a "Progressive Alliance" for change amongst those who accept that the current set-up is unsustainable.

As a Liberal Democrat, Peter Black has been a consistent advocate of further law-making powers for a long time, while Bethan Jenkins should be commended for taking a more forthright stance within the Plaid group in the Welsh Assembly, and actively arguing the case for a Yes campaign now. Amen to that.

A Nation No More

The BBC has a deserved reputation for getting its facts right, so is this just an error, or are we now officially a Region ????? and has Rhodri been demoted?

Just in case it gets pulled - see the text below:

Ministers meet Brown over economy

The talks at Downing Street lasted for five hours
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are to meet the prime minister in London later to discuss the economy.
The first and deputy first ministers are also expected to raise the plight of members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society who face losing their savings.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the Welsh minister Rhodri Morgan will also be at the talks.
The meeting is at Downing Street's request and comes as the regions are facing increasing financial pressure.
The Treasury is seeing £5bn in cuts across the regions, which Northern Ireland Finance Minister Nigel Dodds has pledged to resist.
The meeting is expected to last about an hour.

February 24, 2009


Later this week we should find out the details from the latest BBC opinion poll on our attitudes to Devolution. I dont know the detailed wording of their questions, let alone the answers, but I assume that there will be a question relating to whether or not a referndum on law-making powers could be won.

But the problem is that this poll will be meaningless in isolation as there has been no real debate on the subject. People already have their opinions and nothing has happened to change these.

Well almost nothing - there has been a small but vocal 'No' campaign, which will have influenced some waverers by their scaremongering and outright lies -while on the other side the All-Wales Convention has tried to influence and educate people, but in reality they are only speaking to the political classes who have mostly made theire minds up in any case.

And this is the problem - most voters dont like politicians and the political establishment and will jump at the chance to punish them. The opinion poll results will largely reflect the public's views on politicians not devolution, and so therefore has little real meaning at this stage, before any debate.

For a 'Yes' campaign to succeed it must challenge the political establishment and the status quo - not be seen to be part of it.

February 13, 2009

Wales First Hits The Streets

With the news that EJP may be off the Bosnia, many people are speculating as to whether the All Wales Convention is essentially now a dead duck. Asides from the fact that speculation is just that - speculation - the Convention is more than just Sir Emyr Jones Parry and draws from a wide spectrum of Welsh civil society. The likelier scenario is that - assuming he does take up the position - he will simply be replaced by another high profile figure.

Lord Ivor Richard comes to mind, but we all know how his original recommendations were brushed aside because it told Labour something it didn't want to hear...

From Wales First point of view - none of this makes any difference whatsoever. A commitment to a referendum and a "Yes" vote has been made by the One Wales Government, and we will aim to hold them to it. To this end, a leaflet (image above)has now been produced, and members have begun printing them off and distributing them across Wales. Full size copies - in Cymraeg and English - can be obtained by e-mailing

An excellent, and more in-depth information leaflet has also been produced by our allies in Tomorrow's Wales which can be viewed here. It may be premature to say that there is a formal alliance between our two groups, but a positive working relationship is certainly in the process of developing, and reflects the simple reality that support for full law-making powers is something that is gradually attracting an ever-broader cross-section of support across Welsh society.

February 11, 2009

The Balkanisation of Wales

According to Betsan Powys Emyr Jones Parry could soon be leaving Wales for Bosnia.

Some people will of course claim that this means further devolution is dead, but to be honest I am not unhappy with his alledged departure.

Despite his original high profile appointment, he was almost invisible for months, then when he did start up his public consultations in Port Talbot it was a farce. I dont think he has been particularly succesful in his role, and I think that to appoint an international politician in this role was never going to work, with or without a Satnav.....

We need someone who can relate to the public and can communicate the message at the right level. If only Ray Gravell was still with us.

January 28, 2009

Real News to Follow...

