July 26, 2010

Why not delay the referendum for now and have a substantial referendum in 2012?

Last week I was invited to be part of a focus group commissioned by the Electoral Commission to garner opinions about the wording of the prospective Assembly Powers Referendum.

There were about 20 people in the group from different backgrounds. Some of us were keen supporters of the Assembly others wanted the institution abolished, but all, apart from myself, were under the illusion that the referendum was about giving the Assembly the same powers that the Scottish Parliament has now. When it was explained that they were mistaken, that the referendum was just about the way that the Assembly gained powers and that the full powers could be gained, over time, even if the referendum produced a 100% No vote, all thought that the referendum was a complete waste of time and money.

The members of the group were all annoyed that they had come to the meeting with strong views on opposing or supporting enhanced devolution only to find that the discussion was about administrative tinkering rather than anything of substance.

Because of the current government's desire to equalize the size of Westminster constituencies the Government of Wales Act 2006, will have to be amended, because the said act insists that Westminster and Bay constituencies must be the same size. In amending the bill why not add an amendment to give the Assembly Schedule 7 powers without the need for a referendum, and have a referendum in a year or two's time on substantive Full Scottish Type Powers for the Assembly, which most people, from both sides of the argument, think that the part 4 referendum is about anyway?

July 2, 2010

A Super Thursday?

There has been mixed messages this week about the referendum.

First the good news: The most recent poll shows yet again an increasing level of support for a Yes vote.

But the recent UK general election showed how events in the London media can dominate Welsh voting intentions, and there is a large dark cloud on the horizon - The UK Government plan to hold a referendum on STV and are proposing to hold it on May 6th - the same date as the Assembly elections (and Scottish Parliament and English Councils). They want to do this so as to maximise turnout, and although they have not said it yet you can rest assured that they will also want to hold the Law-Making referndum on the same day.

Can you imagine the scene on the doorstep where a loyal group of Labour activists ask you to vote Labour, No to ATV, Yes to Legislative Power - shortly followed by a second group saying Yes to ATV and No to Legislation - followed by....you get the idea.

And how do you persuade voters that ATV is better than FPTP, when they are actually voting on the same day with AMS??

One thing is clear - 'Yes to ATV' is a much simpler message to sell than the 'Yes to give the Assembly legislative powers in accordance with Schedule 4 of the GOWA 2006 without the need to refer to Westminster'. We need to simplify the message, maybe

'Yes for Wales'