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Yes = No excuses

Betsan Powys | 14:12 UK time, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"Make your way to the Zen room" said a Yes for Wales campaigner who'd already heard all the jokes.

No, she didn't promise we'd better understand the meaning of life if we got there but we would hear the campaign's best shot at persuading voters to turn out and vote Yes in the referendum that will be held on March 3rd. The floor to ceiling windows were plastered with giant Yes for Wales tick/dragon's tail logos, the team of helpers putting them up not spotting - as one bright photographer did - that the backdrop, clearly visible behind them, was the Big Sleep hotel. There he had it, a picture that told a story of a campaign that has eight weeks to win a referendum to which an awful lot of Welsh voters are oblivious.

This was the un-jazzy, un-starry official launch of the Yes for Wales campaign. Expect more jazz and stars at this evening's do but nothing lavish. The message from campaign chair Roger Lewis that "there is no profligacy whatsoever in this camp" was made early on. Any money donated will be spent on "getting the message out to the people". Where their money has come from so far won't be made clear until the Autumn when all donations of over £1000 - but not a penny less - will be published as required by law. Some small amounts of corporate and trade union donations had been made already, conceded Mr Lewis but all donations would be welcome, he added hopefully.

When the campaign is, inevitably, designated as lead Yes campaign by the Electoral Commission come February, it will then be awarded tens of thousands of pounds to explain why voting Yes is the right decision. The same amount will be given to the lead No campaign to make their arguments. We're expecting True Wales to launch their campaign the week after next.

What did we hear from the Yes campaign?

That voting 'no' would not mean things would stay as they are. Wales' voice would be weakened. A 'no' vote would hole the Assembly Government below the water-line when it came to negotiating with Whitehall.

A 'yes' vote would strengthen Wales' voice. It would mean laws that affect only Wales would be made only in Wales - "people are uniting behind this simple principle."

A 'yes' vote would allow Assembly Members to get on with the job of "developing Welsh solutions to Welsh problems" - in other words, making decisions that are not necessarily the same as ones made elsewhere - without having to negotiate a legislative system that means they must first get the nod from Westminster.

It would create "a no excuses culture". There'd be less of an opportunity for politicians in Cardiff Bay to duck and dive and blame MPs if the going got tough. They'd have to focus on delivery and explain why if they failed. This would "raise the bar" for the Assembly.

Where did they get into difficulty?

Education is at the heart of the campaign. The launch was at the Atrium, the University of Glamorgan's centre for Creative and Cultural Studies. Roger Lewis was flanked by a head teacher and a student (the 'ordinary voters' in such demand when political times become rather more extraordinary). Education was, he said "at the heart of how the Assembly Government are trying to move the country forward", "one of the pillars of devolution, a key pillar, a fundamental pillar." Yet an international study, published before Christmas, suggests that over the last decade, the performance of 15 year old pupils in Wales has suffered compared with other pupils in other schools in other countries. How do you combat the argument, as put already today by no campaigners, that it makes no sense to give the same politicians more power to get things even more wrong?

It was about freeing politicians up to focus on delivery, said Mr Lewis. It was also about not conflating the Assembly Government's performance so far with the powers that would be given to the Assembly as an institution and any future government that will be at the helm.

Another difficulty. If it is not about political decisions taken already by this government, why does the campaign leaflet say that "it's good to know that our National Assembly is protecting schools, skills and hospitals" - the mantra of Labour and Plaid ministers? Where's the 'clarity' in that?

It won't be easy, was the gist of the response. Future leaflets would be "sharpened up." This is, after all, a cross party campaign, one having to explain what powers have been used for so far, what a 'yes' vote would mean and how more powers could be used in future. "That's the tightrope we're having to walk". In other words, we concede now that there'll be an occasional wobble.

The biggest difficulty of all? Answering the turnout question. What is 'enough' to be significant, or reasonable or, indeed, legitimate. By his own admission the response from the chair was "a soup of an answer". The gist of it was, I think, that a 'yes' vote is the right decision and what's most important is that after the vote, the majority understand what took place. That's what legitimacy is about, that's how you measure the significance of a 'yes' vote, not how many actually vote on the day. You're welcome to pick the bones out of that one.

Not everyone will take to Roger Lewis' style. Be under no illusion: he's as tough as they come but his puppyish enthusiasm will carry some along, grate on others. Even a fan of the YesforWales group comments on Facebook that "I'm 150% with you. Its a pity that WRU chap Lewis is fronting it, he enunciates like some born again christian who's been Eisteddfod trained".