I am not sure if Betsan Powys was frustrated or embarrassed by the first public meeting of the AWC in Port Talbot. But it looks at least like someone has decided to spend some money wisely and conduct an opinion poll on the subject.

Here is a quick tip for Emyr J-P and friends - Forget the farcical public meetings - Just conduct one opinion poll a month on the subject (You have the money to do so), and let the newspapers & TV report and discuss the results. Politicians on both sides will be drawn into the debate, and the public will start to hear both sides of the debate and will start to form opinions. Then each month the effect of these discussions will feed into the polls and after a few months we might know how people really feel.

I am a firm believer in democracy, and I am prepared to follow the views of the majority. But I am concerned that unless there is more open debate on the subject, then a future referendum campaign will achieve another minority result (whether Yes or No) which the losing side will bicker over for years to come.

January 16, 2009

Sweets, Coloured Paper and Curry

The first meeting of the All-Wales Convention was held this week in Port Talbot, and by all accounts it did not do very well - Report.

One of the problems that Emyr J-P has is that it is much easier for the public to follow what True Wales say as they spin out their line of hysterics, misconceptions and outright lies; than it is for the ex-Ambassador as he tries to debate the intracices of an LCO!!

Next time, instead of sticking to legalistic arguments, no matter how correct, just put it straight - do you think we are grown up enough to manage our own affairs, or should we continue to believe that Westminster always knows best and will always act in our best interests.

Most people can answer that one without the aid of a sweet jar.

January 14, 2009

Submission to the All-Wales Convention

I have submitted a presentation to the AWC, as below.

I urge anyone with an interest in moving the devolution process forward to do the same, by sending them an e-mail to:


My personal belief is that the Welsh Assembly has evolved successfully in its formative years, and has now matured into a competent institution capable of taking a decisive step forward to achieve full law-making status. This would be in the best interests of Wales, but is being held back by narrow party-political interests.

Detailed Comments

First, to introduce myself, I am a political blogger with a strong belief in eventual independence for Wales, but I am not a member or supporter of any political party. I have travelled extensively through the world in the construction industry, and have experienced alternative political and economic structures at first hand. This has led me to the firm belief that an independent Wales is more than capable of standing alone, but this is not the question at hand today.

I do not consider the current constitutional arrangements for Wales as being sustainable, as nationalists will continue to press for more powers, while the asymmetric nature of the different settlements in Wales & Scotland will cause increasing frustration in England, and this is an issue that Westminster will ignore at its peril. Any ‘final’ constitutional settlement must be seen to be clear and fair to all – I personally believe that the only stable constitutional settlement for the UK will be a federal arrangement, but again that is not the issue under discussion today.

Turning to the current devolution arrangements, there is clearly a lack of understanding of the arrangements in the general population. This is hardly surprising when you consider the lack of a distinctive Welsh media – with many choosing to read the English tabloids in preference to the Western Mail, or tuning into English transmitters. Even when watching the BBC ‘national’ news reporting on say a new health policy, it rarely mentions that some policies may apply only in England and the story may not apply in Wales. Most ordinary people are not obsessed with political arrangements – only in their practical outcome. They are not interested in plenary hearings or the role of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee – or even of the role of the All-Wales Convention! They just want to know about what services they are going to get and how much it is going to cost. But I estimate that only half of the population know that health services and education are actually run from Cardiff Bay and not Westminster.

In my opinion, one of the biggest practical outcomes of devolution, has been a raised awareness of being Welsh and pride in being able to take more control over our own affairs. Some UK companies have responded positively, for example Tesco promoting Welsh produce in supermarkets. It would be interesting to see says what their market research says about how successful this approach has been, and how much it has been influenced by devolution.

It has to be recognised that devolution so far has been an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process as it was in Scotland. The original Assembly started with very little real powers but as it has grown in confidence and ability, then so it has been able to acquire more powers progressively, and in that respect the original arrangements can be considered to have worked well and the Assembly has now reached a mature status where it is ready to consider a step up to the next level.

