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Saturday, July 03, 2010

So what is all the fuss about?

As an exercise in self-indulgent, narrow-minded parochialism the controversy about the possible timing of the AV Referendum takes the biscuit. There is a world outside of Wales (and Scotland for that matter), perhaps those making all this fuss need to take note.

The idea that we could somehow partition off our own referendum and Assembly elections from the rest of the UK and stand aloof from the wider considerations of the UK Government is a separatist's wet dream. I am astonished that Labour are playing along with this outrage without realising that what they are actually arguing for is the removal of the Welsh political system from the Union.

I have heard people complain that they were not consulted and yet there has been no announcement yet. I have listened to supposedly grown-up politicians complain that Wales has been snubbed and yet we are not the only ones affected. This AV election will also clash with the Scottish Parliament elections and local elections across England.

The fact is that, just as we have had to think long and hard about the best time for our devolution referendum so the UK Government need to get it right for their plebiscite on AV. It may be possible to move the Assembly elections but let us not kid ourselves that we are doing so because of anything Nick Clegg is planning to announce. Talks were already underway to hold those elections in June so as to put a respectable distance between them and the Assembly powers' referendum.

As it is Rhodri Morgan may be right when he said on Radio Wales just now that we do not want to be last in a series of three voting opportunities. Perhaps we will have to clash with the AV referendum after all, and what is wrong with that?

There is a clear imperative to separate out the vote on powers for Wales from that electing the National Assembly. That is not because of any possible confusion from having more than one set of ballot papers, but because the issues and the arguments overlap. Both will be conducted with the same set of electors and in many ways the direction of the elections to the Assembly will be dictated by whether parties are pitching manifestos based on law-making powers or not.

The UK AV election is on a different set of issues and will be decided by a wider electorate. The two can be clearly separated. It is also good that having it on the same day as other elections may boost turnout and save money. After all this is an important change.

The argument that people will be confused or that returning officers cannot cope is just insulting. There is a long tradition for example of having General Elections and local elections on the same day. Yes, there was chaos in Scotland last time but that centred on badly designed ballot papers and a new electoral system being used for the first time.

In fact Wales held a dual election of this sort in 1999 when people voted at the same time for local councils and the Assembly. Everybody coped, there was no chaos. We had to wait a bit longer for the result but that was a small inconvenience.

I have said before that the respect agenda works both ways. In this case we need to respect that this is a decision to be made by the UK Government, just as the timing of the Welsh Assembly elections is a decision to be made here by the Welsh Government and the Secretary of State for Wales. Perhaps people just need to calm down.
Nice try
Well said, you have my vote, and a good many of the other voters in Wales.
Could most people outside the Poli-chattering mouth muscle honed class really give a twattering , insipid cow pat about devolution or new powers or a referendum or anything of any abstract nature
I care very much about this. It's now quite clear though that the people, not politicians (even the best intended are conflicted) should decide how our country is governed.
Seems to me that all politicians indulge in a spot of "self-indulgent, narrow-minded parochialism" when it suits their purposes - even Lib Dems.
How would they manage in the USA where besides electing the President the ballot paper also includes the contest for other political offices including local dog catcher. Throw in the use of the referendum as a means of bringing about change which is used in many states at election time and your average US citzen has no problem deciding who should be President and whether the state should change policy on an issue. Without the referendum Oregan would not have agreed in 1910 to establish the first presidential primary system in the country. Those who believe that Welsh voters will be totally confused by holding the Assembly election and the AV referendum on the same day have obviuosly never heard of one of the greatest American political reformers William U'Ren who changed US politics by the use of referenda on numerous issues. Instead of treating the electorate like children and arguing that somehow Wales and Scotland deserve 'respect' they should be trying to convince the majority who have never bothered to vote in Assembly elections since 1999 to take part. To argue that filling in three ballot papers will confuse voters is just nonsense. No one argued this on May 6th this year when in many parts of England voters voted for their MP and local borough and community councillors on the same day.No one in any English council argued that the Labour government was somehow not respecting local government because they decided to hold the general elction on the same day as the local elections.
Which is why most Americans dont vote!

Personally looking at the state of your economy, I would consider putting it on the back burner for a couple of years.
Given that a switch to AV is the most timid change possible, who cares? (apart from the chance to get folks to think about our stupid Westminster voting system).
Oh, and BTW what do you think about it Peter? We await your steer on this topic!
I think it is a very timid step forward but a step forward nevertheless and thus best supported rather than rejected. If the referendum produces a negative result then it will set back all possibility of electoral reform for a decade, even the better versions such as STV. If we get a 'yes' vote then at least there is the possibility of further change.
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