That is why, perhaps, you will also hear from those 'ordinary voters' over the coming weeks - the teacher from Barry who feels that Welsh ministers have rightly put the well-being of children first, the student from Aberystwyth who thanks her lucky stars that decisions on fees taken in Wales are different to those taken in Westminster and the food bank manager from Ebbw Vale who was sceptical about the need for an Assembly in 1997 but who whose experience of gaining access to decision makers and changing things at grassroots level has persuaded him that it's time for more devolving of power.

You won't know their faces and that is the point. All four party leaders want a 'yes' vote. They really want a 'yes' vote and they've calculated theyr'e more likely to get one if they, for the next eight weeks, stand back sometimes and let Roger Lewis and his pack take the strain.

Comments

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  • 1. At 3:23pm on 04 Jan 2011, Dewi_H wrote:

    Betsan - The dosh from the electoral commission is purely for administration - nothing to explain which way to vote.

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  • 2. At 4:17pm on 04 Jan 2011, RWWCardiff wrote:

    No excuses eh? I'm still waiting for an explanation of the WAG refusing to cross a picket line and therefore being 'on strike' in aggrieved sympathy. What nonsense. It was not their dispute, even if some AMs were affiliates. I'm a veteran of this stuff from the heyday of Union power and was daily crossing a picket line together with my colleagues back in the early '70s. Again, it was not our dispute, nor our union involved, the fact that we happened to share a building was immaterial. Those were the days of strict demarkation. So should the WAG even have contemplated such gesture? To my mind it was giving an altogether different gesture to the electorate. Don't even get me stated on the badger cull fiasco. With the WAG demostrating this level of hubris and incompetence somebody's going to have to raise their game considerably to get me out of my front door.
    Welcome back and Happy New Year Betsan.
    Regards, etc.

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  • 3. At 4:48pm on 04 Jan 2011, leighrichards wrote:

    A terrific start to the campaign i think for Yes supporters. Its high time the needs of ordinary people were placed at the top of the political agenda - and this is exactly what the yes campaign has done in their choice of people to feature at the launch.

    Such a down to earth approach is sure to resonate with many ordinary people throughout wales. And the core message - we want a Yes vote to give the welsh assembly the tools to improve the lives of ordinary people in wales will go down equally well im sure!

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  • 4. At 5:04pm on 04 Jan 2011, cleverelliejo wrote:

    Why is there someone whose main interest is rugby fronting the yes vote?
    It is like Westminster getting someone from the Football League to front a vote in Parliament.
    I also hate that sentence "getting the message across" do they think voters are incapable of thinking things out for themselves. It is hugely patronising.
    I hope you will be as "wordy" when you report on the "No" campaign,and you will be as impartial as a public servant should be.

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  • 5. At 5:22pm on 04 Jan 2011, NewParadist wrote:

    I'm more than an enthusiastic devolutionist - I was sticking flyers through doors as a 12 year old in 1979. I fleeted from bar-to-bar in Spain trying to find news channels and get results in 1997 and pointed a radio in all directions like someone from Secret Army when the bars shut (having delivered a postal vote of course) but I'm edging towards a No vote this time.

    The only reason for my shift is that they've put the Yes campaign in the hands of the head of the WRU and it smacks of the worst type of Welsh stitch up and reinforces the worst type of Welsh stereotype. Those of us who feel that rugby brings out the worst in the Welsh (including of course a surge in domestic violence) don't want to give our approval to anything driven by that sport. The more paranoid amongst us would like categoric assurances that the WRU won't be 'thanked' in some fashion for Lewis' assistance, say in the form of a rates reduction on the Millennium Stadium which has long been lobbied for by the WRU or even worse, compulsory rugby in our schools. As I read this before posting I can see what alarmist nonsense this seems but I trust the rugby apparatchiks even less than the public trust politicians!

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  • 6. At 5:24pm on 04 Jan 2011, alfsplace1986 wrote:

    4. cleverelliejo

    The No campaigners won't be trying to "get the message across" then.

    Now how will they manage that I wonder "getting the message across"?

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  • 7. At 5:25pm on 04 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    Isn't there a problem in using the history of the Assembly and its accomplishments to persuade people to vote YES?

    All accomplishments are Labour driven (or Plaid driven if they were successful). Are the Tories and the Lib/dems going to get on board for this love-fest of all things Labour with an Assembly election coming up?

    Then again, Betsan, there's the vexatious problem of the Welsh Education system.....You know; "Don't test the kids, it gets in the way of Education". "Don't tell the parents that their child's school is crap they might demand an improvement". "Don't question the committment or ability of the teachers....Teacher assessment shows that they are all brilliant!!"

    Well, ten years of children's education slipping in all measures makes me suggest that somthing in the WAG education plan is just not right.

    Was it a lack of the ability to make laws governing Education do you think.....that MUST be it!

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  • 8. At 5:34pm on 04 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    In reality the referendum is nothing to do with what the Assembly has done or will do. It's purely an ideological question; does Wales want to be more independent of Westminster?

