Hain's delusion explained

After Tuesday's events I watched Peter Hain's performance in the Senedd yesterday with great interest, and I have to say I was relatively impressed. I'm not going to call it a U-turn, because a lot of what he had to say is not very different from what he has always said. But the one big—and crucial—difference is that he is now no longer saying that the referendum will be lost if held on or before May 2011. That is very welcome and makes all the difference.

He said a lot of things (after all, this was meant to be a debate on the Queen's speech, not the referendum) and he said similar things in different ways in answer to different people. But I would précis what he said as:

If the Assembly decides to vote for a referendum, I will not stand in the way. I will lay it before Parliament without taking 120 days to do it. When the referendum comes I will vote Yes and I will actively support the Yes campaign. But be warned, the result might well be a lot tighter than you think.

That is quite reasonable. Now of course it won't stop Peter Hain spending the next few weeks doing all he can behind the scenes to convince Labour AMs not to vote for the referendum. But it does mark the end to his one man campaign of outspoken public opposition to a referendum. Or at least I hope it does. This new, more reasonable attitude might just be a short lived reaction to yesterday's fiasco.

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There was, however, one constant element in what he said yesterday which demonstrates just how different things are between Westminster and Cardiff. I don't mean his aggressive, confrontational tone, which was quite out of place in the Senedd (... though Mark Isherwood sank to the bait!) I'm talking about his constantly repeated "It's-either-us-or-the-Tories" mantra, something which is so deeply ingrained that it can probably be called an obsession. It simply isn't true that voting LibDem is a vote for the Tories, or that voting Plaid is a vote for the Tories ... and that's why he was laughed at when he said it.

Another refrain is that "Labour delivered devolution". Well yes, but that's a bit like giving a midwife all the credit for delivering a baby rather than the mother for going through the ordeal. Surely the point is that the people of Wales wanted devolution and voted for it. In fact if Labour had proposed a better devolution settlement, they wouldn't have had to keep trying to put it right bit by bit over the last few years ... but let's leave that to one side.

Labour's blind spot seems to be that devolution is an issue that depends entirely on them. If others want to tag along, that's OK, but Labour must call all the shots. As a result Hain brings with him all his "It's-either-us-or-the-Tories" baggage ... and he is therefore particularly dismissive of the contribution that Tory supporters will make to winning the referendum.

Two quotes demonstrate this perfectly. He talked of:

... the vast majority of Tory voters who are implacably opposed to further powers

and later said that Nick Bourne

... is not able to deliver his own Conservative voters. They'll all go in for a No vote.

The man is deluding himself. He simply can't see past his own tribalism ... but the bigger problem is that he expects everyone else in Labour to see things in the same way.

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To try and cut through this and analyse the problem more objectively I need to make a distinction. There are two very different issues. The first is what the political parties think about a referendum, the second is the way their supporters will vote in a referendum.

Peter Hain can say with some justification that it is almost entirely up to Labour politicians whether we get a referendum. We need the votes of Labour AMs to get a two-thirds majority in the Senedd, and the votes of Labour MPs to get the referendum through Westminster. But he is completely wrong to think that ordinary voters will vote along party lines.

Ian Titherington beat me to it with the figures in this post. So let me put those figures in a different way.

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Firstly I'm going to use the YouGov/Aber poll, which found a 42% - 37% margin in favour of a Yes to "full" lawmaking powers.

YouGov/Aber Poll
Westminster voting intentions

Lab ... 34% ... split 44% - 41%
Con ... 31% ... split 32% - 53%
Plaid ... 15% ... split 80% - 9%
LD ... 12% ... split 38% - 44%

This gives Yes percentages of:

Lab ... 44% of 34% = 15.0%
Con ... 32% of 31% = 9.2%
Plaid ... 80% of 15% = 12.0%
LD ... 38% of 12% = 4.6%

Now let's repeat that same calculation using the YouGov/ITV poll which found a 51% - 30% margin in favour of a Yes to "increased" lawmaking powers.

