A clear direction of travel

I was pleased to see that ITV had commissioned another poll from YouGov; and the results were fairly comprehensively reported in last week's Sharp End, and here on the ITV Wales blog.

But I always like looking at the full information, which has just been put up on the YouGov website, here. I want to pick up on a couple of things from it.

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First, although it is true that only a disappointing 33% of Plaid Cymru voters said they wanted to see an independent Wales, this was in fact the figure for those who would vote Plaid in Assembly constituencies. The equivalent figure for those who vote Plaid in Westminster elections is a much more respectable 45%. The difference is best explained by noting that appreciably fewer people vote Plaid in Westminster elections (165,394 or 11.3% in 2010) than in Assembly elections (182,907 or 19.3% in 2011). Those who vote Plaid in both can be considered as our "hard core" supporters, and they are obviously more likely to want an independent Wales.

The second thing that struck me was the marked variation of opinion about how Wales should be governed according to different age groups:

 18-2425-3940-59   60+Overall
No devolution6%16%15%25%17%
Assembly with fewer powers3%1%3%5%3%
Status quo28%30%32%31%30%
Assembly with more powers45%31%30%28%32%
Independence11%10%12%8%10%

The 17% who want to revert back to direct government from Westminster in the event of Scotland becoming independent is very heavily influenced by the negative attitude of older voters. Only 6% of young voters would do away with the Assembly.

The percentage wanting to stick with the status quo is remarkably similar across the all ages, so although wanting more powers is the most popular option overall (32%) that figure is much higher among younger voters (45%).

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So the direction of travel is very clear. We're not going to go backwards, despite the 51% of Tory voters who would like that ... even Andrew RT Davies dismissed that possibility. So the only real question is what extra powers we should be pressing for now, and what the timescale should be. As I see it, the Silk Commission needs to produce a comprehensive package of additional powers and responsibilities—together with a larger Assembly and a revised voting system for it—which would be introduced though a new Government of Wales Act to be passed by Westminster before the next UK election in May 2015, and come into effect for the Assembly election in May 2016.

The temptation will be to do nothing until the result of the Scottish independence referendum is known. But that would be a bad idea. If the unionist parties are to have any hope of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom, they must show that they are prepared to change the way the UK works by offering a radically improved degree of autonomy to its constituent nations. If the best they can offer Wales is a bit of tinkering around the constitutional edges, how will anyone in Scotland believe that the same unionist parties would be able to agree on and deliver some form of devo-max for them?

If, between them, they can't deliver a substantial degree of additional autonomy to Wales, there is absolutely no chance that they will be able to deliver an even more substantial degree of autonomy to Scotland, is there?

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17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes they will.

Unless, the next leader of the nationalist party in Wales is able to press for more, make it known how angry they would be if it doesn't happen. Raise awareness of the issue is key- people don't know about Welsh devolution and its problems because of the lack of media. Shout about it every few speeches.

As clearly in the past they have given Scotland more powers (Scotland Act thats going through) without really giving Wales its fair share. They will continue do this unless pressure it put on them - hell Labour aren't going to do this (as we saw with the vote on energy!).

Anonymous said...

Re. "disappointing 33% of Plaid Cymru voters said they wanted to see an independent Wales"

This actualy suggests that many Plaid AM's have a strong personal vote doesn't it? It's up to them to use this to convince the electorate of the benefits of independence.

Siônnyn said...

I think the 33% suggests that many traditional Plaid voters are gradualists - preferring a step by step transition to independence, or at least autonomy. They haven't realised yet - largely because nobody has told them, that that is a luxury no longer available to them. Even if Scotland fail to achieve full independence this time, the constitution will be radically changed forever, and, with non-racistEnglish nationalism beginning to awaken, it is quite possible that we will have at least self determination imposed on us, which is why we need a strong, visionary leader to make sure that we are not, as we usually are, disadvantaged.

I suspect that we will see the Scotland act considerably strengthened over the next year or so, so that the status to make the status quo a good impersonation of 'devo max' for Scotland - and we need a strong voice in Wales to ensure that our case is heard. I am sorry to say that I doubt that voice will be Carwyn's, so the discontent caused by the imbalanced treatment of Wales compared to Scotland could well extend to the next election, which could be a historic event for our country.

Neilyn said...

If the Scots head for the hills then us Welsh need to be absolutely clear about our status as a nation, or be prepared to have that brought into question yet again by louder voices intent on 'harmonising' administration across the (new) Kingdom of Britain i.e. abolishing the National Assembly and returning Wales to the direct rule of Westminster, or devolving power to the regions of England and ensuring the same, strictly limited, administrative and legislative powers as currently "enjoyed" in Wales.

Anonymous said...

Will you be blogging about todays announcement by the three candidates re: coalition with the Tories?