    We know the answer already; it doesn't matter what has gone before or how inept True Wales say the Assembly is. Those who are going to vote YES are committed, those who might vote NO couldn't much care one way or the other. They aren't reading this blog or watching BBC Wales or reading what passes for the Welsh Print media. The fact that the Welsh Assembly now rules on almost every vital part of their existence has passed them by.

    The YES campaign only needs to keep very quiet to win.

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  • 9. At 6:41pm on 04 Jan 2011, cleverelliejo wrote:


    Why, Why,?? does somebody always have to sing??!!!!It is toe curling, cringe-making !awful!I'm surprised they didn't have blacked-up miners....
    Wales News 6pm.

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  • 10. At 7:17pm on 04 Jan 2011, TellingmewhatIknowalready wrote:

    SEDWOT. You are probably correct,however everybody who believes that individual people should be important that STATE structures should be aware of "more powers". Even if the NATS get their way in March 2011,before the Queen signs the Act then voices will be heard that it is'nt enough to do the job!!. The current One Wales GOVERNMENT is a marriage of fundamentally incompatible partners,with one fully comitted under constitution to seperate wales from UK,and the other totally wedded to us being part of UK. As Jack has stated there is unholy alliance between the nationalist wing of LLafur and NATS,whilst the rest of us swing in the wing. The position of Conservatives is even worse as they have sold their soul to the devil,and all in the name of own personal gain.5. Your spot on in being "sceptical" about the role of CEO of WRU in this charade,however when one remembers the position of King Rhodri tapping the balcony of stadium after welsh rugby team won the "grand slam" in 2004?,which was redolent of DER FUHERER in Berlin in 1936 when his favourites won!!. Quite frankly politics and sport is not a healthy combination,and I would have thought that the CEO would have more things to worry about in the reality of welsh rugby,rather than meddling in the politics/administration of little wales. In terms of world sport then rugby is "mickey mouse", with our current national team of "superatars ranked 9 out of 10 of major teams.Hardly a good indication of our capacity to internalise and be succesful.The current regional structure relies heavily on foreign coaches ,and particularly players picking up fortunes at end of careers from southern hemisphere. The current welsh coach is a former All Black,with his side-kick a former Rugby League player from (across the border) so beloved by BBC WALES. Taling to people who played game at top level the participation at grass rots is crumbling,so he's better spend his time on what he's paid for rather than fronting a con-trick. In conclusion if the Nationalist/Socialist government can convince us all that after the Blair Billions(Taxes from english middle-classes),our services have improved commensurate to the extra spent on them then I'll vote YES. I also think Ryan Giggs would have had better footbal career playing for Tondu Robbins rather than Manchester United. God help us.

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  • 11. At 9:10pm on 04 Jan 2011, Len Gibbs wrote:

    Welcome back:
    Your analysis of the ‘yes’ message is excellent:

    1) “That voting 'no' would not mean things would stay as they are.”
    That is certain because Cheryl Gillian has already said that in the event of a ‘no’ majority an urgent review of the current method will be undertaken to ensure an efficient and effective process.

    2) “Wales' voice would be weakened. A 'no' vote would hole the Assembly Government below the water-line when it came to negotiating with Whitehall.”
    If Wales isn’t on the radar with the current arrangement, a ‘yes’ vote will probably mean they’ll switch the radar off. If Wales becomes even more distant so will the interest in us.

    3) “A 'yes' vote would strengthen Wales' voice. It would mean laws that affect only Wales would be made only in Wales - "people are uniting behind this simple principle."
    This is a lovely sounding soapsud propaganda slogan that sanitises and trivialises the seriousness of the effect of moving to primary law-making at the Assembly. It passes over the fact that Wales has been making laws that only effect Wales since 2007. They are in effect asking us to vote for something that is already happening.

    4) “A 'yes' vote would allow Assembly Members to get on with the job of "developing Welsh solutions to Welsh problems" - in other words, making decisions that are not necessarily the same as ones made elsewhere - without having to negotiate a legislative system that means they must first get the nod from Westminster.”
    The WAG has been developing their form of Welsh solutions in education and the health service with rather disastrous results.

    5) “It would create "a no excuses culture". There'd be less of an opportunity for politicians in Cardiff Bay to duck and dive and blame MPs if the going got tough. They'd have to focus on delivery and explain why if they failed. This would "raise the bar" for the Assembly.”
    The electorate has on March 3rd the perfect opportunity to ask the AMs why devolution has failed.

    The difficulties, other than the ones above,
    1) “How do you combat the argument, as put already today by no campaigners, that it makes no sense to give the same politicians more power to get things even more wrong?”
    Try not to have to talk about it!

