Friday, 10 October 2014

A fudge by any other name

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
For a character in a children’s book, that might, just about, be a reasonable approach, but it really isn't good enough for a political party.  The Lib Dems have, in their various incarnations, been banging on about federalism and home rule for a very long time, but what exactly do the words mean?  And it isn’t just them; Labour’s Carwyn Jones has been calling for “Home Rule All Round” (echoing a call first made, I believe, almost 200 years ago in the 1830s) since the Scottish referendum.
In the case of Labour, the words seem to mean that we move to a reserved powers model, and are then offered the extra powers which may, or may not, have been promised to Scotland (exactly what was promised remains a mystery even to those who made the promise).  Wales should then, apparently, treat this as an ‘a la carte’ offering, much of which should be rejected.
The Lib Dems have done rather more work on the question, and have attempted to set out some detail of what they mean in this document.  I suspect though that others reading it will come to the same conclusion that I did – ‘home rule’ has a much more limited definition than I would give it.  It might even amount to less than that other undefined phrase – ‘devo-max’.  And that bring us back, in a way, to Humpty Dumpty.  The words ‘home rule’ mean whatever the person using them intends them to mean, and the increasing adoption of the term cannot be interpreted as meaning that there is increasing agreement on the substance.  On that, the gulf is as wide as it ever was.
Even if all four parties were to put similar words into their manifestos for the next Assembly election, as some are suggesting, it would tell us little about their actual intent.  A bit like that vow made before the Scottish referendum, in fact.


G Horton-Jones said...

Cannot equate 200 years ago with the 1930s
Suspect that there will be more than four parties standing in the next Assembly elections just what will appear in their pitch to the electorate will be very interesting.

John Dixon said...

Typo - should have been 1830s.

Yes, there will be more than 4 - but I don't think that UKIP, for instance, will join the cosy consensus...