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