    2) “our National Assembly is protecting schools, skills and hospitals"
    It beggars belief!

    3) “the turnout question”
    An ingenuous explanation. “after the vote, the majority understand what took place. That's what legitimacy is about, that's how you measure the significance of a 'yes' vote, not how many actually vote on the day.”
    Apparently it doesn’t matter if people don’t understand the issues before the referendum, but afterwards they’ll be told how fortunate they are to live in Animal Farm.

    4) “Roger Lewis and his pack take the strain.”
    The politicians are absent because each party has a different political objective and if they were the campaign panel we’d have different answers. But also they would have to give an explanation why the economy is at the bottom of the league, education is failing and the health service has a low level of service.

    Soapsud slogans aren’t going to help Roger and his pack when they will be required to answer the same questions. It’s going to be tough two months for them. True Wales will make of that!


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  • 12. At 9:52pm on 04 Jan 2011, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 10:54pm on 04 Jan 2011, comeoffit wrote:

    "I think, that a 'yes' vote is the right decision and what's most important is that after the vote, the majority understand what took place. That's what legitimacy is about, that's how you measure the significance of a 'yes' vote, not how many actually vote on the day"

    Well done for having the guts to pick this out Betsan! It's a shame it'll get no further than your blog though and be hidden from the vast majority of the public. If only we had a more independent press like they do in England... they'd be all over this.

    I simply cannot get my head around how bad an answer this is... so hiding things and confusing people into voting for what you want is legitimate??! and then even if you only manage to do it to 20% of the electorate and the rest dont turn out it doesnt matter it's still legitimate?!? Is he for real?

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  • 14. At 11:45pm on 04 Jan 2011, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 15. At 02:08am on 05 Jan 2011, MH at Syniadau wrote:

    Dragon's tail logos, Betsan? Surely it's the Dragon's tongue.

    But on a more serious point, I picked up on the "it's good to know that our National Assembly is protecting schools, skills and hospitals" line when the leaflet first came out, here, saying that it had gone too far in a party political direction and wondering how comfortable Yes supporters from the LibDems and Tories could be with it. So it is welcome and reassuring to hear that they've taken notice and that future leaflets will be "sharpened up".

    MH @ Syniadau

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  • 16. At 08:19am on 05 Jan 2011, Dewi_H wrote:

    Jack - new year's resolution advice - how about leaving out this Irish-Welsh Celts stuff for 2011? You could return to it in 2012 but how about another obsession in 2011?

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  • 17. At 09:12am on 05 Jan 2011, BobRocket wrote:

    I'll be voting No to more powers and if given the chance, Yes to the dissolution of the WAG.

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  • 18. At 10:57am on 05 Jan 2011, comeoffit wrote:

    Speaking of these 'ordinary voters', digging a little deeper on Walesonline shows that the claimed Aberystwyth University student is in fact no longer a student at all. She is actually the Chair of the 'Welsh Language Students Union' at Aberystwyth Uni (how divisive can you get??... cant they just make the existing Students union bilingual?). I wonder how much of an 'ordinary voter' she would appear after the career in the Welsh Language Board and then controller of S4C that that she so clearly has marked out for herself.

    People will not buy the con of the YES for Wales campaign that the Chair of the 'Welsh Language Students Union'at Aberystwyth Uni is not in anyway politically motivated and biased! I can scarcely think of a more appropriate springboard into the gravy train world of WAG QUANGOs than that job. Probably just another Welsh politico elitist in the making I'm afraid.

    As for the other 2 'ordinary voters', I havent started delving yet.... but I wouldn't bet much on them being 'ordinary voters'.

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  • 19. At 12:39pm on 05 Jan 2011, BruceLewis wrote:

    I will be voting “yes” on March 3rd and trying to persuade others to do the same for the following reasons:

    1. Taking full responsibility for our own domestic issues and future direction is positive for Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole. This is what large parts of English society have been doing for centuries, mostly to the benefit of us all, but not always. It is just high time that other parts of the British Isles did the same: stand up and take accountability for improving our small part of that society, economy and culture. If we do this, all of the United Kingdom benefits as a whole.
    2. If we don’t do it, we continue to believe that “someone else” is going to do it for us. We become lazy and complacent, dependent and inert. This is intellectually and morally weak. And of course, we will be somewhere down the bottom of that “someone else’s” priority list. This doesn’t help them or us.
    3. This referendum is not about “independence” or anything like it. This is about a refinement of the existing arrangements, albeit an important one, as it both symbolically and practically ensures that the executive and legislative responsibility for the Welsh domestic policy agenda lies with the Welsh Assembly alone. In the areas that the Welsh Assembly already has control over (health, education, agriculture, transport, culture, etc.) there will be no blaming Westminster for failings, deficiencies or delays in the future.
    4. This referendum is not about party policies or competing ideas on the best way forward in education, health, economic development, etc.. There will be plenty of time to discuss that in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. At that time I fully expect the Welsh Conservative opposition to criticise Labour and Plaid’s record on health and education for example, and put forward dynamic and compelling alternatives to the voters. Likewise I expect Labour and Plaid to highlight their many successes over the last four years and set out (individually of course) their ideas and direction for the future. Who knows what the outcome will be? But it will be a much more meaningful debate and an exciting prospect if we know that the policies that the Welsh electorate have chosen have some chance of being enacted in a timely and unfettered way; something that is theoretically possible at the moment, but practically cumbersome and costly.
    5. I believe Wales and the Welsh people to be the equal of any other nation in the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond. This referendum only puts into place a legislative system that already exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, not to mention regions and nations in Spain, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States to name but a few. Jersey and the Isle of Man already have more legislative elbow room than all of these…

