Accept it with good grace, Peter

In Emyr Jones Parry's interview on Sunday (the video is this post) he put in a sentence which I thought was very gracious at the time, but that I now realize had a far greater significance. He said it had been:

a very considerable political achievement to get that Act

He was talking about the Government of Wales Act 2006 and of its architect, Peter Hain.

Now I have made no secret of the fact that I question Peter Hain's sincerity about his commitment to devolution. I think he got the Act through by telling MPs it meant one thing and by telling AMs that it meant something else. The result was an LCO process that was inadequately defined, so that its practicalities had to be worked out "on the fly".

Nonetheless, given that Labour's Welsh MPs and AMs were so divided at the time, the fact that any Act was passed at all is somewhat of an achievement. Whatever else Peter Hain is, he is a consummate political operator ... and guile sometimes has a part to play in getting results.


This morning, Betsan Powys blogged about Peter Hain giving a lecture next Thursday in which he, as his press release says:

... as a passionate devolutionist ... presents the case for the incremental devolution of powers to the Assembly and argues the current devolution settlement is working well. The process enabling the Assembly to take on more and more law making powers delivers much more than under the old system, and is being continually reviewed and improved. He warns against a holding a referendum on full law making powers prematurely.

Perhaps it would be cruel for me to say that the reason why the LCO process has had to be "continually reviewed and improved" is because it was a dog's breakfast from the beginning ... and that if it's capable of being moved in one direction, it is equally possible for the Tories to "review and improve" the process so that it suits them instead. So I said something a little gentler in my comment.

But, thanks to this post from A Change of Personnel, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge. Slugger O'Toole interviewed Peter Hain yesterday, and I've taken the liberty of embedding the part of the interview where he talks about Wales:


It is inconceivable that Peter Hain doesn't have a very good idea of what Sir Emyr's report will recommend. Nor does it take much to realize that Peter Hain doesn't like what it will recommend, and that it will recommend it so decisively ... which is obviously why he wants to pre-empt the issue by speaking out now.

He claims that there is no consensus about primary lawmaking powers in Wales. But this is not about "consensus". There is consensus about very few things in politics. On most issues there is considerable divergence of opinion, and that is healthy and right in a democracy. Many people in Wales are still against devolution and always will be. Many people do not want the status quo to change. But many, many more people do. To me, it is quite clear which way we will vote when we get the opportunity to do so ... the only question was when Labour politicians would let us have that vote.

Nobody is claiming that the Yes vote in the referendum is going to be 95%. We know from the last poll on the issue that 52% were in favour to 39% against with don't knows at 9%. And should 52% not seem like a lot, it might be worth reminding him that he last held his seat in Neath with, as it so happens, 52% of the vote. However Sir Emyr said on Sunday that the latest poll conducted over the summer shows "a clear trend" in public opinion, which can only mean that the margin is continuing to increase.


So it is rather touching that Peter Hain should express such concern that the referendum might just, conceivably, be lost. And perhaps he really does want to keep putting off the referendum for that reason. In a democracy it's possible to loose any vote, just as it's possible for Labour to win the Westminster election in May. Possible, yes ... but not at all likely.

Peter, it's not your job to do our worrying for us. We know that you wanted your Act to last for a generation, but very few things in politics are that long-lasting. Stop trying to block the way. Have the good grace to accept the praise you deserve for the GoWA 2006 ... but also accept that most people in Wales are now ready for things to move on.

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Anonymous said...

thanks for link MH, I have added this to my original post.

It seems that Sir Emyr's Report is ruffling political feathers already. Tory's Nick Bourne and Glyn Davies are flapping about it as well as Peter Hain.

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