Monday, 24 January 2011

False prospecti

I suppose the conversion of Peter Hain from prophet of doom to enthusiastic supporter of a yes vote in March is something we should welcome.  His reasoning, though, leaves me cold, since it appears to be based on an assumption that Wales only needs protection from UK Governments if they’re not Labour.  As with much else, the bottom line seems to be party advantage, rather than any real consideration of the interests of Wales.
One of the arguments often put forward by the no campaign is that the Assembly hasn’t delivered on the promises that were made in 1997, particularly in relation to the economy.  They draw attention, naturally enough, to the extent to which Welsh GVA continues to lag behind the UK average. 
The argument is all too easily dismissed by pointing out that the Assembly doesn’t have the powers to make that much difference.  I think that’s missing the point of the ‘no’ argument.  Whether the Assembly has the powers or not isn’t their issue; their issue is that they claim that promises were made and then not kept – so why believe the politicians this time around either?
In that context, Hain doesn’t help matters by talking about a yes vote giving the Welsh Government the power to transform the Welsh economy.  It doesn’t give them that at all, as MH has pointed out on Syniadau.  It’s just another false prospectus of the sort which is likely, over time, to add to the disconnect between politicians and everyone else.
There are plenty of reasons for a yes vote in March without resorting to this sort of tactic.


Anonymous said...

"There are plenty of reasons for a yes vote in March without resorting to this sort of tactic."

Such as? The main problem with Wales is it's relative poverty.

John Dixon said...

"Such as?"

Fair question, but not directly related to the main aim of this post. I've touched on some of the reasons in previous posts and will no doubt do so again. The main advantage of a yes vote in this particular referendum is to get rid of the clumsy, cumbersome, and time-wasting LCO process.

"The main problem with Wales is its relative poverty"

I agree, although I think I'd have described it as the 'main problem facing Wales' rather than the 'main problem with Wales'.

However, anyone who believes that a yes vote in March will give the Welsh Government all the powers it needs to 'transform the economy', as Hain claimed, is either deluding themselves or attempting to delude the rest of us.

Wales' relative economic failure is long-standing; the fundamental question we have to answer is 'do we believe that the UK Government will deal with this, or do we believe that we can do better ourselves?' I'm in the latter camp, which is part of the reason that I'm a nationalist, not a devolutionist. I can't 'prove' of course that we would do better ourselves; but given how long-standing the problem is, I'd argue that history tends to support my view that the relative poverty will not be dealt with by a UK Government of any colour.

Anonymous said...


I will be voting 'yes' in the coming referendum but I'm a little concerned that all we will have will be express legislation of the dog collar, plastic bag nature. You may laugh at what I'm about to say as it isn't discussed at all but I'm convinced that Wales needs it's own currency to really get it's economy going.

John Dixon said...


On the powers bit, I share your concerns; there's a difficult line to tread between over-estimating the consequences of a yes vote, and underestimating the importance of getting it.

No, I won't laugh - but I will disagree! Your suggestion is an entirely valid one; the ability to set their own interest rate regimes (albeit limited by 'the markets') is one of the economic levers open to independent (but not devolved) nations.

On currency, an independent Wales would probably have three options - to stay in the sterling zone, to introduce its own currency, or to join the Euro. I reject the first - not out of any anti-UK feelings, but because UK monetary policy has, over the long term, been set to suit the needs of the housing market in the SE of England rather than the needs of areas such as Wales. The Eurozone policy has, over the long term, been a better one from a Welsh perspective - but it's still far from perfect. However, taking the situation as a whole, I favour joining the Euro rather than introducing a new currency.

There are those who consider the idea of inedpendence to be laughable, of course - and for them, a Welsh currency will be regarded in the same way. But it isn't laughable from a nationalist perspective - I just think that history has gone beyond the point where it makes sense.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

Part of the problem is caused by the referendum issue itself. How do you enthuse people either to support or oppose something as boring as "moving to part 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006"? It is such a tedious issue (which doesn't really need a referendum in my view) that the only way of building support for either side is through exaggerating the issue.

John Dixon said...


I cannot disagree with that. If a referendum was needed at all, it should have been before implementing GOWA, and on the principle of legislative powers. That, for me, was when the constitutional change occurred. This referendum is about how and when to do something, not whether.

And I can understand why some will try to exaggerate as a result, but we need to be thinking more long term than that. The danger is that statements like Hain's merely provide more ammunition which will be used in the future, along the lines of 'but last time, you said...'. And, of course, that they alienate those who might otherwise be supportive, a point validly made by Mr Black today.

Glyndo said...

Whilst I agree with your analysis, we have four separate parties supporting the "Yes" campaign. It would take a saint not to try and bolster their own Party in the process and they can't all agree on the total message. I am sure Plaid has the same aspirations, to improve their position, as Labour. The important thing is to win, and then we can take it from there.

John Dixon said...


"we have four separate parties supporting the "Yes" campaign"

I think not. We have three separate parties supporting the yes campaign, and a number of individuals from a fourth. As I understand it, the Conservatives in Wales consider that this is not an issue on which they feel it necessary to take a view as a party.

"It would take a saint not to try and bolster their own Party in the process"

Of course, and there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't end up causing unnecessary arguments amongst supporters of a yes vote. That wasn't what Hain was doing, however. What he was saying, effectively, is that whether it is a good or a bad thing for Wales to move to GOWA Part 4 now depends primarily on whether Labour is, or is not, in power in London. That isn't the same as using the referendum to try and boost Labour's position for the May election.

And, for good measure, he threw in a promise that the Assembly would do things which it will have no power to do.