Missing the bigger picture

I must admit to being mystified by the way that the findings of the IPPR survey into English attitudes to devolution have been reported in Wales. The BBC Wales story has this headline:

     IPPR report: More English think devolution and Welsh Assembly harmful

And then quoted these figures:

•  31% of people thought the Welsh Assembly had a negative impact on how Britain was governed, compared to 11% in 2007.

•  Those who thought devolution to Wales had made no difference fell to 24% from a high of 66% in 2003.

•  About a quarter (26%) thought Wales got more than its fair share of UK public spending, with slightly more (28%) saying it got "pretty much" its fair share.

•  Only 7% thought England got its fair share, while 40% thought it got less than it deserved.

These figures are indeed taken from the report, which is fine. The problem is that the BBC's story only mentions Wales, saying nothing about Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If we look at the report itself, we can see that the first two figures sets of figures are almost exactly the same for Scotland's Parliament as for our National Assembly. Put in the same format, they are:

•  35% of people thought the Scottish Parliament had a negative impact on how Britain was governed, compared to 14% in 2007.

•  Those who thought devolution to Scotland had made no difference fell to 20% from a high of 64% in 2003.

IPPR report, Table 2.1

The IPPR report doesn't give an equivalent comparison with the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. But it does give a comparison with both Scotland and Northern Ireland for the third set of figures on the share of UK public expenditure:

•  Nearly a half (46%) thought Scotland got more than its fair share of UK public spending, with slightly less than a quarter (24%) saying it got "pretty much" its fair share.

•  More than a quarter (28%) thought Northern Ireland got more than its fair share of UK public spending, with slightly less (25%) saying it got "pretty much" its fair share.

IPPR report, Figure 2.1 and Table 2.2

So why did the BBC single out devolution to Wales in their story ... without even a mention of the greater discontent that the English feel over both the "harmfulness" of the Scottish Parliament and the perceived "unfairness" in the levels of public spending in Scotland and Northern Ireland? Is it just blinkered parochialism, or is there a more sinister agenda at play?

And Wales Online follows in the same vein with an even worse:

     Welsh Assembly is damaging Britain, claims survey of English voters

However it does at least mention the figures for Scotland ... but that makes the headline even less excusable.

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Glyndo said...

Perhaps because they were writing to a Welsh audience and assumed that they would be more interested in the Welsh perspective?

Neilyn said...

Or perhaps it's just that far too many English still subconsciously/consciously think that Wales is a 'region of England', and so the right to self-determination is entirely conditional on English approval, unlike the properly separate nations of Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Anonymous said...

The naughty western mail and BBC subs were at it again. They could have written '69% of English people do not think that devolution has been harmful to the way they are governed'. That is the way they would report it if the story was about, say, independence.

MH said...

So the "Welsh perspective" is only to report on what the English think of devolution to Wales, Glyndo, but not report what they think of devolution to Scotland and NI?

That's not perspective. To put things into perspective we need to see the whole forest, not just a few of the trees.

Anonymous said...

I don't give a monkeys what hey think to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Good on you for flagging this up, im not surprised at the one eyed reporting by the Welsh media its endemic.

Has the story been picked up and reported in the Scottish and Northern Irish press anyone know?

Worth saying the IPPR is a Labour funded think tank with links to former Cabinet members and James Purnell is its current Chair, they have recently become very interested in the whole UK constitutional debate so clearly have an agenda of their own to peddle with the survey.

Anonymous said...

It's the BBC's way of saying......'this has gone far enough'. It was intended all-right. It's usually all Scotland this or Scotland that except for this piece of Welsh devolution negative propaganda. Anyway, are we supposed to seek the blessing of the English?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps A Change of Personnel should read the actual report before going off on one about hidden agendas etc? Just thinking like...

RedGreenInBlue said...

Hi, long-time English reader of your blog here (don't think I've commented before?).

Just from the exec summary of the IPPR, you'd think the logical course of action for David Cameron would be to *support* the inclusion of "devo-max" in the Scottish referendum. Not only a large proportion of Scots, but a large majority of the English (80%), would support it.

By my calculation, even if every single respondent in the 20% of noes to devo-max in the IPPR report is from a current Tory voter, then even English Tory voters are evenly split between supporters and opponents of devo-max (an opinion poll in the Guardian a couple of days ago reported that the Tories - somehow - are on 40% at the moment). Given that there must be some noes against supporters of other parties, that means it's all but certain that even Tory voters as a whole support devo-max.

So what's going on? So is Cameron crazy (sy'n ddigon posib!)? If not, who's leaning on him? Or what does he know that no-one else does?

Anonymous said...


I think that devo max is less likely to appeal to Cameron and the Tory elite than Scottish independence.

Devo max, imo, would have profound consequences for the UK constitution.

It isn't easy to explain my reasoning, without a convoluted explanation.

I believe granting such powers to Scotland would require a federal solution in the UK. That implies a written constitution in order to entrench (protect) the powers of the new federal parliaments (of England, Scotland, and probably, Wales). It would also involve the creation of a federal parliament for the UK to deal with federal issues such as defence and foreign affairs.

I don't think a partially-written constitution would work because the UK’s amorphous unwritten constitution is pretty poorly defined.

It would entail defining the relationship between legislature, executive, and judiciary, as well as the nature, powers, and role of the monarchy, together with church-state relations – the latter being particularly difficult considering the differences between Scotland, Wales and England.

It would mean the end of the Westminster-style parliamentary system of government and abolition of the concept of the sovereignty of the Crown in parliament. With it would go the Lords, patronage, and in all likelihood, FPTP. In fact, just about everything the Tories hold dear.

On the other hand, if Scotland left the Westminster system could carry on much as it is now, but with some 40 fewer Labour members, allowing the Tories to govern for many years, until an eventual political realignment took place in England.

Wales would be an irrelevance to the Tories, much as now.

However, it would pose a dilemma for Labour politicians in Wales, if they still had control of the Assembly, for they would be faced with Tory government in London for many years. I suspect they would demand (and get) significantly greater powers and eventually independence.

Furthermore, a federal UK would not be likely to last very long because of the asymmetry between England and the other nations. Tensions would inevitably arise over defence and foreign affairs which would result in a break-up.

So the unionists would have lost their precious Westminster set-up for nothing.

It pretty much explains why the Tories are so against the Scots having a vote on devo max.

Labour would not welcome the end of the cosy Westminster system either because it has served them well for a century, but they will lose more whatever the Scots decide.

The unionists are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have only a weak case for retention of the union, and have to resort to irrelevant petty constitutional and legal arguments, which will only irritate the Scots. The issue is a political not a legal one. If the Scots want to go they will – no Supreme Court can stop them.

I predict that the UK, if it exists at all, will be very different in ten years’ time.

D’yw Cameron ddim in ddwl, yn fy nhyb i, beth bynnag.

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