    If the Welsh electorate vote “no” on March 3rd I will respect their decision. They clearly do not agree with my points of view. Regrettably however I will have to see it as an abdication of responsibility, a lack of political and economic maturity, a victory of fear over ambition. That is something I will continue to campaign against whatever happens, but I admit I may have to accept temporarily that we really aren’t ready to walk the hard walk from political and economic adolescence to adulthood.

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  • 20. At 1:02pm on 05 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    Not THE Bruce Lewis, the Welsh TV presenter?

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  • 21. At 1:44pm on 05 Jan 2011, BruceLewis wrote:

    No. The chance would be a fine thing.

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  • 22. At 3:05pm on 05 Jan 2011, Bryn_Teilo wrote:

    #19

    Well said, Bruce. Excellent comment!

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  • 23. At 6:07pm on 05 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    I will vote yes, not because it will make Wales independent, quite the opposite but because it creates a more coherent government. At the moment if the Welsh government want to pass a law, called a measure, they have to check what powers they have currently. These change by the day as new competences are created by Acts of Parliament, and where powers within the 20 devolved areas don't exist they have to go to parliament to ask for powers to make law in that area. Parliament does not consider any law that might arise, it just looks to see what and why the powers are requested and if the National Assembly should have that power. That creates a patchwork of power, fragments of responsibility. Its confusing and complex. It means that there are huge delays in a government being able to fulfil their mandate. It makes it for interested bodies to lobby for changes, it confuses the hell out of the electorate. In short, its a mess. Government should be clear. The current system isn't.

    Voting Yes will create a more transparent and accountable system. I have seen no good arguments form the No side that address this. Instead we have contentious stuff about our politicians not being capable or that they want the change to further their own prestige and pay.

    Yes the press in Wales is biased, its overwhelmingly London orientated and biased against debate or scrutiny. Our own press is woefully inadequate. I hope we have a healthy Yes and No campaign, but I doubt it.

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  • 24. At 6:25pm on 05 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    23

    "Voting Yes will create a more transparent and accountable system"

    How exactly is the system going to be more accountable exactly LDT?

    With the senedd's penchant for secrecy how exactly is it going to be a more transparent system than the present system?

    "I will vote yes, not because it will make Wales independent, quite the opposite "

    In what way does independent law making powers not move Wales along the way to independence?

    How does it have "quite the opposite" effect?

    As you are a member of Plaid Cymru, whose avowed aim is independence, how do you square your belief that the extra powers for the Assembly will move Wales away from independence with your intention to vote "Yes"?

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  • 25. At 7:10pm on 05 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    SEDWAT - it will be more accountable and transparent because it will be clearer where the power lies, at the moment the power is spread between two legislative bodies, and it is fragmented, its not clear cut. So rationalising that power in one body creates more transparency and that in turn makes the chain of accountability clearer. The current system creates conflict between the two bodies, Parliament and the National Assembly - having a clearer settlement reduces that conflict. A more sensible settlement reduces the pressure for independence, this is exactly the argument used by the Unionist Parties in Scotland with their widening of the devolution settlement there. I happen to agree.

    Also the National Assembly and the Government of Wales are far more open than their Westminster counterparts - who are a byword of secrecy.

    Can you give some reasons for voting no - ones that aren't based on the perceived deficiencies of the Welsh Government or fantasies involving honours systems and stock exchanges?

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  • 26. At 7:56pm on 05 Jan 2011, Fitzmark2 wrote:

    I'll be voting NO on the third of March for the following reasons: every responsible social policy research and development charity in the past year has shown that since the undemocratic inception of the Assembly in Cardiff bay the region of Wales has gone steadily downhill in relation to the other regions of Britain.

    It must be plainly obvious by now, to all but the most partisan nationalist, that thirteen years of devolution has been to the advantage of a divisive political class at the expense of hard pressed English and Welsh tax-payers.

