Thursday, 1 March 2012

St David's day poll

We may not all live in a yellow submarine, but politicians whatever their size and status seem to live in a bubble. Within the last couple of months  independence has been the talk of most politicians and others in the chattering class. 
It started with the teasing out of a date for the Scottish referendum on independence out of Alex Salmond. This was followed by both David Cameron and Ed Milliband making major speeches in Edinburgh. Let's face it, a fair share of column inches and air time has been devoted to the subject.
Our own dear Carwyn, got in on the act, demanding an UK wide constitutional convention. Today he’s modified it be calling for a commission. 

Convention - commission, commission - convention, it all amounts to the same. What he wants is a look at how the UK is held together. 
His initial view was that new arrangements would have to be devised for the Union should the Scots decide to break loose. But he’s now convinced that new arrangements need to be put in place whether the Scots are in or out of the Union.
And of course, in the Plaid Cymru leadership battle, talk of independence has dominated their hustings. Oh, how much heat was generated in those closed rooms on it. A bit like those medieval theological discussions as to the number of angels on a head of a pin.
Then the damned public come along and pour cold water on  it all. Their view, “no way, not interested, forget it.” 

The latest proof of this comes in the Saint David’s day poll conducted by ICM for BBC Wales.
When those polled were asked whether Wales should become independent, separate from the UK, only 7% were in favour.  
When asked about independence if Scotland becomes independent, the number only just edges up to 12%. This is exactly the same figure that the ITV poll came up with a month ago when asking the same question, to presumably a different cohort of people.
So despite all the publicity, the people are not for turning on this issue. There’s no appetite for going it alone.
A point that Dafydd Elis-Thomas has consistently pushed within his own party over the years. A stance that has given him an unique selling point in the current leadership contest. Whether the zealot’s within his own party has brought the brand will be revealed before long when the contest results are announced. 
It would seem that what the people want is more akin to what Lloyd George wanted in the late 19th century - Home rule. A policy that the the old Liberals have even managed to carry through their rebirth as Liberal Democrats.

Yes, the people of Wales want more powers to rule themselves (30%) and power over taxes. 28% want powers over all taxes and 36% have a preference for some taxation powers. 

So there we have it, two thirds of those polled want to move the financial levers to Wales. Only a third want to leave things as they are. 
This poll confirms what the politicians over the years have refused to acknowledge, that the Welsh people are not afraid to take full responsibility for their own affairs. But don’t want to leave the Union. 
For certain the poll is a challenge to Plaid Cymru. If independence remains a long term aspiration they’ve got to get their act together.  It needs to proselytise if it is to get the people of this land to share its aims. It can’t be the policy that they dare not speak its name.
But hold on, the poll also challenges the Labour government. 

The Welsh people want the government to step up to the table on taxation. Now Labour has dragged its feet on the taxation issue. Hiding behind the need to reform the Barnett formula. 

This poll says that’s not good enough. In the words of the old street demonstration, “When do we want it, We want it now."


  1. Many decades ago, when in my teens, I wanted a bike. Eventually one was bought for me. It wasn’t the one I wanted – it was a woman’s model, second-hand, old and heavy, with an ugly chain-guard. I hated it. It wasn’t the shiny new sports model that I desperately wanted, like many of my friends had. One or two of my mates poked fun at me when I rode with them, especially when I couldn’t keep up. But I had to make-do as it was all my parents could afford – even then they kept telling me how lucky I was and that I should be grateful.

    Later, when a student at college, but still living at home during the holidays and weekends, I dreamed of having a car – but couldn’t even afford the driving lessons on my student grant. A car would open all kinds of possibilities, to go here or there, and open up the promise of girls, particularly.

    Eventually I scraped up enough to buy a clapped out minivan – though it broke down more often than not. Then I graduated and got a job. These developments allowed me increasing independence from my parents, even though I still lived with them.

    Such a life, though it had some advantages, was frustrating for all of us, and couldn’t continue indefinitely. It sometimes, often, led to friction. The time had to come when I’d have to leave and take responsibility for myself – get married, get a mortgage, start a family etc. That’s the natural course in life.

    We in Wales have been living in an unequal relationship in Britain/UK for so long that most of us think that there’s no alternative. That’s how it’s been and that’s how it is. But where is the dignity in being dependent, and being constantly told that we’re incapable of anything else and that we should be grateful? It really is unhealthy for all concerned.

    It’s been a long time coming, but it’s on the way. We’ve had the bike (bottom of the range), we’ve bought the car – it can’t go very fast, but now it’s time to look at the roadmap and prepare the plans. Big brother is getting ready to move out – he’s worked out he can afford it and will be better off. The dynamics in the house will be different when he’s gone. It’s going to be more difficult for us that are left.

    Our parents have mixed-feelings about us leaving, but they’ll be pleased once we’ve gone, and happy to have us visit to celebrate Christmas and so on. I’m sure we’ll get on great afterwards.

    I’m not sure that I agree that ‘taking full responsibility’ for one’s own affairs is compatible with remaining in the Union. To an extent it could depend on the type of Union in question. The devolved UK as presently constituted does not allow for ‘full responsibility’, as sovereignty is vested in Westminster, where in the final analysis, theoretically at least, power is retained.

    A federal union, defined and entrenched in a written constitution, would allow for a partnership of nations on this island. The dominance (in size) of one member vis-a-vis the others creates doubts about its long term stability. That dominance exists now, but dissatisfaction with it is mounting, especially in Scotland.

    I’m suspicious of Dafydd Elis-Thomas’ motives, and to what extent he’s acting out of what one might describe as egotistical self-interest. I very much doubt that he will be the party’s choice, and I very much hope he isn’t.

    There are few statesmen in politics these days – many political leaders seek to ascertain what the people want and promise to give it to them, simply in order to gain and to keep a hold on power. The unionist parties today are guilty of doing it. Idealism means nothing to them. What is required is a leader with the right mix of idealism and pragmatism, together with the requisite personal qualities and political skills.

  2. "The latest proof of this comes in the Saint David’s day poll conducted by ICM for BBC Wales."

    Bit strong isn't it? Opinion polls are just that: a poll of opinions not really "proof" of anything by a long stretch