Right Vote, Wrong Reasons

It gave me great pleasure to see one of the most staunch of Labour's anti-devolution dinosaurs change his mind and say he's going to vote Yes in the referendum on primary lawmaking powers.

But his reasons for doing it are quite clearly wrong. He says:

Wales is a more progressive country, and thankfully it has a more progressive Government. More power to their elbow, I say.

That is the reason why increasing numbers of people are intending on voting Yes. People can see what is going on in Westminster and don't much like the look of it.

It's got nothing to do with constitutional dogma or the procedural intricacies of law-making in Wales. The problem with the cross-party Yes campaign is that it can't really say that.

Western Mail, 8 February 2011

He'll hate me piercing his balloon with a small point of accuracy, but this referendum is in fact all about, and only about, the "procedural intricacies of law-making in Wales". It's all about, and only about, the constitutional arrangements of devolution.

So of course the cross-party Yes campaign can't say the same thing as him. They'd be misrepresenting what this referendum is about if they did. To their credit—and after not the best of starts—Yes for Wales are campaigning on the merits of actual issue at hand: the constitutional issue of the Assembly being able to pass laws in areas that are already devolved to Wales. Yet Paul Murphy dismisses this as a "problem" because for him and his narrow party political interests, the only thing that can matter is that his own party is currently in power at Cardiff Bay, but not in power at Westminster.

If he thinks that people who will vote Yes because they actually understand what the referendum is about will be grateful for his U-turn, he's flattering himself. I've nothing but contempt for a politican like Paul Murphy. He's a political opportunist who has changed his mind on devolving primary lawmaking powers to Wales only because it now suits him and his party.

Party political electioneering is all well and good. However the time to do it is not now, but in the couple of months between the referendum and the Assembly elections in May.

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Anonymous said...

Of course, you're right MH, but maybe not too. I know what the referendum is about on papur but I and True Wales also know what it's really about.

The question really is are we a nation and can we take rsponsibility for implementing a pretty constrained set of laws?

People will vote yes or no on their feeling that Wales is a nation (although they themselves may not be Welsh or wish to be Welsh) + do they think the Assembly (Government) has done a reasonably good just of running the country. (unfortunately this boils down to 'has Paul Murphy's Party done a good job in the Assembly?').

The first 'question' is an emotive one which will effect the second.

So, really, the question is, is Wales a country. Yes or no?

Anonymous said...

I love the Rachel Banner quote 'He's just another politician"!

I hope the following remarks won't be seen as too personal but here goes...

There is a precendent in 1979 and 1997 for anti-devolution Labour members to campaign against their party's policy without sanction. You could argue it's a sign of mature, democratic political debate. But whereas Kinnock, Abse, Llew Smith etc were opposing/trashing one particular policy of their party Rachel Banner is trashing the entire record of Welsh Labour in the Assembly and has now started on former Labour Cabinet ministers! You do wonder why she is still a party member.


MH said...

You're being ridiculous, Anon. This referendum is not "really about" anything except moving to Part 4 of the GoWA 2006 and the list of areas in which the Assembly can legislate as set out in Schedule 7.

Anonymous said...

True Wales is the Welsh Tea Party. Banner is Sarah Palin.

She is a leader of a political party, she speaks on its behalf on radio and tv. She's a member of a political party. So, she's now a politician. Why does the BBC let her get away with this anti-politician, anti-politics politics.

She's rubbishing her own party's policies in government - how is she still in the Labour Party?

Scary, populist, Tea Party, angry anti-politics. Scary.

Jac o' the North, said...

MH, Anon is not being ridiculous, patriotism and identity will play a big part in how people vote. Just think back to '97; look at the areas that voted Yes, and the breakdown within those areas. I live in Meirionnydd, where the Birmingham Riviera voted massively No while Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog voted overwhelmingly Yes.

It would be nice to think that Dafydd ap Iestyn ab Iorwerth and Joe Bloggs (who moved to Wales last year) will both consider the issues involved, weigh up the pros and cons, and then vote on completely rational and unemotional grounds.

But it ain't gonna happen.

Lyndon said...

