Friday, 6 November 2009

Letting the people decide

Bit of a headache for Welsh political hacks this one. We're now going to have to think of another question to ask David Cameron's people in Wales now he is confirming that a Conservative government would not block a request from the Welsh Assembly to hold a referendum on its powers.*

When Cheryl Gillan told us at the Tory conference in Manchester "we will let the people decide" she really did mean what we thought she said. As Secretary of State for Wales, she would avoid the trap of rejecting a request for a vote - the trap of an unpopular Conservative government fuelling demands for more freedom from Westminster.

There are still questions for Ms Gillan to answer. We still don't know which way she would vote in any referendum but that in one sense is academic as she wouldn't have a vote - unless Lord Garel-Jones's idea of enfranchising the expats takes off. (Perhaps my own ballot paper is in the post)

So insoluble are Tory divisions on the subject that the party's MPs would be given a free vote on the issue, a licence to campaign on either side of the argument. It could be the sort of campaign that pitches the party's MPs against the party's AMs, undermining Cheryl Gillan's plans to create harmony between Cardiff Bay and Westminster.

So now everyone is committed to letting the people decide, why wait for a change of government? Sir Emyr Jones Parry's report later this month is expected to fuel enthusiasm for a referendum among those keen for the Assembly to acquire full law-making powers and consign LCOs to the Welsh political archive.

The worrying thing for enthusiasts is that the strongest shout for a referendum (I paraphrase but "bring it on now" was the tone) I've heard this week came from the Conservative MP for Monmouth, David Davies. He may be a former Assembly Member, but there's no mystery about which way he would vote - or his motive for calling an early poll.

*If there are any other Welsh questions you'd like Team Cameron to be asked, do let us know. Would the Tories go ahead with the defence training college at St Athan springs to mind. Would a Cameron government committed to making devolution work really have a Secretary of State based in Buckinghamshire?

I'd hate to have to fall back on whether Prime Minister Cameron would implement Tory AMs' demands for St David's Day to be made a public holiday.

No comments: