Two sides to the Tories, two reasons to make a decision now

Well, it's finally happened. The Tories have got off the fence and said what they think about the referendum:



There are two sides to this story: what's been going on within the Tory party itself, and what the right response to it should be.

John Osmond has provided us with one of the best insights into what has been going on behind the scenes in the Tory party in this post on the IWA blog. It is worth reading. Seriously, please click the link and read it before you read the rest of this post.

    The battle for Cameron's nose

Essentially Lord Roberts' report on the position that the Tories should adopt on devolution provoked very mixed reaction in the Tory ranks. So much so that the Tories refused to publish it at all. On one side there are the Tories that have come round to embrace devolution and who want it not so much to go further, but want to tidy up the mess that we currently have under the GoWA 2006 so that our Assembly has the ability to pass laws on those matters for which it already has administrative responsibility. That's all the referendum is going to do. The most unequivocal of these—in the blogosphere, at least—has been Glyn Davies, though his view is probably shared by the majority of Tory AMs, including Nick Bourne as leader. On the other side are the Tory MPs. The most ferocious anti-devolutionist is of course David TC Davies, but David Jones probably runs him close.

Each side has been trying to bend Cameron, who couldn't really be bothered either way, to their point of view. The antis' position was to put things off. They wanted a commitment that a referendum wouldn't be held in the first term of a new Tory government. This in itself speaks volumes: it can only mean that the antis feel sure they will lose. Public opinion has been moving in only one direction over the past two years or so. If there was the slightest chance of the vote being lost they'd have wanted the referendum as soon as possible, while things were still in the balance. As that point has now been passed, the only thing left is to hold the inevitable off for as long as possible ... which, strangely enough, is exactly what Peter Hain wants too.

The pros wanted Cameron to adopt a compromise position: instead of five years' delay they wanted to get it down to two. That actually wouldn't have done much good, since the Tories would be in mid-term and therefore at their most unpopular.


That's how things look from the Tory side, but what are the rest of us to make of it? I'm bound to say that one thing Peter Hain said in the ITV interview was quite right. In fact, he seems to have been quoting directly from what I've written in this blog! What on earth is any promise from Cameron actually worth? Circumstances are bound to change, and it won't be too difficult for him to use any change in circumstance as a pretext for changing his mind. "Events, dear boy, events" ... as old Etonians have been known to say.

As the interviews show, Cameron couldn't give a fig one way or the other. But one thing is going to change: the Tories currently only have three MPs in Wales, after May 2010 they may well have ten ... and what's the betting that the majority of those ten will be as against a shift of legislative power from the Westminster to which they've just been elected as some of the current crop of Labour MPs are? Three MPs can be ignored as cranks, it's rather harder to ignore ten, especially if they're only sitting a few yards from you in the Commons. So Cameron's position could easily shift ... especially if he sees an electoral advantage in it.


Another factor is simple pride. Most Labour politicians in Wales will very loudly claim that they were the party that gave us devolution ... although Peter Hain does seem very much more fond of using the word "I". So Hain is as grumpy as hell about what Cameron has said. This is how he put it to the Western Mail:

If Cameron’s true intentions were indeed for the best interests of devolution in Wales, he should have waited to consider the widely-anticipated recommendations of Emyr Jones Parry [Chair of the All Wales Convention] due to be published in less than two weeks.

This is no more than a Cameron headline-grabbing stunt.

Western Mail, 6 November 2009

Odd, isn't it? He thinks that Cameron should have waited until after the AWC had reported. But has that stopped him taking every opportunity he could get his hands on to pump out his own opinion, so as to try and undermine what Sir Emyr's report will say? Once again, Hain's own hypocrisy on this issue has become so "up close and personal" that he can't see the wood for the trees.

But let's use this. The very last thing in the world that Hain wants is for the Tories to able to say that they delivered legislative devolution to Wales ... that they were the ones that took the dog's breakfast of the current LCO system and let us move on to something more simple, more straightforward and more easy to understand. And not only that, but something that is less wasteful and therefore less expensive because it will mean that two different sets of politicians will not be able to spend years covering exactly the same ground on every single area of new legislation.

So, since people like Hain are impervious to even the most basis concepts of democracy—namely that it is not for any party to "give us" the right to make laws about things that concern Wales alone—let's pander to his ego. If he so wants to be remembered as the person who "gave us" devolution, then he still has the chance to do so in the few months he has left as Secretary of State for Wales.


Of course, if any Labour MPs prefer not to think about it in terms of Labour's largesse towards the people of Wales, they just have to think about it in terms of whether the Tories can be trusted. Either way, the answer is the same. Do it now, while you still can.

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment