Yes for Wales or no to Thatcherism?

 

Ron Davies is not about to give up his title.

I'm talking about the former Welsh Secretary, about his unofficial title as 'the architect of devolution' and a suggestion that it could be bestowed on another - on Margaret Thatcher.

She wasn't, as Dr Martin Johnes points out, always unpopular, nor was she by any means universally unpopular in Wales. Yet by the end of her days as Prime Minister, he argues there was such "antipathy towards Thatcher was strong enough that some started questioning the whole political system".

"They began to wonder why Wales had to endure a prime minister that only a minority of its people had voted for. Enough people were perplexed by this that the resounding No vote in the 1979 referendum on devolution was turned into a narrow Yes in 1997. That makes Thatcher one of the architects of devolution".

Ron Davies doesn't buy it. Yes, he remembers driving through the village of Nelson on the morning after the 1987 election and spotting graffiti scrawled on the bridge, large letters that said "We voted Labour, we got Thatcher." Yes, he remembers being struck that a sense of unease in Wales about being governed from Westminster was growing and there to be harnessed by those who believed in devolution.

But he'll go so far and no further. What really delivered that narrow yes vote in 1997, he argues, wasn't Margaret Thatcher. It was the strong history in Wales of people wanting to reflect their own cultural identity. It would have happened with or without her. Margaret Thatcher may have helped the process along - helped with what he called 'a little light canvassing' - but certainly wasn't the cause of it.

Light canvassing? Gerroff, is the response of one key Yes for Wales campaigner. He and his team went all out to "chime with the time" says Daran Hill and that meant using the antipathy towards Mrs Thatcher and the most Thatcherite minister campaigners could (metaphorically) lay their hands on - John Redwood - for all it was worth to squeeze that narrowest of victories.

"Who did they least like in politics? Margaret Thatcher. Who did they most like? Tony Blair. So we put an aeroplane in the sky pulling a banner saying "Vote Yes"! Vote Blair!"

It worked - just. You can then, says Mr Hill, argue Margaret Thatcher contributed significantly to the shape of devolution.

Simples.

Or simplistic says Conservative AM David Melding, the party's former policy director and a man who was, over the years, instrumental in turning much of his party in Wales from the anti-Assembly camp to supporters of it. Invoking her legacy may have been a (legitimate) campaigning tool - "an idea sold effectively by the likes of Peter Hain and Ron Davies" - but

"... positive factors have to explain big political moves in my view. Negative ones are present but I don't think they are the key to motivation ... You can't go from four to one against to a yes, albeit a narrow one, unless that happens".

Incidentally he argues that had she been around in politics now, Mrs Thatcher would have "accommodated devolution". The woman who set out to change the system, he imagines, would have recognised the change from what we knew, a centralised unitary state to a devolved, increasingly federal way of governing, as a means of maintaining her belief in Britain.

Would she recognise her role in delivering devolution - whether potent player or campaigning tool? i'm not sure.

Would she recognise the irony that those who most vilified her policies had something to thank her for come the referendum? Almost certainly.

 
Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 15.

    ... I don't belittle courage alf, I reflect the support she had from the public in the face of the massive economic and social disruption we had endured for decades following WWII.

    Coal was the political Achilles heel, and the left wing used it mercilessly, MT had the courage to shift power from union leadership to Westminster, and the British people supported her ...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    Successive appointments of English Tory MP's to the post of Welsh Minister contributed to Wales as a Country gaining devolved powers and the will of the Welsh people themselves.
    I won't be lamenting her passing .I'll ignore all the sycophantic nonsense spewing from the media tonight..because I am not Thatcher's child as they call our generation

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    John to mock the courage of the miners is very belittling. Try looking at those who are now suffering because of working in the collieries. My grandfather died at the age of 39 with a young family because of the dust. They had the courage to stay out on strike against her for a year don't forget. Can you even begin to imagine what that must have been like. No matter how foolish they may have been.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    John you have a short or selective memory. Wales voted against striking but out of loyalty to the NUM they struck as well. Every one caved in before them. They held their heads up high. But, have paid the highest sacrifice and she made sure Wales paid for it. What a proud achievement. £8million pound of our money will pay for the charade next week. Wonder there is no public holiday. Don't mock.JT

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    The architect of Regionalisation, to give devolution its more accurate title, was Ted Heath. It was he who handed over the UK's WW2 emergency regional goverance structure to the EEC as part of the Treaty of Rome negotiations. Thatcher was, initially, an advocate of EEC/EC membership and campaigned for a Yes vote in the 75 referendum.

    So she was years ahead of Ron Davies in the devolution stakes!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    I actually care much less than I thought.She faded like an old bully from your school days into someone who sometimes clouds your dreams from another life time,someone who once dominated your life but is now a ghost. I was a young boy when she ruled There was no room for compromise or sympathy. Pretty much everyone hated her where I came from.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 9.

    On Wednesday, 17 April, I shall set aside some time to quietly commemorate the victims of Thatcher and Thatcherism. No Pinot Grigo and no toasting her memory.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    ... returning home tonight after a long day at the coalface, I can recall M.T. facing up to the miners, and we felt a sense of relief that at last someone in politics intended to say NO to all that Scargill and chums represented.

    So I raise a glass of very nice Pinot Grigio and toast her memory.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 7.

    Pinochet great friend of Maggie. He was responsible for numerous war crimes and over 3000 murders

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 6.

    4.Qwerty1

    Is this the same woman who called Nelson Mandela a terrorist

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 5.

    I had to suffer under Her she divided the Country South and North and the Torys still do it now.
    I remember the 15% Inflation prices going up she was a evil Women just the Toffs dont give a damm about the Workers the always go for the rich.
    I wont have my TV on to watch that Funeral.To me she always will be the Women who divided the Country and made life Hell for all the Working Class.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    Margaret Thatcher championed the freedom of the individual and the right to self determination - as evidenced by her support for the Falkland Islanders, and her role in the end of Soviet oppression in Eastern Europe. This is not incompatible with a devolved Wales.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    That damn woman cost me my house (15% interest rate anyone?), my wife's mental heaith, my physical health, and ultimately, my job through privatisation. Enough said.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 2.

    'Germany had the same decline in heavy industry but they replaced them with manufacturing and apprenticeships. After Maggie the UK had One Tenth of the Apprentices Germany had and no manufacturing/ She 'massaged the unemployment figures by encouraging jobless people to claim benefits' She inadvertently speeded up the devolution process.
    Let's hope everyone sticks to comments on Maggie.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1.

    Oh please don't let me start on here as well.

 

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