Yes for Wales gets off to a terrible start

I must admit to being absolutely horrified by the first of the leaflets put out by the Yes for Wales campaign. This is an extract from it:

At a time when all the talk is about cuts to public services, it’s good to know that our National Assembly is protecting schools, skills and hospitals.

Important services for the most vulnerable are also being protected, like free bus travel for pensioners and disabled people.

This has got nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the subject of the referendum. The things that are listed are policy decisions made by the Welsh Government, and indeed the line about "protecting schools, skills and hospitals" is directly from that government. It is very doubtful whether, say, Tory or Liberal Democrat AMs will agree that these particular policy decisions made by the One Wales coalition are "good" or not. I personally might think they are, but we must recognize that it is a matter of political opinion.

In short, the Yes for Wales campaign seems to have fallen at the very first hurdle. It has confused the policies that the present Welsh Government has chosen to adopt with the constitutional matter of the extent to which the National Assembly can pass primary legislation.

I have been one of those who has most actively criticized True Wales for the lies and disinformation they have circulated over the last few months. But just because one side of the argument resorts to such tactics, that doesn't justify the other side confusing the issue as well.


I have to admit that I see the advantage of concentrating on "bread and butter" political issues rather than the much more obscure and more difficult to understand constitutional issue which we will be asked to vote on. First, it's what most voters are familiar with; and second, these issues are much more directly important to people than the issue of what laws the Assembly is able to pass.

But the Yes for Wales campaign is in grave danger of producing party political pamphlets for the Labour Party and, though perhaps to a lesser extent, Plaid Cymru. This is not good for democracy.


Now of course the Yes for Wales campaign is free to do whatever it likes at the moment because it hasn't received any public money. But if I were in the Electoral Commission, I would be very concerned about whether Yes for Wales would be capable of not making party political points when the official campaign starts and public money is given to it. And as a potential donor to the Yes for Wales campaign I would be very wary of giving my money to an organization that confuses the issue at hand in the referendum with the more general issues of party politics.

There is an agenda at play. The Labour Party has made no secret of the fact that it wants to use the campaigh for a Yes vote as a springboard towards its own campaign for the Assembly elections only a few weeks later. If the other messages that the Yes campaign put out are of the same party political nature as this first leaflet, then donors to the Yes for Wales campaign might well find that they are simply giving money that will end up improving the Labour Party's chances of doing well in the Assembly elections that follow.

I would therefore urge people to think very hard before donating to this campaign, and not do so until and unless it demonstrates that it will concentrate on the issue at hand rather than on party politics on behalf of the One Wales Government. And I would urge those people from other parties, including my own, who have a say in determining the direction of the Yes for Wales campaign not to be naïve about Labour's intentions.

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Owen said...

As long as this is to "gee up" the electorate and get them actively interested in the forthcoming campaign, before it gets caught up in the seasons festivities, then I don't have that much of a problem with it. I suspect/hope this is the case.

The WAG budget and tuition fee decision will still be fresh in the memory and there's nothing wrong, at this pre-launch stage of the campaign, of accentuating the positives. I strongly suspect the official no campaign, whoever that may be, will use the economic and PISA news the same way.

If this an example of the leaflets that will be going out in the weeks directly leading to March 3rd then I share your concerns and for the same reasons.

Lyndon said...

I'm perfectly happy to fight dirty, whatever wins the referendum is fine with me.

True Wales are certain to run an absolutely filthy campaign, we shouldn't be at all squeamish about meeting fire with fire.

MH said...

I couldn't disagree more, Lyndon. We should fight hard, but never fight dirty. It always backfires.

And we simply don't need to fight dirty. We can win a Yes vote without such tactics. We are consistently in front in all the polls, and therefore we should build on the intention to vote Yes that is clearly already in the minds of the majority of people in Wales.

I think our aim should be to firm up that intention, to give people reasons to vote Yes that they can use when they talk about it with their friends over coffee or a pint so that the intention becomes a determined commitment to get out and vote on the day.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Couldn't agree more with this posting.

This is not a Welsh Assembly Government campaign but a national campaign that should involve members of all political parties.

If there is any hint of certain politicians hijacking this for their own narrow political ends, then there is a danger that the yes campaign will descend into infighting before it even gets off the ground.

This is a vote for more powers irrespective of who is occupying No 10 Downing Street.

We would all do well to remember that.

Unknown said...

I agree with MH and others about keeping the Yes campaign away from party politics. This is not a Labour or Labour/Plaid campaign.

But I think that promoting some of the successes of the current WAG as a way of showing that the assembly can make a difference to real lives is a good idea

It makes people realise that our Assembly can be used to make a real difference - and further powers can make a bigger difference.

I also believe that we should be prepared to fight dirty because that is what Untrue Wales will be doing.


Anonymous said...

We often hear of people saying that everything happens down in Cardiff in the north, and especially in the north east. Many have said that the assembly does nothing for places such as Wrexham. Of the 6 profiles on the website, 2 are from the north - Caernarfon and Anglsey. Is there more to North Wales?

Anonymous said...

"But if I were in the Electoral Commission, I would be very concerned about whether Yes for Wales would be capable of not making party political points when the official campaign starts and public money is given to it."

You may recall that I raised the point during the Westminister general election whether there should be some sanction against 'Julie from Llandudno' type campaigning which could mislead electors (ie by ignoring the territorial extent of policies).

Having seen a recent interview by Kay Jenkins of the Electoral Commission it was pretty obvious from what she said that the Commission wouldn't be 'refereeing' the referendum literature in any way.


Unknown said...

Another campaign strategy which I heard recently, which made me cringe, was the assertion that a NO vote would endanger the future of the Assembly!

If anything that is only going to persuade people who are vaguely antipathetic towards the WAG, but wouldn't normally bother to vote, to actually turn up on the day!

The message we should be giving is that if there is a NO vote, nothing will change!

Unknown said...

(sorry - too many exclamation marks!)

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