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…….