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Look this way

Betsan Powys | 07:35 UK time, Monday, 14 July 2008

convention3.jpgOn March 1st 1979 I was thirteen years old and hadn't yet made my 'O' level choices. What that means is that I was still studying Religious Education, a subject that - as a Minister's daughter - I was bound to drop as soon as possible. But back in March 1979 there I was in Mr Salisbury's class trying not to show up my father.

And back in March 1979, or more likely in the weeks leading up to March 1st, I remember a fellow pupil being asked a question that should have elicited the answer: The Book of Revelation, or in Welsh, Dat-guddiad. Instead he blurted out: Dat-ganoli. He'd opted not for Revelation but for Devolution.

And you could understand why. Devolution and the referendum on March 1st were in the headlines, in the paper, on the doorstep, in leaflets and the word, if not the debate, had made an impression on my fellow thirteen year old.

We all know what sort of impression the debate made on the rest of the nation. 58.8% voted; 79.7% said no, just 20.3% said yes to putting "the provisions of the Wales Act 1978 into effect".

And we all know what sort of impression the debate made eighteen years later in1997. 50.1% voted; 49.7% said no, 50.3% said yes, to "whether there should be a Welsh Assembly".

Lord Richard had his turn and now it's over to the Executive Committee of the All Wales Convention. They will meet today for the first time over the road in the Pierhead Building and face the task of spelling out for Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones what the implications would be of going ahead and holding a third referendum - or not. (Yes, I know, visitors to this blog favour another, less neutral job description but I'll leave you to point that out).

Are they representative of the people of Wales? Yes, says Chair Sir Emyr Jones Parry. Really? Well yes, "given those who came forward ... what we were offered".

I asked Ieuan Wyn Jones last week whether he still believes a referendum will be held on or before 2011, as per the One Wales Agreement. He didn't answer the first time but did the second, quite emphatically. Yes, he does. He'd have one heck of a job explaining any other answer to his party of course but I found I was almost taken aback.

For many Plaid Cymru voters, Labour support in campaigning for a referendum, caveats and all, was the clincher that kept them from somewhere over the rainbow. Now there's a drip-drip of doubt among at least some I've spoken to, a belief that it will happen but not before the next Assembly election. Some don't think it can be won; others think Labour will do everything not to honour the pledge; others just can't work out when it can be held.

It's hardly surprising that more and more Labour supporters shake their heads when asked about a referendum. They, after all, have other things to worry about, be they devo-sceptics, devo-realists or die-hard devolutionists.

Read the views of Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Chair of the Convention here and those of Huw Lewis AM here. You may note that we added a question mark to the title of the story we wrote about Huw Lewis' piece. Why? It was in response to a suggestion from his camp that "Cart before the horse" didn't reflect the nuances in his piece. On this occasion, fair enough.

Ah nuances.

Good luck Sir Emyr.

I've been slow in putting up this entry. Apologies. I've been chairing a conference on Immigration and inclusion in South Wales.

I've just seen the footage of the Executive Committee posing for the official photographer. "Smile" he says encouragingly, "Relax ... Everyone turn your head in this direction".

They looked even less relaxed.


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