I think we're being completely unrealistic here. One of the principle objections to referenda is that many people do not vote on the question asked, but instead draw in a huge number of occasionally completely unrelated issues. Look at the occasionally bizarre and freakish No campaign to the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland for example.

Most No voters will not be voting on the referendum question, and lots of Yes voters won't be either. True Wales will be taking maximum advantage out of this and we shouldn't be too squeamish to do the same.

If people find this unpalatable then that is a great argument not to have any more referenda in future.

MH said...

Things like patriotism and identity might well be reasons why people vote one way or another, Jac, but they are not what the referendum is about. I chose my words carefully.

And to both you and Lyndon, I know full well that many people will not vote on the issue. But in just the same way I've condemned True Wales for trying to mislead people over what the referendum is about, I have and will also condemn those who urge a Yes vote by misleading people over what this referendum is about. In fact, I'll be much harsher with those in the Yes camp who do it, because they have no reason to do so. We do not need to resort to such underhand tactics.

You might say that the end justifies the means. But think about it, do you really want moving to Part 4 of the GoWA 2006 to be the end? You can bet that the likes of Paul Murphy and Peter Hain do. But I view this referendum as a step towards even more autonomy for Wales and our eventual independence. If we mislead people now, it will be remembered, and we will make it that much harder for ourselves in the future. It is a matter of trust, and we can only earn and maintain that trust by being honest and open ... not by playing dirty.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You MH havn't got your finger on the pulse. This isn't a vote at a University.

Anonymous said...

MH - I respect your view but I dont agree. We must use every tactic we have to win this vote, becaue although a Yes vote wont mean very much in practice, a No vote will have huge ramifications.

True Wales will continue to lie and mislead everyone - and we simply can not afford to let them succeed.

The gloves must come off.


Anonymous said...

When I see the lies that 'True Wales' are peddling ... and no doubt given equal coverage (and so status) by BBC Wales, then, I start to dispair. It's like having George Bush in power.

The latest is a blatant lie. Will the BBC ask Rachel Banner to distance herself from this?

Why doesn't Yes for Wales have a big blow-up in Queen Street in Cardiff saying that True Wales want to get rid of the Wales rugby team and the Red Dragon flag?

Anonymous said...

here's the link, sorry, off 'True Lies' site:


Yes for Wales are trying to conduct a sensible campaign and True Wales just raise two fingers and say lies.

MH said...

Yes, True Wales tell lies. Who doubts that? But does anyone really think the answer is for the Yes camp to fight that by telling lies as well?

We should fight True Wales by exposing their lies; but we must also fight those who want a Yes vote by telling lies about what a Yes vote means. In my opinion, they are a much bigger problem.

Look at what happened in the last referendum. Some people made silly claims about what the devolution settlement then on offer could deliver, particularly with regard to Wales' economic performance. In the main they were made by Labour politicians who were unscrupulous enough to say anything that they thought would win over their supporters, knowing that the chickens wouldn't come home to roost for years.

In my opinion, the biggest problem the Yes camp has had in this campaign is the direct result of those silly, unrealistic claims made before. They have been shown to be false. In terms of economic performance Wales' relative position has gone down, not improved. It could never have improved by anyone in the Assembly because the Assembly has never had control over the levers of the economy, so that if improvement was going to be delivered it would have to be delivered by Labour in Westminster, rather than Labour in Cardiff Bay. To the average, well meaning Labour politician the two were the same thing. It was Labour and Labour. It was a matter of party politics rather than looking objectively at the sort of constitutional settlement that would enable Wales to reverse the inevitable consequences of an over-centralized UK economy.

And what are we seeing now, in this campaign? We see Labour politicians doing exactly the same thing. They are making blatantly ridiculous claims about what a Yes vote in this referendum will achieve. And in a few years, when those claims are shown to be false as well, we will have another mountain to climb when it comes to taking the next step forward.

We should see the sort of pronouncements made by Peter Hain, Paul Murphy and (as someone linked to it) Hywel Francis for what they are: blatant electioneering by the Labour Party for the Assembly elections in May. Are we supposed to take Hywel Francis seriously following his "I'm not saying I didn't say it, only that I can't remember saying it" response to what the American Embassy reported him as saying?

