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The Death of the LCO

David Cornock | 14:21 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Apologies for the blogging silence. I've just spent the last four days lying down in a darkened room wondering how I will cope in a world without LCOs.

Legislative competence orders are no more as a result of last Thursday's historic/trivial* (*delete as appropriate) referendum result in a vote that "demeans the currency of referendums" (The Guardian) or makes Wales "an equal partner" with Scotland and Northern Ireland (Carwyn Jones).

"The argument over full law-making powers is over," declared the Secretary of State for Wales. The constitutional debate in Wales had been settled "if not for ever then for generations to come".

Actually, that was a past secretary of state, speaking almost five years ago and, this being Wales, the constitutional debate is never over.

The fall-out from last week appears to have created confusion in Conservative ranks. Cheryl Gillan told representatives at her Welsh party conference: "I will be starting the process of bringing increased accountability for financial matters to Wales".

That appeared to be news to her own parliamentary private secretary, Glyn Davies, who is said to have approached an adviser for an explanation.

If the Montgomeryshire MP was confused, he wasn't the only one. Wales Office Minister David Jones introduced Mrs Gillan to the audience as "the leader of the Welsh Conservative party".

One day later, prospective candidate Suzy Davies introduced Nick Bourne to the same audience as "the leader of the Welsh Conservative party". A tad confusing; if they annoint any more leaders they'll be able to form a 1990s' Plaid Cymru tribute band.

As the results came in on Friday, the assembly's presiding officer, Lord Elis-Thomas, made clear the only thing he thought was settled was that we had reached "the end of the long march" of referendums.

He warmed to his theme on Sunday suggesting the Wales Office be wound up. In the process, he wound up Peter Hain, and, to cut a long story short, that led to public tensions within Welsh Labour.

When two leading figures in the same party feel a need to publish a joint statement to "clarify" things most hacks scent a serious falling-out.

This month, four years ago, Mr Hain ruled out an assembly coalition with Plaid Cymru. According to Labour MPs, what they fear is that the Labour leadership in Cardiff Bay would be happy to continue in power with Plaid even if Labour wins a small majority in the assembly elections in May.

Who would have thought constitutional issues could lead to such excitement? Certainly not the 99 per cent who discovered other priorities in this poll.

All this, and a referendum on voting reform to come. I've almost forgotten about LCOs already.


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