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Currying favour?

Betsan Powys | 14:54 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

If there's no such thing as a free lunch, what do you make of a free curry?

If you're prepared to go along to Port Talbot on Wednesday night and share your thoughts on devolving more powers to Wales, then a free curry will be yours care of the All Wales Convention. To free laptops, free toothbrushes and free lightbulbs, now we can add free curry to the list of Welsh political freebies.

Get involved. Get engaged. Get stuck into a Chicken Tikka Massala.

It was Robin Cook who dubbed the Chicken Tikka Massala "a true British national dish", who talked about this particular version of meat served in gravy as a way of understanding Britishiness. I've just been looking at the rest of the then foreign secretary's speech where he talked about how "our future together in a single state is all the more secure if we each respect the distinctive identity that makes some of us Scottish and others Welsh or English. That mutual respect strengthens our common identity as British". He went on to call for putting "to bed the scare stories about devolution leading to the "Death of Britain."

That was 2001. David Davies MP of the No campaign was unlikely to agree back then and he's not going to agree now. He, along with fellow True Wales supporters, argue a Yes vote in a referendum on further powers would put Wales on 'the slippery slope to independence'. Why? Because that's how things work. It's what happens. Look at Scotland. It's what Plaid want and this is a step towards achieving that aim. True Wales want the referendum asap so that it - and the argument - can be lost and itself be put to bed.

I don't imagine Mr Davies is likely to be too enamoured with the venue for Wednesday night's free curry either: Port Talbot's Seaside Social and Labour Club. Yes, that is a big 'L'. Nick Bourne has just said it "sends out the wrong message about what is supposed to be a convention that is above party politics".

The curry, I'm sure Sir Emyr Jones Parry would argue, is for the greater good and doesn't undermine the convention as "a totally independent and politically neutral body". It's to get bums on seats, to persuade people who'd run a mile from an evening of political debate with the chattering classes to turn up for a bhaji and a bit of argy-bargy on the side - whatever their views on further devolution. The venue? We've not heard back on that one yet.

There will be 22 public meetings over the next few months. Who knows if the free curry will last that long but Sir Emyr is pretty clear that whatever your take on more powers for the Assembly, it's time to put up or shut up. "If people chose not to get involved in the debate once fully aware of its implications, then that is of course their privilege - I will be happy that they have been consulted and given the opportunity to get involved if they wish".

As for the road from '97: my own memories of a night that looked, felt, smelt like defeat until the very last moment, are here.


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