I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Peter Hain’s comments about the referendum this week, and have taken my time before responding. A lot of people reacted immediately, expressing their outrage and disappointment and whilst I understand why they’d do that, I don’t think it did much to help the cause. It gave him the publicity he craved, and he’s probably chuffed to have everyone talking about him this week.
Now, I am not Peter Hain’s biggest fan. His claims in the same interview that he led the ‘yes’ campaign in 1997 did nothing to endear him to me either… There’s nothing worse than when the ego of certain politicians leads them to try and re-write history. But in this instance, I don’t completely disagree with him. I think we should wait a while (months rather than years though) before holding a referendum as I don’t believe that all of the Welsh political parties are ready for it. If we are realistically going to have a referendum before 2011, and if it’s going to be successful, then a great deal of work needs to be done before then. Indeed, Mr Hain’s words might be the kick up the arse that all of the parties need if it’s going to happen sooner rather than later… If they are genuinely in favour, then they need to work out what they would do differently in Wales with extra powers rather than just hypothesising about it. They need to have a clear vision, not just clever slogans and strategies. And most of all, they need to have convincing and well thought out arguments based on actual long terms gains for Wales, rather than reactive ones based around current events. I’m not convinced that enough people outside of Plaid Cymru (who’ve led the way with the brilliant Wales Can website and campaign) are thinking along those terms at present, and it worries me. One party’s support, commitment and enthusiasm won’t be enough to ensure a ‘yes’ vote. We all need to be working together to build a stronger and better Wales, and that means putting party politics aside in order to build a proper referendum campaign.
Just to be clear, I am one hundred per cent in favour of Wales gaining more powers and eventually becoming a fully independent country within the European Union. I would like to see a referendum before 2011 as I’m frustrated by the lack of powers the Welsh Assembly has at present, and feel that its work is hindered by the current system. The LCO process is tedious, complex and ineffective. Its just that I don’t want to see a referendum fail for the wrong reasons, i.e. lack of preparation and vision, and would prefer to wait a little while until there is a proper and well thought out cross-party campaign up and running before pushing for a vote. If Hain is as pro devolution as he says he is, then he needs to stop talking about it and start acting. Wales is ready for a referendum, it’s the campaign that’s not ready! Rather than making unhelpful comments in the press, he should be getting involved and ensuring that Labour is ready for it. That's the only way we'll be able to tell how sincere his commitment to the referendum is. Will he deliver? I must admit, I have my fears…
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