However, the recent system of LCOs seems more designed to prevent transfer of powers than encourage it, with certain anti-devolutionary politicians using them to stifle progress and using Westminster vetoes to block transfer of further powers. The overwhelming majority of the public have no clue what a LCO is, and when it is explained to them their eyes roll into the backs of their heads, and they are slowly bringing the whole political process, as well as the reputation of the Assembly itself, into disrepute. Maybe this is what its architects had in mind – Legitimised Constitutional Obfuscation.

The reliance on amendments to UK (or England & Wales) Acts to transfer power, is dictated to by political priorities and legislative timetables in London rather than the needs of the Welsh public, and leaves us to beg for crumbs from the Westminster table. An example of this failing Wales was in the delay in implementing a smoking ban in Wales due to political differences in London. Health was already a devolved area, and there was a clear political will on all sides to achieve this goal, and although we eventually got our ban, how many lives were lost due to the delay?

Compare the ‘Westminster knows best’ approach taken with the Welsh Assembly, to the hands-off approach taken to Scottish plans. In theory, Westminster could still block controversial Scottish legislation, but in practice they never have. If this approach works for Scotland, then why can it not work equally in Wales? Wales has all the necessary prerequisites for a competent legislative assembly – all it requires is for Westminster to let go.

The reality is that Labour politicians in London know that a law-making parliament in Wales would lead to a reduction in then number of Welsh MPs,(probably from 40 MPs to 32) and this would in turn make it harder for Labour to achieve a majority in Westminster. The future governance of Wales is being jeopardised for narrow party political purposes and for personal preservation, and this should not be permitted.

It is clear that a law-making Assembly would need more AMs to fulfil its functions, say 80 rather than the current 60. While the thought of more politicians would not strike a happy note with the public, the case could be made provided these positions were offset by a corresponding reduction in MPs, especially considering that the total cost of an MP is around 3-4 times that of an AM. Indeed, the redundant MPs could be offered alternative opportunities to stand as AMs so that their ‘undoubted’ experience is not lost.

Finally regarding the timing of any referendum, every opinion poll that has been conducted on the subject has shown there to be an ever-growing support for increased powers, and this at a time when there has been limited public discussion on the subject. While I am conscious of the need to ensure a clear decisive result, I am certain that when the issues are presented objectively that the public will positively support the proposals. There are this objectors who want to include an alternative option for abolition of the Assembly, and I would have no problem with this as I have no doubt that this option will be soundly rejected.

Penddu, January 2009

January 13, 2009

New Year Predictions

This promises to be a very big year for the prospects of further devolution. Starting this Wednesday, Emyr Jones Parry and the All-Wales Convention will be starting their consulation roadshows in Port Talbot, with Plaid’s Oscar apparently in charge of catering…..
I cant go myself, so would be very interested to get some feedback (at least on the food).

We have already had a leadership contest by the Lib Dems, who have selected the pro-devolution anti-coalition Kirsty Williams as their leader, and avoided a Labour love-in from Jenny Randerson.

Later in the year we should see a lively squabble between the pro-devolution Carwyn James and the Plaid-hating Huw Lewis for the Labour leadership. Not sure if Andrew Davies will throw his hat into the ring (or if anyone will notice), but the winner of this competition will have a major influence on the future direction for more devolution.

But before then we could also see a battle for the Conservative leadership – I dont think Nick Bourne can hang on much longer, and the only question really is will he jump or will he be pushed. Jonathan Morgan looks like his probable successor, but I dont see this leading to any major policy shift, with Conservatives staying firmly on the devolution fence. It is a pity David Davies isnt a contender , then we could see some real fireworks !

And then of course at Westminster there is the possibility of a General Election, which could either lead to a Conservative government which would create tensions with Cardiff Bay, or the possibility of a hung parliament where Plaid & SNP hold the balance of power.

So quite an interesting year ahead…….