The Hen Ferchetan's lonely crawl through the fog of Welsh Politics

Two Years, 1.3 million, 3,000 pieces of evidence =

After over a million pounds (but 200k less than budgeted - a political report coming under budget, now that IS a shock!) and two years we finally have the All Wales Convention report for bedtime reading. At 132 pages (in each language) it's going to take some time to flick through but, unlike with the excellent but ignored Richards Commission report, you have a feeling that the Bay will feel the need to give this one their time!

The result of the Commission is as rumored - not a mish-mash or a balancing act on that garden fence, not a "you could go for it but maybe not" - the report's conclusion is clear - GO FOR IT.

The Commission's poll shows a similar pattern to all those that has preceded it - a clear but far from decisive majority for further powers. (47% to 37%). The experience of the Commission re-enforces what we saw with the two further powers questions in the YouGov poll - i.e. the more people understood about the referendum the more they supported it.

The Report doesn't go as far as to say that it's in the bag - of course it isn't. No referendum ever can be, and a 10% lead is far from conclusive and anything can happen in a campaign. One tip the report tries to subtly give us is that when the Yes campaign chooses a leader they should find someone popular with the electorate - maybe someone who's just retired and has a little free time to spend - any suggestions?!

Plaid and the Tories have already welcomed the report, with Helen Mary Jones saying that the only discussion now is when the referendum takes place, not if. Let's wait and see what the Government's response will be, I'm guessing they'll claim to be slow readers and need to spend time considering it!

I'll post later about what should and, hopefully, will happen next. But for now we should stick to the simple recommendation:

I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Rhodri's Last Stand

Much has been made recently over which Labour leadership contender said what and when and why concerning the referendum. People seem to be reading way too much into way too little - first we're told that Carwyn has suggested that he may turn his back on the agreement on the referendum, then we're told that of course he'll follow the One Wales Agreement. One day we're told that Huw Lewis wants to concentrate on beating the Tories, another day a big fuss is made of the fact that he confirmed that Labour had agreed to a referendum at their special conference. As for Edwina, apparently she also wants to discuss things with her party before doing anything.

The truth is it is largely irrelevant what any of the three are saying about it right now and we need to stop obssessing about it. Firstly they're not sending out coded messages to us, to Plaid or to the media - they're only concerned about talking to Labour members. They know saying "I WILL/WILL NOT go for a referendum" is bound to anger some Labour member or other so saying "I need to discuss it with the Labour party" is all they need to do right now to keep everyone happy.

Once one of them becomes leader he/she will immediately face the burning question for real - they'll have the All Wales Convention report on their desk and facing pressure from their coalition partners and opposition in the Assembly to fire the starting pistol. On the other hand they will have to try and form a relationship with the Labour AM's and Welsh Committee at Westminster, both of which will be more than ready to privately test the new leader and see how much pressure they can exert on this one. If the new leader hesitates on the referendum he/she will have to face that big elephant in the room every day in the Senedd and will struggle to stamp authority on the chamber - which could be disasterous for them (ask Alun Michael). On the other hand if he/she jumps in head first and calls for the vote then their whole first term will be defined by that one thing. Since the One Wales Agreement and upcoming budget will pretty much tie their hands on all policy issues the new leader will be judged by how the referendum campaign goes - hardly the ideal situation for anyone hoping to stick around for a while.

Of course there is one way to avoid this harsh territory for the new Labour leader. The All-Wales Convention report will land on November 18th, Rhodri will step down in early December. What odds Rhodri taking the hospital pass for his successor while also, if the referendum is won, getting the legacy of being the father of the Welsh Parliament?
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

I See No Tory U-Turn

Everyone seems to be queuing up today to accuse David Cameron of a "u-turn" over the European Treaty. They say that the Tories promised a referendum on the Treaty if and when they got to power.

Cameron has taken flack from fellow Tories, Labour (who knows how they can criticise the Tories for this when they made an even clearer U-turn on the same matter!), newspapers and blogs galore.

But have they performed an u-turn? Is this a broken promise? Here's the official Tory policy on a treat referendum:

If the Lisbon Treaty is not yet in force at the time of the next general election, and a Conservative Government is elected, we would put the Treaty to a referendum of the British people, recommending a 'no' vote. If the British people rejected the Treaty, we would withdraw Britain's ratification of it.