MH said...

We have to be clever, Anon 17:56. Yes, we can and should shout for more autonomy for Wales. But won't that shout be much more powerful if we can successfully link it to the situation in Scotland?

In the course of the next two years, the unionist parties will become desperate to come up with a way of keeping Scotland in the union as the polls show opinion shifting in favour of independence. But the silly fools are busily burning their boats, insisting that they want the referendum to be only about independence, and refusing to come up with a devo-max option. Their line is that they won't come up with devo-max until after the referendum, which will force the Scots to take devo-max on trust as something that is only a vague promise. They're painting themselves into that corner.

Now this has all the credibility of True Wales saying that if we had voted No to primary lawmaking powers last March, we would have been offered a "better" form of devolution in its place. It is perfectly obvious to me that if there is no concrete devo-max proposal for Scotland that can be voted for in the independence referendum, then there is no guarantee that the unionist parties will deliver anything afterwards. The only credibility they will have will be to point to Wales and say: "Look, we've done this in Wales; we'll be able do the same for you if only you'll vote No to independence." They'll not be able to offer anything directly to Scotland, because they'll have painted themselves into a corner where the referendum has to be about independence and nothing else.

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That's where I disagree slightly with Siônnyn. I am not convinced that the unionist parties will give Scotland a substantially improved devolution settlement. The current Scotland Bill, as I see it, is going to be enacted substantially as proposed at present. The unionist parties will bank on the Scots saying No to independence, making noises about giving the Scots something better if they do. But they would be under no real obligation to deliver it if the Scots did vote No. With the threat of independence neutered for probably the next ten years, they will be able to ignore the Scots and say it is down to Westminster to call the shots, not Scotland. That's their game plan.

But if we play our cards right, we get an enhanced devolution settlement for ourselves, and increase the chances of the Scots getting more than they would otherwise get.

MH said...

To Neilyn. Yes, we need to be aware that the call for devolution to the English regions recently made by Paul Murphy and Peter Hain, and probably shared by a good many other Welsh Labour MPs is actually a call for our status as a nation in the UK to be identical to that of a region of England. Carwyn Jones at least wants Wales to have an equal nation status with England and Northern Ireland, even though his plan is a bit naïve as it stands. So there's going to be another typical Labour bout of internal squabbling.

However, it probably doesn't matter because Labour are not in a position to deliver anything. The bigger factor is going to be the Tories and LibDems trying to deliver a more symmetrical form of devolution to include England as a nation. It is in that context that the new GoWA 2014 will be framed. Hopefully the Silk Commission will be able to come up with something that is much less of a dog's breakfast than Peter Hain's 2006 version.

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I'm not sure that ruling out a deal with the Tories is particularly newsworthy, 20:28. No one in Plaid would ever particularly want to go into coalition with the Tories, and it's hard to see what sort of deal could be done anyway. If we were in a position where we were within touching distance of forming a government but short of a majority we can always rely on the fact that Labour and the Tories will disagree on virtually everything and cancel each other out, which would allow us to be a minority government. Between 2007 and 2011, the SNP showed it could be done with as little as 46 out of 129 seats.

Anonymous said...

People vote for Plaid for all kinds of reasons. Many vill vote because they like their local candidate. Others have a strong sense of patriotism but do not see an obvious advantage in creating an independent Welsh country. Some people vote for Plaid because of its left of Labour stance or other policies. Then a strong third or so are actual nationalists. Having canvassed for Plaid for many years this fits exactly with what I hear on the doorstep. The same scenario exists in other stateless nations. The nationalist party gets votes not just from nationalists but from others as well. The electorate at large votes on social issues rather than constitutional issues.

Cibwr said...

I remember Mrs Thatcher promising the Scots "something better" if they voted no in 1979 - it turned out to be no devolution and Tory Secretaries of State....

Gwalchmei said...

My reading of the BBC report regarding attitudes towards working with the Tories is that Leanne is absolutely unequivocal about it. The answer is no. It is clear. No talk of considering it under certain unlikely circumstances or referring it to the membership rather than answering directly.
It is essential to provide clear leadership. A leadership that is unequivocal about independence, unequivocal regarding not working with the right wing, and unequivocal in putting forward a well formulated programme that challenges the status quo and attracts voters.
The survey results might not please all but attitudes change, and that’s what leadership is all about. Providing an alternative that people will turn to, particularly in times of crisis, is the name of the game.

Siônnyn said...

MH - I'm afraid that I can't help thinking that there is one Plaid Cyrmu leadership candidate who would enthusiastically embrace a coalition with the Tories, even as a junior partner, if it meant a ministerial car - and you all know who I mean.

