Monday, 6 October 2008

Can't or Won't?

According to Tomos Livingstone today, Peter Hain's remarks about the timing of a referendum on further powers are "likely to infuriate Plaid Cymru". I somehow doubt that Mr Hain will be overly worried one way or the other about this, but for what it's worth, I'm not feeling particularly infuriated - yet. After all, his remarks are not out of line with what he's said several times before, so they hardly came as a great surprise.

I have said before that the decision to call a referendum is, ultimately, a matter of political judgement – it is not a precise science. Peter Hain is obviously in the cautious camp, whereas I think Wales both needs, and is ready for, bolder leadership than that.

The key question for me in this issue is whether we allow ourselves to be driven by events, or whether we try to ensure that events are driven by us. Do we merely reflect public opinion at a point in time; or do we seek to influence public opinion in a particular direction? I'm in no doubt at all where I stand on that question – I haven't been a member of Plaid for nearly 40 years in an attempt to reflect opinion; I've spent that time campaigning to change opinions.

Last year, Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party signed the One Wales agreement. We should remember that it wasn't just the AMs who signed up to this; it was the respective parties as a whole which agreed to "campaign for a successful outcome" in a referendum on further powers. There is a 'get-out' clause in the agreement, of course, but I remain unconvinced that it will be necessary to use that clause – I think that the leaders of both parties understood what they were agreeing to, and are committed to delivering.

What probably would infuriate me, and many other members of Plaid, would be for the Labour Party to take no action to promote the case for further powers (whether internally within the party or externally with the public at large), and then seek to use the get-out clause purely in order to avoid a split in the Labour Party. That would be neither behaving "in good faith" (as the agreement requires) nor displaying the kind of leadership which I think Wales expects from her politicians. Nor would it be likely to encourage further co-operation in the future.

There is a huge difference between a Labour Party which is unable to deliver a yes vote, and a Labour Party which is unwilling to try. "Won't" is not the same as "Can't". Peter Hain seems to be dangerously close to saying "Won't", but I don't believe that he's speaking for his party.


Anonymous said...

if Labour aren't going to deliver on a yes vote Plaid should drop them and go for the Rainbow.

John Dixon said...

Leaving a partner who might let us down for one who certainly will?