Y Barcud Oren #14

Well the lawyers have released me (the academic ones, things haven’t got that bad!) to fill you in on how things are developing in Wales. After all, there’s only an election on…

I Want You To Pull My Trigger

Whatever the result at Westminster, the first item in the new Secretary of State for Wales’s in-tray will be the referendum on extending the powers of the Welsh Assembly. With the final potential roadblock to a referendum removed when David Cameron announced that a Tory government in London wouldn’t block it, all should have been set fair for the Assembly to kick the process off, but as ever the One Wales government couldn’t even manage something that simple.

It started with the idea that there would be a vote, but not necessarily the formal trigger vote to send a request for a referendum to the Secretary of State. That lack of definitive commitment was a bad signal to send out to start with, but the row that followed was far, far worse.

Throughout the process, the Lib Dems (endorsed by the Tories) had been making one simple point; whatever happens, the referendum must not be held on the same day as the Assembly elections in May 2011. The reasons for that should be self-evident; the difficulty of running a cross-party Yes campaign during a partisan election, the conflation of the referendum issue and the political issues… Self-evident or not, the coalition refused to be drawn on whether such a guarantee would be provided, despite the need for cross-party support to even pass the vote, let alone demonstrate the unity needed to win the referendum.

Still, with Plaid remaining unwilling to throw their weight around the coalition (and seemingly unable to understand that, while the One Wales goal is only to have a referendum, their goal as a party is to win it) the row dragged on past the announcement of the trigger vote and almost into the weekend before agreement was reached.
In the end the vote was unanimous, and now that the letter is finally on the Secretary of State’s desk the real dogfight should be about to begin.

A Belated Letter To Santa

With an Easter election announcement, you’d think there were plenty of metaphors to go around, but Plaid Cymru clearly felt the need to bring Christmas into the mix by treating it as if all theirs had come at once. Indeed, after months of trailing this election as the next step in the nationalist march of destiny, there’s barely a religious festival they wouldn’t want to treat it as.
Mind you, when everyone’s favourite comedy double act, Salmond and Jones, came together to announce the great nationalist wish list, their approach to it was pretty odd. Ruling out a formal coalition is all well and good, but when you’ve spent the previous month complaining of being left out of the leaders debates, announcing that you won’t take a job in government under any circumstances is a pretty good way to confirm your irrelevance.

And as letters to Santa go, this one is pretty badly written. The headline “achievable objective” is fair funding for Scotland and Wales, which is fine, except that while the Barnett Formula for devolved funding does penalise Wales, it actively advantages Scotland. Quite what would happen to the nationalist love-in if they ever were offered fair funding remains to be seen; I mean, I suppose the SNP might push for a funding deal that hurt Scotland and then portray it as evidence of anti-Scottishness in Westminster and thus of the importance of independence, but you’d need some serious hubris to try and pull that off… erm…

The Government’s, What For Want Of A Better Word We’ll Call Policy…

Not that the rest of “4Wales4Scotland” (following “7 for 07” and “innov8” in its commitment to originality and lack of gimmickry…) is much better. Ieuan Wyn had already announced one of its central elements, a 30% (no, that’s not a typo) increase in the state pension. Any criticism of that policy was immediately denounced as proof that “the London parties” don’t care about the vulnerable. Which is fine, except that all the ideas for paying for it come from that heinous London party, the Liberal Democrats (PDF), and that the main things proposed to pay for a £20billion annual commitment are… scrapping ID cards and Trident, those notable one-off items. Parties of all stripes felt fairly comfortable with their conclusions on that one…

But of course, if Plaid are saying stupid things about policy, Labour have to chip in under their mutually assured incompetence pact. And while we’re used to the Tories not understanding how devolution works (the appearance of the airbrushed Cameron NHS poster in Wales, where the NHS is devolved, being a case in point) it’s odd for Labour to cock it up. Nevertheless, there was Peter Hain parroting the central party line that a Tory government in Westminster would threaten free bus passes for the elderly. Because the free bus passes aren’t something the devolved government in Wales pioneered and have always operated independently, oh no…

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