Friday, 30 October 2009

Cut them some slack?

When I first heard that the report of the All Wales Convention was to be published in the middle of the Labour leadership election, I did sort of wonder whether that was really such a good idea. Whatever it recommended, it was inevitably going to put all three contenders on the spot, at a time when they were looking to maximise their support in all three parts of the electoral college.

And so it has come to pass. Gareth Hughes is amongst those who wonder where this leaves One Wales, with two of the three sounding at best luke-warm on the issue.

Given the constituency to which they are trying to appeal at present, I'm not really surprised at a degree of equivocation, to say the least. And at this stage, I'm not overly concerned about it either. All three candidates are finding themselves in a position where their target audience is the internal one, but the most effective way of reaching that audience is through external media.

What matters is not what they say now, but what they will say and do when sitting around the cabinet table after the dust has settled. In the meantime, perhaps we should just cut them a bit of slack, and hope that they all have the sense not to say anything too irrevocable.

I'm much more concerned about the continued interference of the Secretary of State, who seems at times to be determined to derail his own government and party.

8 comments:

Adam Higgitt said...

A very good and perceptive post that somewhat skates over the probability that the Plaid politicians who have entered the discussion today (including at WalesHome.org) are also in the business of appealing to the sensibilities of their own activists and members.

Nothing at all wrong with that of course, but what's sauce for the goose...

John Dixon said...

"skates over"? Moi?

'Ignores', more like. But I accept the well-made point. We all do it at times (that is, use the external media for messages to our own side) and it would be futile and dishonest for me to pretend otherwise. And we don't always - indeed, can't always - make that clear.

Jeff Jones said...

I would say that both Peter Hain and Huw Lewis are more in tune with the views of ordinary Labour Party members on the timing of a referendum than you give them credit for.The referendum isn't realy an issue that interests most Labour Party activists. Their first priority is to ensure that there isn't a Tory government in Westminster next year. At a local level particularly if they control the local Council they are concerned at how they will be able to minimise the effects of the cuts which have to be introduced in the wake of the recent local government settlement. At the same time many Labour councillors who are also often the key activists will also be worried by the way in which the Local Government Boundary Commission is changing the electoral map for local government in Wales. You may as well wake up to the fact that for a wide variety of reasons there is no appetite in the Labour Party for a referendum before 2011. The fact that it might be part of the One wales agreement will cut no ice with Labour activists. After all it was an agreement that most activists had very little say in. No referendumm before 2011 is a problem for Plaid not for Labour I'm afraid.The Labour Party has far more important issues to worry about.

John Dixon said...

Jeff,

I'm sure that you're better placed than I to judge the mood of activists in the Labour Party. However:

"Their first priority is to ensure that there isn't a Tory government in Westminster next year"

Important though that is as an objective, the words that spring to mind are horse, stable and door. I believe that Wales will reject the Tories (again), but there's little that any campaign by Labour in Wales can do to stop what is likely to happen in England. In that context, should we not also be giving at least a little thought to how we can protect Wales?

"The fact that it might be part of the One wales agreement will cut no ice with Labour activists. After all it was an agreement that most activists had very little say in."

I thought that it was voted on, and accepted by, an overwhelming majority at a full delegate conference? Isn't that Labour's normal way of giving activists a say?

"No referendumm before 2011 is a problem for Plaid not for Labour"

For what it's worth, I still believe that the One Wales government, under whoever is elected to replace Rhodri, will honour the coalition agreement.

However, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that you are right, and the Labour Party decides not to hold a referendum, despite the commitment given and despite whatever the All Wales Conmvention says. In that circumstance, your assertion that that's more of a problem for Plaid than for Labour may be correct - in the short term. We would have to decide whether to continue with the current arrangement or not. But surely, that in itself is likely to cause some problems for Labour?

I think that it would create longer term problems for Labour as well. Which party, for instance, would be willing to negotiate a future coalition arrangement with a party which acts on the basis that it can ignore key commitments in any agreement at any time that suits its own party interests?

alanindyfed said...

"Which party, for instance, would be willing to negotiate a future coalition arrangement with a party which acts on the basis that it can ignore key commitments in any agreement at any time that suits its own party interests?"
Certainly not Plaid, I would hope...but is it not that Labour customarily places its own party interests above everything else?

Anonymous said...

Jeff Jones sums up the prevailing view in the Labour party. Preserving the jobs of Labour MPs is more important than the way Wales is governed for the coming generation.

Strengthening the Assembly would be important in the resistance to Conservative policy from London. Labour members will be the first to be crying crocodile tears when Cameron visits his social policy on Wales. However they'll do bugger all to put some distance between Wales and Conservative policy by strengthening the Assembly. Labour still believes that all wisdom lies in London and that even London Tories are better than Welsh politicians in Wales.

Peter Hain has made a gift to the Keep the Assembly Weak campaign by praising the LCO system as the best thing since sliced bread. That will be thrown up at every stage in any referendum campaign. Many in Plaid will say that we were wrong to rely on any Labour commitment to a referendum, let alone their support. I think that it's better that we flush out the likes of Hain and the three musketeers in the leadership campaign.

John Dixon said...

Anon,

I'm not sure that it's fair to assert that opposition to either the speed or the principle of devolution within Labour is simply about preserving their own skins. It's a good piece of political knockabout to suggest that, but that doesn't make it true.

"Labour still believes that all wisdom lies in London and that even London Tories are better than Welsh politicians in Wales"

Not convinced about that either. At least some of them genuinely believe that Wales' best interests are served by being an integral part of a greater whole. I think they're wrong, but one of my objectives is to tackle that argument rather than cast aspersions about their motives.

I don't believe that tackling the arguments will ever win them over, of course - but our target has to be convincing the people of Wales that we're right and they're wrong, and I think that needs grown up debate rather than name-calling.

There are times when I almost start to feel a little sorry for friend Hain. By saying one thing to the MPs and another to the AMs in order to get GOWA onto the statute book, he's got himself into a real hole since it's been proved that both stories could never be right. The poor dab is still trying to find a way of reconciling them, though.

Helen Hughes said...

will the the 3 ams work with plaid how will be the frst m of wales in 20011?????????????