Anon 10:58 - the SNP have the same sort of profile, with support for the SNPO running traditionally far ahead of the support for full independence, but as the unionists continue to advance the case for freedom while thinking they are doing nothing, the gap is closing all the time. And the SNP haven't even had to start selling the idea of national sovereignty to the people of Scotland yet.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it quite simple? If the Tories were a pro-devolution party or had acceptable socio-economic policies, we could work with them. Right now, they don't. It's their call whether to change because if the Tories don't change they will never get into government. If David Melding's idea of an independent Welsh conservative party ever came true they would be able to have more centrist policies that left-of-centre parties would find more palatable.

An independent Welsh tory party could tone down the support for privatisation (I mean have they even seen the current farce over PFI?) and could start voting in favour of devolution during the relevant Assembly debates.

Until that happens the reasons why they can't work with Plaid are obvious.

maen_tramgwydd said...

I watched CF99 on S4C where the three Plaid candidates answered various questions.

http://www.s4c.co.uk/clic/e_level2.shtml?programme_id=500343760

Leanne was very brave going head to head against two fluent Welsh-speakers, though she managed to get through it reasonably well. It's not possible for anyone to compete on equal terms in those circumstances.

Unfortunately my dislike of DET was reinforced. I don't know what to make of the man. Every time he's asked a simple question, such as what are his views on independence, I'm left feeling..'What exactly did he say? or 'What exactly does he mean?' (See 3.55 mins)

He didn't feel that a Plaid majority of 31 in the Assembly would be a sufficient for a five year term (implying) that it would be no basis for calling a referendum (6.02).

He favours Wylfa B, saying that if it wasn't supported Plaid would lose Anglesey (8.34). (If there was a serious incident there we'd lose MUCH of North Wales permanently, not just Anglesey, Dafydd).

He responded negatively towards the two others on occasion, to Elin on Wylfa B, and Leanne on her republican stance. Leanne stated that she would not boycott the queen's visits to the Assembly if she were Plaid's leader. DET took a dim view of her inconsistency and lack of respect for the Assembly.

When he was asked if he could work with the others if either were elected, he said that he had worked with everybody in the past, and that there was a need to work with people in other parties too. It was another equivocal answer in my opinion. Were Leanne to win, I doubt if she'd get much backing from him, probably the opposite.

The support of Welsh-speaking people is essential for Plaid, I've no doubt of that, but their support alone will never achieve the breakthrough the party needs. It must appeal to the other eighty percent too. I can't in all honesty see DET or Elin doing that.

Plaid failed to make a major impact under DET's leadership in the past, and Elin is in the mould of the party's previous leaders, with the exception of Dafydd Wigley. Elin is nice enough, but there's not much more one can say about her. She's allied herself with Simon Thomas who seemed pretty unenthusiastic about independence, wanting Plaid to be an effective opposition to Labour, not much more.

The prospect of Leanne as leader has galvanised many within the party, of all ages, regardless of language. I attribute the spurt in membership to her candidacy, because otherwise, to be frank, it would be pretty dull. If there were only the two standing, I'd plump for Elin, as I think DET would be a disaster.

DET's tendency to be dismissive of people he doesn't agree with surfaced once or twice during the programme - it’s a quality I find particularly unappealing which one often finds in many career politicians at Westminster.

I therefore leave you in no doubt as to whom I will be voting for.

MH said...

I'm going to pick up on a number of points from last night's CF99, MT. I've just put up the first regarding nuclear power, and I'll say more later. I think I pretty much agree with all of what you've said.

I think it was very brave of Leanne to do this in Welsh, even though it did put her at a disadvantage. I sense that she would have said more if she had the words. She had to stick to saying more simple things than she otherwise would. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's a breath of fresh air to hear a politician making points simply and clearly.

I thought Elin performed very well. And I would always want to emphasize that I think she would be a far better leader for Plaid Cymru than Dafydd. This contest is far from being clear cut. Second preferences will be crucial and I'd urge everyone to use their second preference wisely. Elin will definitely be getting my second preference after Leanne.

Anonymous said...

This is well worth looking at. It's at the heart of Wales' problems.

A Future Equality:

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/

"I know some people will say ‘What’s this got to do with independence?!’ It has everything to do with independence. Winning the battle for Yes is NOT about competing on the same economic terms as Britain and the failed models, it’s about creating something far better. This is Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level on: How economic inequality harms societies…"

Neilyn said...

Indeed, Leanne Wood showed a lot of courage engaging in a live televised debate in what is very much a second language to her. That looks like real strength of character to me. She also comes across as a genuinely warm, sincere and likeable person, with firm political convictions.

I look forward to tonight's debate on ITV.

MH said...

I thought the "Future Equality" video on Bella Caledonia was very good too, Anon. Not new news, because I've seen the graphs before, but worth spending a quarter of an hour to watch.

I'll repost it here, but on a quieter day.

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