Stating the Obvious

I'm not sure Peter Hain is doing his own party much good by saying that the referendum on primary lawmaking powers is being held now because Plaid Cymru insisted on it; but if he wants to put his foot in it, he's welcome:

     Plaid Cymru 'insistence' behind poll date, says Hain

Of course we insisted on it. It was our main "red line" issue when we negotiated the One Wales Agreement with Labour in 2007.

Some in Labour will have had their doubts about whether that part of One Wales would be delivered, but were sensible enough keep quiet while the All Wales Convention did its work. This gave them time to come round. Others—most notably Peter Hain himself—repeatedly tried to break the agreement, saying that the vote should not be held for many years to come, and that it would be lost if Labour stuck to their commitment.

But wiser heads in his party (yes, I'm happy to acknowledge that Labour has some ... though being wiser than Peter Hain is hardly setting the bar very high) prevailed, and in the end Labour came to realize that Plaid had been absolutely right to insist that the referendum was held before the next Assembly election. It would have been better to hold it last October, but next month is good too.

This only goes to show that Welsh Labour are very much more principled than Peter Hain wanted them to be ... or could ever hope to be himself.

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Anonymous said...

The referendum for the Assembly has been a god-send for Welsh labour. Don't know what he's complaining about. They should thank Plaid for insisting it was in the One Wales Pact.

In any case, the Assembly is above Labour party politics. It's a manifestation of Welsh people in all their political and cultural varieties.

It shouldn't be a party political issue.

Cibwr said...

Unfortunately there is still a strand in the Labour Party in Wales who see Wales as an extension, and a subservient one at that, of its self.

Aled GJ said...

It's obvious that Labour's election strategy will not only be based on the referendum result but on the referendum turn-out itself. With this turn-out likely to be embarassingly low in what if fast becoming a national farce, there are bound to be recriminations and soul searching.Hain is preparing a Labour narrative that it was Plaid Cymru who insisted on holding such a referendum so early, and that it's their fault for such a low turn-out. It's ridiculous in one sense of course since the referendum could not have been held without Labour compliance. But, in another sense, it could be a clever move, if there is a feeling afoot that Plaid Cymru have really failed to inspire people to come out to support their main policy. And as a nationalist, I must say there is a grain of truth in this: Plaid should have been actively campaigning for these extra powers months ago, rather than leaving it to the very last minute. Granted, Plaid had to wait for Labour confirmation of a referendum, but I still think that another element of the party could have been pushing and campaigning much earlier. For example,a couple of their prominent back-benchers could have been allowed to pursue this tack. As it is, this narrative of "a failure to enthuse the public" could well be an important factor in the run-up to the elections in May.

MH said...

As I see it Hain's point about turnout was designed to cover only himself, Aled. The subject at hand is narrow and technical; not the sort of thing that exactly inspires passion or enthusiasm. That means there will be a low turnout, and that's why some people (including himself, here) tried hard to make out that this referendum is about something else.

We laughed at him for that, so now he wants to blame someone else for the low turnout. But I think it's unrealistic to expect the turnout to be high. Two things will contribute to that:

First, this subject never really warranted a referendum. What we should have got was what the Richard Commission recommenended. Instead we got a half-baked version put in place with provision for a referendum to delay things for as long as possible. That's why Hain kept saying the GoWA 2006 would last for a generation, and that a referendum now couldn't be won.

Second, people are always less inclined to vote if they believe the result is likely to be a foregone conclusion. As in all electoral contests, turnout tends to increase when there is a tight contest and people think their votes will make a difference. But this vote won't be tight. I predict it will be won by a margin of 65% to 35%. So the only hope opponents of devolution have is to play dead, then claim afterwards that the referendum wasn't "really" won because the turnout was low.

We shouldn't be drawn into that game, whoever plays it. The legitimacy of this referendum won't depend on turnout, so why make an issue of it? I'd be amazed if the turnout was above 40%, and wouldn't be surprised if it was below 35%. But Hain wants to use the inevitable low turnout to suit his personal agenda by claiming there's no appetite for further devolution. It seems clear to me that he is positioning himself to say. "I told you so, this far and no further" ... even though most of Welsh Labour have already committed themselves to go further with regard to the devolution of justice and the recommendations of the Holtham Report.

And we in Plaid have half a dozen things to add to the list.

Anonymous said...

The low turn out is neither here nor there. There's no need for this referendum as it's a technical point. It's only held because of Labour's internal politics.

If the turn out is 20% or 40% it makes no difference. If people won't vote that's their choice. There were plenty of seats in the UK won by Labour on very low turn outs during General Election.

I'm not sure what the turn out will be but the Yes campaign seems to be more active and unified now than it was in 1997. That's good for Wales and Welsh democracy.

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