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  • 27. At 10:35pm on 05 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    I didn't think you would vote any other way Fitzmark2, however I think you need to produce some evidence that indeed Wales has gone downhill, do you mean in real terms, do you mean in absolute terms, or do you mean in comparison with where exactly? And in what fields? Are you suggesting that all devolution should be abolished, because that is not on offer. Do you want to go back to an unelected Secretary of State running Wales, or do you want to abolish that too? And when are you going to get over the fact that the majority of those that voted voted for the Assembly and that the No side lost?

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  • 28. At 10:38pm on 05 Jan 2011, CA Jones wrote:

    I shall be voting YES for the simple principle that laws affecting only Wales should be made in Wales.

    Simples!!

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  • 29. At 11:27pm on 05 Jan 2011, Jack_Wilkinson wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 30. At 1:39pm on 06 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    25. LDT

    "Can you give some reasons for voting no - ones that aren't based on the perceived deficiencies of the Welsh Government or fantasies involving honours systems and stock exchanges?"

    I'm voting "Yes" LDT, I see no good reason not to. However (and I don't want to burst your bubble) the Assembly is not at all transparent and I have the paper work to prove it. But more importantly in whole areas there is a policy of withholding information to the public.

    For example, you will be aware that recently the last fig leaf blew away and it has become evident that Education standards in Wales are falling consistently and rapidly behind standards in Europe and the OECD and, gallingly, England and the rest of the UK.

    Because I am a concerned parent I tried to find out how schools in Wales were performing. I don't mean any crude measure that doesn't take into account the economic status of households in an area, I was looking for a benchmarked comparison. In England of course this is public knowledge but in Wales the WAG prefers to hide it for fear of upsetting teachers.

    Here is the reply from the School Management and improvement branch of DCELLS;


    Good Morning

    Many thanks for your query below. However, the All Wales Core Data Sets are not for the public domain or to be used as you mention below, these are for schools and Local Authorities only to aid self evaluation. Public reports are available on StatsWales I have attached a link for you below http://www.statswales.wales.gov.uk.

    Kind Regards

    So you see LDT, secrecy is very important to the WAG.
    As for accountability, I have never come across a less accountable institution than the Assembly.

    You still haven't explained how a YES vote in the referendum is a setback to Plaid strategy for independence. Why would Plaid urge everyone to vote YES if such a vote scuppered their long term aims of Independence by increments?

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  • 31. At 4:49pm on 06 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    I have explained, its because a clearer more stable settlement reduces friction, thus there is less discontent with the system. Plaid will urge people to vote yes because they believe in better government - and this gives better government, even if it may set back their desire for independence.

    I don't see that you have proven your point on secrecy, and its certainly considerably less secret than Westminster, remember famously everything is an official secret unless decided otherwise. How is the National Assembly (or do you mean the Welsh Government) the least accountable institution that you have come across? Its electoral system is more democratic than Westminster, its cabinet publish minutes, its committees are open to scrutiny, they even have a public petitions committee and they published full expenses of their members long before Westminster. So please tell me how they (which ever body you mean) are the "least accountable".

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  • 32. At 6:11pm on 06 Jan 2011, John Henry wrote:

    27 ...

    The current system creates conflict between the two bodies, Parliament and the National Assembly - having a clearer settlement reduces that conflict.

    ... and then where would we be, at the court of the Red Queen where democratic debate is an ephemeral event without substance.

    The reason why the referendum is so important to the incumbent Cardiff Bay politicians is it will close the door to opposition, currently the only checks and balances rest at Westminster.

    The reason why the No vote is so important is the obverse side of the democratic coin, it keeps a voice that questions the actions of the WAG and friends. Currently there are few voices of reason at the assembly, it causes this conservative some consternation that they are Liberal, where is the Conservative opposition?

    Lost in the political mire that labels opposition as "anti-Wales".

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  • 33. At 7:27pm on 06 Jan 2011, Fitzmark2 wrote:

    In response to Lyn David Thomas:
    My information primarily comes from the reputable Joseph Rowtree Foundation report into the economic and social well being of the regions of Britain.
    It points out that:

    The Welsh NHS service in service to the public is lagging behind most other regions.

    The Welsh Ambulance service is second rate (my words not theirs but that's the gist of what it says in the report).

    And the report further highlights that the "regeneration scheme" for the areas of Wales (set up in 2001) by the assembly government (what a joke of a name) has not given value for money, despite the vast amount of money spent on it.

    The report also highlights the damnable fact that the numbers of young homeless people in Wales (16-24) are second highest only to Scotland (you haven't done too bad in that respect I suppose).

