Archive for January, 2011

Own Goal?

True Wales undoubtedly scored a PR coup be refusing to register to lead the ’˜no’ campaign. Their decision undoubtedly put the ’˜yes’ camp on the back foot.

But it is likely that the momentary attention they’ve won for themselves will fade away as the campaign gets properly underway.

There is always a superficial attraction in any argument that tax payers shouldn’t have to fit the bill for political campaigns. But, perhaps a pause for thought is required. Is democracy well served if the electors are kept in the dark?

Not having any mail drops, not having any election broadcasts puts the editorial control in the hands of the media.

Such a campaign will be conducted by the rules and regulations of the broadcasters or according to the editorial whim of the newspaper editor. Is that the best way of informing people of the reasoned arguments of both sides?

To pitch a campaign as the people against the politicians is good populist stuff. After the goings on in Westminster on MPs expenses there are still an awful lot of people out there that hold politicians in very low regard.

A campaign that taps into such feelings may just hit the right spot with the voters.

The ’˜yes’ side seem to have acknowledged the potency of such an argument by featuring ’˜ordinary’ people at their national launch.

But by not going for the lead ’˜no’ organization status with the Electoral Commission they may have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot. They seem to have missed the opportunity of getting the views into every household in Wales.

Their arguments can only be effective if people hear about them. To deny themselves an opportunity of putting them across is like winking at a member of the opposite sex in the dark, well meaning but completely ineffective.

But, it does pose a major dilemma to those who would like to see Welsh people making an informed choice on 3 March. How will the argument be put so that the voters are motivated to turn out?

In the media? But many Welsh voters still get their information from London based media outlets. Indeed the majority of the voters fall into this category. The media is not known for its coverage of Welsh affairs.

Street and public meetings? Even the best organized political campaigns only touch a very small number in this way. The answer is, not many. Few will hear, and even fewer will as a consequence act.

So expect a low turnout on the day. Then the incrimination will begin. The shout will be ‘the results lack democratic validity.’ Wales will not be well served if that happens.

No, True Wales have not done the ’˜people’ a favour. It’s not the elite that suffer when democracy fails, but the people.


Road to independence?

‘Plaid Cymru have nowhere else to go politically if the referendum is won but to go all out for independence.’ This is a line that is been pushed in internal Labour party meetings in North Wales to encourage their members to work for and vote ’˜yes’ in the March referendum.

An Independent Wales has not stirred the blood of Welsh voters. There has not been a great rush to re-commission Offa’s Dyke and cut off from those on it’s eastern side.

Aware of this Labour has always thought that ’˜independence’ is a vote loser for Plaid Cymru. And who can disagree with their analysis.

Aware of this Plaid Cymru have played down this aspiration. ’˜Independence’ is the word they dare not speak it’s name.

Intriguing how Labour is using the argument that the ’˜No’ campaign is pushing, that a ’˜Yes’ vote will be the slippery road to independence, to get their own members in North Wales to campaign for a positive vote. It’s Alice in Wonderland politics.

All sensible voters know that if they vote ’˜yes’ on what, after all is a tiding up technical exercise, Welsh passports will not be issued the next day.

But is it true that Plaid Cymru will have nowhere else to go politically if there is a ’˜yes’ vote in a few week’s time?

Undoubtedly the usual suspects in Plaid Cymru will be pushing that particular case. But there is no reason to believe that the leaders of the party will loosen their grip on the reins and allow this particular horse to gallop.

But if not independence then what? Well, it could be home rule. There is a perfectly reasonable case that could be put forward for Plaid Cymru to demand that powers be devolved to the Assembly on all domestic issues.

OK some of them would be controversial, but it is not beyond the wit of a political party to argue their corner.

Criminal Justice, broadcasting, both Holtham reports, energy, are all areas for starters that a case could be made for Westminster to pass the parcel to Cardiff Bay.

Plaid Cymru could legitimately start running with the Lloyd George agenda for Home rule a policy that incidentally was Labour’s own policy until 1945.

My hunch is that ’˜Independence’ will remain very much a long term aspiration for Plaid Cymru. In other words it will be kicked into the long grass for many an year yet. In that same grass that Labour kicked its commitment to socialism.


Body parts

In the event of my sad demise I do hope that an unseemly row doesn’t break out as to what should happen to my organs – provided that is that they are worth harvesting, of course.

Peace and harmony is certainly not the case at the conception of the law making process for organ donation.

The story so far is that the Assembly want the power to pass a law that assumes that Welsh people don’t mind the harvesting of organs from their dead bodies unless of course they expressly forbid it. Whilst they’re alive of course!

Now all was preceding nicely. The Assembly had consulted widely. Of those consulted, the majority gave it the thumbs up sign. So all was fine and dandy, until yesterday.

What happened yesterday, you ask? The Assembly were in the process of kicking off the legislative process and mid debate an e-mail arrived to the computer of the Health Secretary Edwina Hart.

The author of said our hapless Secretary of State, Cheryl Gillan letting it be known that the Attorney General wasn’t happy that the Assembly had the power to push ahead.

Apparently it wasn’t a health matter but a human rights matter and as such, not a devolved matter.

Dear, oh dear, you can imagine the reaction of the Assembly, sufficient to say they were not happy little bunnies.

The farce continued with Cheryl Gillan first of all denying on the BBC that she had sponsored a failed Private Members bill along the same lines. Later she had to apologize , she had simply forgotten.

Politicians being politicians seeing a band wagon they just couldn’t resist getting on it. In no time at all press notices were been issued by the parties, faster than Cardiff traffic wardens issue parking tickets.

The theme of many of these notices, that a ‘yes’ vote in the March referendum would stop such nonsenses.

But would it? Unlikely.

Ambiguity will still abound as to whether an issue was devolved or not. In the mantra of all constitutional lawyers ‘where there is clarity let me bring confusion.’ In such disputes it would be ‘my learned friend’ that would decide.

Indeed not only will lawyers be making a killing on these issues but without a revising chamber for the Assembly they must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the pay day that will undoubtedly come.

Disputes from the unicameral Assembly will surely abound, after all, no legislative body is perfect. Despite the best brains in Wales sitting in the Assembly there will be occasions when they’ll err in their legislative duties.

The answer surely lies with the Gorsedd of bards. They should have an enhanced new role as our second chamber. After all if you can play around with strict metre, looking at Welsh Laws would be child’s play.