We are not going to lose the referendum vote. We will win it by a comfortable margin, though with a low turn out. So our biggest mistake would be to think we must resort to telling lies in order to only just scrape through. In fact, I would say that the bigger danger is that such obvious lies from Labour politicians like these will lose us votes and therefore make the contest tighter than it would otherwise be.

What is happening now is that Labour, calculating that the 20% plus margin is big enough for there to be no danger of losing the referendum, are now polarizing that vote. They want to get more of their own core supporters to vote Yes (who would otherwise probably have stayed at home) but at the expense of turning off a greater number of potential Yes voters who support other parties. By getting people to vote Yes for Labour's reasons they hope that the referendum campaign with trundle on seamlessly and morph into Labour's campaign for the Assembly election in May.

Anonymous said...

MH - you give a very good reason why this referendum should have been held in Octorber as Dafydd Wigley sais two years ago. It would take out the party-political edge, or at least, lessen it.

I think the most important thing now is that Yes supporters do the little things: posters in windows, stickers in cars, placards in front gardens. Those things can be done tonight and avoids having to do the awkward things people hate doing - leafleting or canvassing.

They show that the referendum is on as has grass roots support. No Yes supporter has no excuse for not putting a poster in your window tonight.


MH said...

I think you're right, Macsen. That would explain why Peter Hain did nothing about the referendum while he was Sectretary of State; which meant that there was no time left for his successor to arrange it for October.

But here's a poster that anyone can print off right now and put in their window at home, in the shop or office, or in the car:


Of, if they want something with rather more bite:


Anonymous said...

MH notes "They want to get more of their own core supporters to vote Yes (who would otherwise probably have stayed at home)". Rings true, but it might backfire for Labour if a Yes vote provides a general boost to feelings of Welsh identity and the Plaid vote, as seems to have happened in several Labour valleys seats after the '99 vote.

Anonymous said...

Can we just concentrate on getting the Yes vote?

It will benefit the whole of Wales because it stenghthens debate and discussion in Wales.

To vote No would make Wales the laughing stock of the UK. It would almost be like writing the Top Gear put downs already.

Unknown said...

I haven't seen Rachel Banner write off the few (very few) MPs and councillors who have backed a NO vote as 'just more politicians', have you?

Lowing paul murphy - who I suspect they were banking on, must be a big blow for her. There goes the slippery slope argument!

I do agree that Murphy's argument, entirely consistent with his whole life's muddled political philosophy, should not be taken up by the YES camp - but he still has some influence! Not to be sneezed at!

Anonymous said...

Is it correct that Rachel Banner is a Vice-Chair of the Torfaen CLP? In which case her comment about her own MP was very uncomradely!

The 'Yes' campaign should play the ball not the man, as it were, but I do thing Rachel Banner has had a pretty easy ride from the Western Mail and BBC Wales to date. When she refers to the record the WAG I can't recall anyone challenging her along the lines of 'but it's your party that's been in power...'.



Anonymous said...

Dear MH

I see leading Plaid activist Ian Titherington says the following on his blog:

"if you want more effective Welsh Government and make sure that you vote for it on March 3rd because with the current British Government, Wales will need all the protection it can get."

I look forward to reading your equally fulsome condemnation of this sentiment. Otherwise we will simply conclude that you are just another anonymous online Plaid stooge.

MH said...

There's nothing to criticize Ian Titherington for, Dear Anon. I agree with him that Wales will need all the protection it can get from the current UK government. A Yes vote will allow the Assembly to pass laws in areas that are already devolved to Wales. It will protect us from either a Tory or LibDem Secretary of State refusing to present an LCO request to Parliament at all, or from them using their majority to veto it if it is laid before Parliament.

I wish there was some protection from the level of cuts they will impose on Wales; I wish there was some protection from the way their policy decisions on non-devolved area will affect Wales ... but as yet there isn't. However voting Yes will at least allow us to pass laws in the areas which are devolved to us without having to get their permission to do so.

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