    A recent article in the Financial Times (within the past six months) highlights that the last thirteen years of undemocratic devolution in Wales has been an unmitigated economic and social disaster. If you don't believe me look it up for yourself.

    On a table of economic and social well being Wales was bottom of the list, four points down on the past decade and a full ten percentage points down down since 1989, when it had 85% of the average and was in those days ahead of the north east where I have my second home.

    It further pointed out that the assembly government (it brings a smile to my face every time I write that phrase) may wish to ponder why it has performed worse than Scotland and the north-east which had to cope similarly with the decline of heavy industry in the three regions.




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  • 34. At 7:31pm on 06 Jan 2011, Alwyn Evans wrote:

    Sedwot

    I'm not sure how statistically literate you are, but even you should be able to follow the link that DCELLS actually provided you, and should have found the information you asked for - including benchmarked performance by Local Authority, by age group, by Free school meals ( crude as it is, still the best indicator of social deprivation). You can also find there the performance of EVERY SCHOOL in Wales broken down by key stage and external examination results. ( I did, even if your actual link didn't work.)

    The reason that you can't have the All Wales Core Data Set has to do with protection of individuals - since the basis of that data is individual children's performance. The information in Wales thta is avaialble to schools and governing bodies is far more detailed and far more accessible than the data released in England, which is translated by the media into crude league tables.

    "Because I am a concerned parent I tried to find out how schools in Wales were performing. I don't mean any crude measure that doesn't take into account the economic status of households in an area, I was looking for a benchmarked comparison. In England of course this is public knowledge but in Wales the WAG prefers to hide it for fear of upsetting teachers."

    See above - I'd be interested in your proof that in England benchmarked comparison of performance is 'public knowledge'. Can you find a link like the DCELLS one? I'd be pleased if you know as I can't find one


    "As for accountability, I have never come across a less accountable institution than the Assembly."

    How about the House of Lords, dominated by political hacks, an occasional 'baron of industry', and dodgy contributors to party funds. Cameron is currently 'redressing the balance' by appointing even more of the same to give him and his cronies a majority. Or the Houses of Parliament - who today have once more shrouded their expenses in darkness by emasculating the audit process and 'trusting the MPs'.

    Pesonally, I've found the Assembly, and its politicans from three parties at least ( not having any cause to resort to Lib-Dems) much more accessible - and more transaprent in their dealings, that many County Councillors, paticularly executive members of those bodies!

    By the way,in answer to someone else's comment on over-government, Wales has exactly the same number of tiers of government as England Wales =community, county , Assembly - in England = parish or town, district, county(or Borough) Parliament - whoops - doesn't that make four? to

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  • 35. At 8:59pm on 06 Jan 2011, SEDWOT wrote:

    34. Alwyn Evans.

    I was well aware of all the data available at statswales before being given that link. It is indeed an accessible system, more so than English statistical tables.

    What you seem to have missed is that the information I asked for was withheld even though it was subject to a request which is covered by Freedom of information legislation.

    It will be interesting to see, in the fullness of time, whether it can be legitimately withheld. I doubt very much whether individual students are Identifiable.

    The reason that I believe the Assembly is unaccountable is because scrutiny is only meaningful if all shades of opinion are available to scrutinise. For instance, you will gather from this blog that some (unknown number) of individuals would like to see the Assembly with fewer powers or removed altogether. Others would like to see complete independence for Wales.

    Roughly independence is the desire of 10% of the Welsh population. Scrapping the Assembly is the desire of 15% of the Welsh population.
    Is there a party that represents the Nationalists expressing their desires? Well yes, it's Plaid.

    And those who would scrap the Assembly?

    Again when we come to the Referendum on further powers; whatever the arguments there is still a significant proportion of the population (30%? 40%?) who don't want the Assembly to access further powers yet where is that view represented within the Assembly? In a Democracy how can we have four parties saying that they will not voice the opinion of a large minority?

    When it comes to the other minority, the 10% who have Welsh as a first language, every party then decides that the question of Welsh Language Measures "Should not be a political football" or to put it another way, no party will dare to question whether measures put in place to offer services to Welsh speakers actually harm the rights and freedoms of non Welsh speakers.

    The only place you will see that debate is on blogs and in the letters pages of the Western Mail. No questioning by the media of course.

    As for other major policies; there has to be a chance that the ruling party is going to be removed from power before opposition has meaning.

    Look carefully at what Carwyn is saying; he doesn't want to rule in a minority governing party. He's comfortable with Plaid making his position
    impregnable. Yet what is best for Wales in the long run? (and I speak as a Labour voter). Carwyn and Labour must be made to worry that if their policies don't work then they will be NO part of government in Wales. No Party can re-new itself in office.

