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.