YouGov/ITV Poll
Westminster voting intentions

Lab ... 34% ... split 57% - 27%
Con ... 31% ... split 41% - 47%
Plaid ... 14% ... split 93% - 7%
LD ... 14% ... split 48% - 26%

This gives Yes percentages of:

Lab ... 57% of 34% = 19.4%
Con ... 41% of 31% = 12.7%
Plaid ... 93% of 14% = 13.2%
LD ... 48% of 14% = 6.7%

Now, I want to emphasize that the second sets of figures may look like a precise calculation, but this isn't strictly true because there are factors (such as don't knows and weighting) that it's not easy to work backwards from. They can, however, be taken as a rough indication that a very good number of Tory supporters will vote Yes. In fact there will be roughly twice as many Yes votes from Tory supporters as Yes votes from LibDem supporters.

This clearly shows that the Yes campaign simply cannot afford to sideline the Tories. We need those Tory votes and the Yes campaign must include them.

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Now let's do another calculation, but this time with Assembly voting intentions:

YouGov/Aber Poll
Assembly voting intentions (FPTP)

Lab ... 32% ... split 43% - 40%
Con ... 25% ... split 33% - 54%
Plaid ... 24% ... split 74% - 13%
LD ... 12% ... split 36% - 44%

This gives Yes percentages of:

Lab ... 43% of 32% = 13.8%
Con ... 33% of 25% = 8.3%
Plaid ... 74% of 24% = 17.7%
LD ... 36% of 12% = 4.3%

Again the same "health warnings" apply, but this shows that Yes votes from Plaid supporters (for the Assembly) will quite comfortably outnumber Yes votes from Labour supporters.

Please understand that the purpose of doing this is not to set one party against another, it is simply an attempt to demonstrate that although getting a referendum depends almost entirely on Labour politicians, winning the referendum is not anywhere near as dependent on Labour supporters. It won't be about those who vote Labour, nor even about those who don't vote Tory. It has to be about Yes campaigners from all parties working together.

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That's why Peter Hain's "us and them" attitude—and in particular the strange idea that no (or hardly any) Tories will vote Yes in a referendum—is completely crazy. I would even go so far as to suggest that his previous statements about the referendum being lost if held before 2011 can only be explained (if a delusion can ever be explained) by him not properly taking the Yes votes from non-Labour supporters into account.

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3 comments:

Draig said...

I suspect that if a referendum were lost Hain would wring his hands but be quietly relieved. He knows full well that it further weakens the power of the MPs as greater power continues to seep down to Cardiff. And he knows full well that delivery of ALL the powers outlined in GOWA 2006 would finally nail and expose the LCO system for the arcane and beauracratic piece of legislative chicanery that it is - people would see the difference.

Hain was there in the Assembly yesterday as a representative of the MPs and their power interests. His position is perfectly consistent with the way Labour MPs have always done things. It only looks crazy when looked at through the prism of Assembly politics.

But ultimately, it's also about Hain's ego. His egotism has blinded him to the swiftly changing landscape around him, and that is why, for all his cleverness, he has the mark of a man who has had his day.

A Change of Personnel said...

if yesterday proved anything its the disconnect that Peter Hain and i suspect many other Welsh MP's have from the day to day going on the National Assembly and to some extent vice versa, a bad sign for Welsh democracy given the cumbersome LCO process.

and I couldn't really see the point of his speech he hardly touched on the Queen Speech and its impact on Wales, but chose argument and point scoring instead which the Welsh Tories lapped up hardly surprising.

Next year it likely to be head girl Cheryl Gillan lecturing the Assembly, i'm not sure whose worse her or Peter Hain.

Siônnyn said...

Worst of the two? Hain the Vain, hands down. Gillan will, despite her Unionist leanings, bend over backwards to be nice to us, because Dave has so proclaimed, and we (PLAID) may be important to the balance of power, Plus, the resurgent tory vote in Wales will be worth nurturing - and that means being nice to dracula, who is pro devolution!

Only two General election results to fear - Tory landslide, Labour landslide. All else is negotiable.

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