With the Czech President singing the treaty yesterday all EU countries have now ratified the treaty and it will probably come into force before the end of the year. So by the time the Tories will (probably) get into power next year, the treaty will be in force. 

So where's the broken promise?
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Video Galore!

Both Vaughan and Betsan have highlighted the Government of Wales YouTube channel that, apparently, has nothing to do with the Government of Wales!

Having browsed through the channel there are a couple of interesting videos there. Footage of the 1997 referendum plucked at a few heartstrings while seeing Mick Bates sticking up the finger, Leighton throwing a hissy fit about the Queen being called Mrs Windsor, Wigley leading a storm out after Lynne Neagle abused the Tories too much and Alun Michael's resignation speech was (nearly) enough to make me think that the Senedd is full of drama! The only video missing was the one of Huw Lewis offering to beat up ex-Plaid AM Owen John Thomas "outside" after being called a "bradwr" (traitor)!

Vaughan and Betsan are trying to figure out who is behind the channel, now that the Government has said it's not theirs. Surely someone should ask Andrew Davies, who has a 2 minute video introducing himself. Surely he knows who was behind the camera?
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Expenses Shocker

The latest set of Welsh Assembly members' expenses have just been revealed. You may not know this because there's no headlines on the news, no newspaper front pages and no "disgusted from Llanddewibrefi" writing to the Mule.

I guess a headline like "AM's Spend Less, Don't Waste Our Money" just doesn't sell papers eh!
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Who Votes for Who?

While the headline figures of the YouGov poll merely supports what other less detailed polls have found before (support for a Yes vote, Labour's grip loosening, Tories to pick up many seats, Plaid a few) the minor things found make for very interesting reading.

Take the Plaid vote for example. We all know that Plaid poll significantly higher in Assembly elections than in London ones. This is no surprise, it is a common occurrence across Europe for a "regional" (for want of a better word" party to do better in "regional" elections. But where does that pile of extra votes come from?

It is a common assumption that Plaid and Labour are fighting over the same votes and that there is little overlap between the "left" parties' supporters and the Tory ones. That may be true when we are speaking about voters who switch parties for good, but is it true about the ones who move over to Plaid for the Assembly elections?

A quick look at the main voting percentage for both elections suggests that it is not true. While Plaid gain 9 points, Labour only lose 2. The other 5 percentage points come from the drop in Tory vote. This would suggest that it is Tory voters that turn to Plaid - but again we must be wary - there is another possible explenation. Turnout is lower for Assembly elections, and it's quite easy to accept that Tory voters, being traditionally anti-devolution, stay at home while Plaid voters keep coming out. Could this be the explenation for the difference in votes?

Yes to an extent, but the YouGov figures shows that it is not the sole reason. Of the people who vote Plaid in Assembly elections a huge 16% of them vote Tory in the London elections (compared to 12% who vote Labour for Parliament and 5% Lib Dem). Something for Plaid strategists to ponder there then.

Another figure which stands out in the poll's details is the Lib Dems total failure to amount to anything in North Wales. Their 6% (London) and 8% (Assembly) figures there is only matched by Plaid's South East Wales figures (5% and 9%). While the Lib Dems may write North Wales off as an area they would never hope to win anything anyway, they must be horrified by the Mid and West Wales figures. This is the area where they have three of their four Westminster seats - Ceredigion, Brecon & Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire. Their polling figures for this area? 11% in a London election, 9% Assembly. If the Lib Dems manage to lose one or two of those seats in an election where Labour is floundering then the party is in real trouble in Wales.

One final set of figures to dwell over - somewhere in this country of ours are 3% of Plaid voters who want the Assembly abolished and 11% of Tory voters who wants Wales to be independent...the mind boggles!
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Siarad Cymraeg?

Supporters of the Welsh Language's revival will have been heartened by the figure in YouGov's poll that 42% of people in Wales consider themselves to have some grasp of the language. That's a huge rise on the last census, which told us that only 28.5% would have said the same. That's a pretty impressive leap, especially when you remember that the poll only had three choices: Fluent, Yes but not fluent and No. The census on the other hand offered five different levels of understanding of Welsh apart from a simple "No" so you would have assumed that those with only a little Welsh would have been able to fit into any of those categories easier than in the poll.