    This aspect of coallition politics applies to Britain as a Whole now of course. ConDems are setting about reducing representation in Labour heartlands (Wales for example)and we all know that England, alone, votes Conservative. Nevertheless, such is the dynamics of British politics that the LibDem brand is probably damaged beyond repair and a Labour victory in the future is still possible.

    I cannot see that Wales can get out of this cosy arrangement where large swathes of the population can be ignored and the government can still remain in power.

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  • 36. At 9:46pm on 06 Jan 2011, FoDafydd wrote:

    Re 35

    SEDWOT,

    You ask the rather simplistic question:

    "In a Democracy how can we have four parties saying that they will not voice the opinion of a large minority?"

    Well, each party is an independent entity, and they have through their own internal workings and democracy arrived at their own conclusions. Would you really have it any other way? Do you really want undemocratic parties?

    But I'm glad you've decided to vote Yes, the only logical position to take faced with the actual referendum question.

    It's sad, however, for whatever reason or ideological purpose, that you still insist on underplaying the number of Welsh speakers.

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  • 37. At 9:50pm on 06 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    The solution, if one is needed, is for those who want to abolish the National Assembly for Wales to form a party - the fact is that given the various priorities that people have, even those that want to abolish it can't be bothered to make it a priority. If they did then there would be a party dedicated to that aim.

    Secondly if providing you with a link provides you with the information you requested, then that doesn't say much about keeping it secret. As explained to you some of that information is confidential because its personal - in the same way as if you asked the Inland Revenue to break down its income tax take you would not expect them to disclose your neighbour's information to you. I think we can conclusively say that you have failed to prove your point there.

    A consensus does exist in Wales over a large number of subject areas, again if people feel strongly enough the electoral system for the National Assembly gives them a greater chance of election than does the Westminster system.

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  • 38. At 07:36am on 07 Jan 2011, Taciturnus wrote:

    Hi Betsan,
    In order to make an informed decision, where can I see the following information :
    a) What is the overall income for Wales, derived from taxes, duties, etc.?
    b) What is the overall planned annual expenditure for Wales, broken down by category, such as i) Local,regional, and state government,ii) Education, iii) Infrastructure... etc.... ?
    iv) What currently is the Welsh National Debt and other obligations ?
    v) Will Wales be issueing Government Bonds to raise financing for additional expenditure ? - And if so, how will that add to the national debt, and what will be the plans for repayment ? vi)Will Wales fund membership of The United Nations ? vii) Will Wales open and man and finance embassies worldwide ? viii) Will Wales create a Welsh military establishment, with its own army, navy, and airforce ?

    I know, you are asking what my questions have to do with the issues at hand. But unless we have all been fairy-wanded into being ostriches, then we have to realize that all these measures are on the yellow-brick road to independence for Wales. Which, I am not against - I would simply like to know the economic implications.

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  • 39. At 4:40pm on 07 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    I think Taciturnus you are seriously mislead about the nature of the referendum. There is no question on Welsh independence as that is not on offer, they are you have admitted they have nothing to do with the question that people will be voting on. While I would be happy to get into a debate on the merits of independence vs membership of the United Kingdom this is an irrelevance.

    What is being proposed is a fairly modest reform of the current system, one that replaces a convoluted and piecemeal transfer of primary legislative power to the National Assembly for Wales via two main routes - primary legislation in Westminster Acts and by secondary legislation in the form of LCOs, with a clear settlement.

    The first method of transferring powers is neither transparent or accountable, as it happens when and if Westminster legislates, permitting little room for consultation or lobbying by interested parties. The second route, the Legislative Competence Order system, which is used less than the first system, duplicates and confuses matters. I recommend that people confused about this read the All Wales Convention report and the submissions from a range of "third sector" bodies.

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  • 40. At 5:34pm on 07 Jan 2011, Fitzmark2 wrote:

    "The solution, if one is needed, is for those who want to abolish the National Assembly for Wales to form a party - the fact is that given the various priorities that people have, even those that want to abolish it can't be bothered to make it a priority."

    The real solution for nationalists LDT, is to grow-up democratically and accept that the 97 Referendum was a democratic sham. And no matter how much nationalist spin that result, a fundamental change to a constitution on such a flimsy so called winning margin is an affront to the democratic will.

    A referendum on more powers!!!! That must be the biggest political joke of the year so far.

    After thirteen years of economic misrule the only referendum that should be called in Wales is on the continuation of that profligate nationalistic money pig in Cardiff Bay.

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  • 41. At 10:58pm on 07 Jan 2011, Lyn David Thomas wrote:

    Well Fitzmark why don't you go ahead and form a political party then dedicated to abolishing the National Assembly for Wales? No? Obviously not such an affront to democracy then.... Oh and do you put the conservative party in the same category as the "nationalists" as they have accepted the referendum result too...

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