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Saturday, November 06, 2004


Some Conservative MPs are putting it about that the 'No' vote in the North East of England makes a further referendum in Wales less likely. Some are even saying that the whole devolution project is now dead in the water and that the government should proceed immediately to poll the Welsh and Scottish to consider scrapping their devolved bodies altogether.

I am not too sure how the eleven Conservative members of the Welsh Assembly will react to calls from their own party to abolish them. After all if there was no Welsh Assembly then Conservatism here would be dead in the water. However, whereas I do not agree with Nigel Evans MP that "the embarrassing rejection of a North East Assembly made a referendum in Wales far less likely", I do think that the one lesson that the Wales Labour Party do need to draw from this debacle is that if they seek to shortchange the Welsh people on powers then they will get a bloody nose. A further fudge, such as that being mooted by the First Minister could get very short shrift indeed in a referendum.

Meanwhile the Western Mail has asked Ross Smith, who works for The Journal newspaper in Newcastle, to come up with ten reasons why the people of the North East voted 'No'. Top of this list is overexposure to John Prescott, the lack of powers, the fact that no extra funding was attached to the devolution package, but that an increase in Council Tax was a virtually certain outcome of a 'Yes' vote, and the fact that the new Assembly was linked to an unpopular reform of local government. He also highlighted the lukewarm support of local Labour MPs, including the Prime Minister himself. Perhaps John Prescott is in more trouble than we first thought.

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