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Counting down

Betsan Powys | 15:10 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Where have I been?

I've been outside the Cardiff Bay bubble. I said I might be some time and I was ... but I'm back blogging and am back, for now, in the Senedd bubble. In my absence two rounded studios have been erected on platforms outside - not, as my colleague Vaughan Roderick points out, in tribute to Jane Russell - but to house the temporary studios from where we'll be broadcasting on Friday.

So where are we?

The polls - the latest by YouGov for ITV's Y Byd ar Bedwar last night - give the Yes camp a twenty per cent lead over No. In other words, next to nothing has changed in terms of the polls since the campaign began. The Yes lead over No hasn't closed.

The bookies, Ladbrokes among them, appear to have had a fallow time. You'd think we were in tough economic times. One punter "has taken a patriotic plunge" and put a five figure sum on a Yes result. You'd frankly need to have five figures to spare to squeeze much money out of odds of 10/1. If you have that sort of money burning in your pocket, I'd better warn you the odds have since been cut to 1/16. It's 6/1 if you want to bet on a No victory, though even the bookies warn you "the odds are now starting to make a 'yes' result look like a formality."

They weren't accepting any of that on Blackwood high street this morning. Despite it becoming very obvious in the past week that True Wales are being outgunned by the better backed and better resourced Yes for Wales, despite there being little sign of True Wales campaigning outside their "heartland" of the South East, as the tireless Nigel Bull put it this morning, despite the odds and despite the polls, they remain convinced that there will be every sign of support for their cause on Thursday. Support? Yes. Victory? Few now believe that's likely.

Throughout the campaign there's been the promise of a "name" coming out in support of the No camp, a name that might sway some Labour voters who feel they ought to vote Yes out of party loyalty but who really want to vote No. I suspect we'll hear from one "name" at least before too long and I suspect few will be surprised by who it is. As a colleague put it, prepare for a split in the Papal Knight vote.

Another "name" has had an almost miraculous change of heart in the past few days.

On the first of our debate programmes Russell Goodway described himself as "unconvinced". Anyone who watched the programme from Aberystwyth would have been in no doubt that the former Labour leader of Cardiff Council was very, very, very unconvinced. But now he's not. Now he's going to vote Yes.

One AM rang him in fury after the programme. She'd fallen off her chair in shock when she'd heard him. He'd caused a "furore". I'm prepared to bet the conversion happened - not on the road to Damascus - but somewhere on the A470, while Mr Goodway was on his way home from Labour's conference in Llandudno last weekend. Some party members sensed what they described as "panic" at the seaside, a concern that if the vote is lost on Thursday, Labour will be blamed for not getting their vote out. For what it's worth the same voices question the need for panic and think the vote will be a Yes but that "it's tribal politics that will drive it through, not conviction".

Back to Blackwood high street.

The inflatable pig, which comes from China, deflated before my eyes this morning. It needed a quick roadside AI job with a pump before it could continue on its journey. why a pig, I asked? Because of the Animal Farm connotations, apparently. We're all equal, except some are more equal than others, perhaps. Politicians setting out to try and do the right thing but in the end, doing more harm than good. That was the idea. Power corrupting. True Wales believe Assembly Members have failed to deliver for the rest of us and so, they don't deserve a stronger grip on the levers of power.

And for the record, True Wales want you to vote. They want you to vote NO. They don't want you to stay at home so that a low turnout calls into question the legitimacy of the result. I say that because there was a suggestion this morning that one of their number had been calling on voters to abstain. They've roundly denied it, pointing out that they've always labelled Thursday "Vote No" day. Anyway, there's no point asking people to abstain, said a friend's Mum this morning. "People are too apathetic to abstain".

So what of Yes for Wales?

The party leaders are heading out now to hand leaflets to shoppers in Cardiff, near the Castle where their vote Yes message was projected last night. They're in trouble with the Assembly Commission for bathing the Senedd in the same image without prior permission ... now where have I heard that phrase before.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is making the most of St David's Day. Celebrate it by voting Yes on Thursday, "so that people in Wales can have more say over their economic development; more freedom over housing decisions; more control over their thriving culture, and more say over the historic buildings that bring people from around the world to visit Wales". Not exactly pithy enough to be on a Welsh lady tea towel but you get his drift.

Bottom line: Yes campaigners are quietly confident that the vote will be won. Two to one with a low turnout is a figure I've heard more than once. It took 500,000 to win in 1997. A low turnout means the winner could take it all with as few as 300,000 votes this time. If Plaid, Labour and the Lib Dems can't deliver that, then prepare for a very long inquest. If they can, prepare for a very quick gear change to pre-election hostilities.


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