But I'm not so sure that this is the good news it first seems. The "lowest" level of Welsh knowledge available on the Census was "can understand spoken Welsh only". I feel that many people who know a little welsh, enough to tick "Yes but not fluent" wouldn't feel confident enough in their ability to say that they understand spoken Welsh. If that is correct then the jump in numbers since 2001 is not a big increase in the nation's ability to speak Welsh, nor is it, as Vaughan believes, an increase in people's willingness to consider themselves Welsh-speaking, it could be nothing more than the effect of a differently worded question. We'll see in 2011!

What Welsh-speakers should be worried about is the following question in the survey, the one about speaking Welsh at home. According to the answers given to that question only 7.46% of Welsh people always speak Welsh at home. That's a ridiculously low figure and one I cannot explain. If correct it means that well over half of the people who speak fluent Welsh don't always do so at home which, to be frank, is shocking.

One final bunch of figures to dwell on regarding Welsh speakers are the party political ones. A stunning 51% of fluent Welsh speakers vote Plaid in Assembly elections but, both for the London elections more fluent Welsh speakers vote Tory than Labour. That's another reminder of the damage Labour has self-inflicted when it comes to gaining the votes of Welsh-speakers and of the challenge that faces them in "re-gaining the West".
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

We Have a Poll!

OK, I guess there's only one place to re-start the blog, and that's with the first (of many hopefully) Welsh poll by YouGov and the University of Aberystwyth. I know I'm a couple of days late with this one so I'll keep it brief because most of what there is to say has already been said elsewhere!

The big story from the poll depends on where you are. In London the news was of the Tory numbers eroding Labour's lead to such an extent that the Conservatives may well be looking at 12 seats come 2010. While this is a huge change from the last election, it is worth noting that it's not really news - the figures are pretty close to what we saw in the European elections. Of course if these figures do translate to such a result in 2010 then Labour will be in dissaray. Even though they'll still be the largest party they'll be holding on to half Welsh seats instead of the vast vast majority they are so used to depending on.

The other story from the party figures is the collapse of the Lib Dems back to 2 seats, making 2005 a flash in the pan for them. If this occurs then the Lib Dems will be in a deeper hole in Wales than Labour is even. The Lib Dems are a centre-left party, just like Labour. In an election where Labour voters are leaving their mothership in droves then the Lib Dems would expect to hoover up a large amount of them. To LOSE seats when the main party is in a historic meltdown is unthinkable. Many months ago, after the 2007 Assembly elections, I warned the Lib Dems (I think in a comment on Peter Black's blog) that unless they turned things around soon they were facing meltdown in Wales come 2010 - that view looks just as likely today as it did then.

On the YouGov figures Plaid would gain 5 seats - their highest total ever, and the highest number of votes in a London election ever. Having said that it is still a modest gain compared to the ones the Tories will make and, more importantly perhaps, compared to those the SNP will make. As long as Plaid do reach 5 seats however it will be a good base for them for the only election of any real importance to them, the 2011 Assembly one.

In Wales however the big story was not the party figures but the Parliament ones. And what a mixed bag they were. As to how they would vote on a referendum the Yes camp had a modest but indecisive lead of 8 points. But when people were asked if they thought Wales should have a Scottish style Parliament the support was 64 - 29 - a huge lead. I cannot explain this huge difference, but both of them make a mockery of Peter Hain's consistent moaning that a referendum WILL be lost (as opposed to the truth, which is that the referendum COULD be lost, but probably wouldn't).
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Nice to Se You, To See You...

Hello! How are you? If you're an old reader of the Amlwch to Magor blog then it's nice to see you again, if you have no idea who I am and what this blog in then it's nice to meet you! I'm the Hen Ferchetan and I used to run a blog here and here. I am now back on home turf and eager to ramble on and bore everyone apart from myself again!

For old friends, you might find that I don't post with quite the same rigor as with the old Amlwch to Magor. The reason for this is that, believe it or not, the Hen Ferchetan is now an active member of the Welsh workforce and therefore doesn't have all day to sit by a computer!

I hope you enjoy the blog (and like the new look!)

I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan

Mea Culpa

"there's no doubt that the Hen Ferchetan will return - but not in 2009.

Have a great year, and I'll see you all in 2010. Hwyl fawr!"

I lied...
I'm the Hen Ferchetan and this is the Amlwch to Magor blog, in which I ramble, mutter and moan about that most famous of exciting topics, Welsh politics!
Hen Ferchetan