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.

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