Yes for Wales!

Still suffused with a peculiar form of vicarious national pride after last night’s rousing St David’s Day concert in Cardiff – of which I hope to do a review later today – I thought I’d put up a gratuitous picture of the daffodils in Bute Park because they’re one of the two official emblems of Wales.

The other national emblem of Wales is the leek, but I couldn’t find any of them growing in Bute Park. It’s the wrong time of year anyway.

More importantly, tomorrow (Thursday 3rd March) is the date of the Referendum on Welsh Assembly powers. The question is a fairly uninteresting one, actually, and is simply about whether the Welsh Assembly should be allowed to make laws itself – concerning those matters over which it has devolved responsibility – rather than the current system which requires oversight by the House of Commons.

As a matter of fact I’ve got another vote to cast tomorrow, in a Council by-election. My ward is currently controlled by Plaid Cymru, but I will be voting for the Green Party in protest against the over-development of Bute Park.

In the Referendum I’ve decided to vote Yes for Wales, a stance which all the major parties agree on in fact. I’m pretty confident the Yes vote will win, but am concerned by a sense of apathy over this, and the Welsh Assembly elections coming up in May.

I think it’s very sad to compare the courage and determination shown by people across North Africa and in the Middle East protesting for democracy, with the attitude of so many here in a mature democracy who just can’t be bothered to exercise the rights that others struggled so hard to establish for us. If it matters so much to people in Egypt, Algeria and Libya to have the right to vote then it matters here too! Call me old-fashioned, but I think the right to vote is not only a privilege but also a duty.

So whichever side of whatever argument you’re on, and wherever it is you’re voting, please get down to the polling station and put your cross where it counts!


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11 Responses to “Yes for Wales!”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    When people don’t vote in Western democracies it’s because they are sceptical that it will change anything. By this I don’t mean their individual vote, but that many of the issues they regard as most important are not addressed by the manifestos/policies of any party that has a genuine chance of being elected. Without necesssarily agreeing, I appreciate the point of view of such sceptics. And this trend is worrying, because it plays into the hands of extremists.

  2. “but that many of the issues they regard as most important are not addressed by the manifestos/policies of any party that has a genuine chance of being elected”

    First, without introducing PR, one has to live with the fact that a two-party system, officially or de facto, will lead to the marginalisation of some issues.

    So, first fight for PR (or some form of representation which includes a PR component).

    Second, once PR is around, issues which interest (at least at first) just a few per cent of the population actually do get a voice. It is not that difficult to form a party and even less difficult to join one. Many parties complain that they don’t get enough people. If it’s not important enough that people are willing to found or at least join a party (which doesn’t imply that one agrees with everything on their platform), then the issue can’t be that important.

  3. Will Grainger Says:

    I saw my first “no to AV” billboard today. I wonder if it was posted a couple of days too early, as it risks confusing people about whether they should be voting yes or no in the Welsh vote tomorrow…

    • Monica Grady Says:

      Peter, you say:
      “I think it’s very sad to compare the courage and determination shown by people across North Africa and in the Middle East protesting for the right to vote, with the attitude of so many here in a mature democracy who just can’t be bothered to exercise the rights that others struggled so hard to establish for us. If it matters so much to people in Egypt, Algeria and Libya to have the right to vote then it matters here too! Call me old-fashioned, but I think the right to vote is not only a privilege but also a duty.”

      I don’t think you are old fashioned. I couldn’t agree with you more strongly. It is one of the few things that I get really exercised about – especially as I have the additional example of women’s suffrage upon which to draw. We are fortunate to live in a democratic society – and it troubles me that only about half of those who have the right (and, as you point out, privelege) to vote actually do their duty and vote.

      I look forward to reading your opinion of the concert last night. I missed it, but Ian listened on R3, and said it was one of the best concerts he’d heard for a long time. Lucky you to be there.
      Mon
      x

  4. Bryn Jones Says:

    I do have problems in discussing devolution for Wales: I see the issue as being totally one-sided and fail to see rational arguments to the contrary. That is very true for tomorrow’s referendum on simplifying the process of making laws for Wales, although living in London I do not have a vote.

    I failed to understand why the referendum in 1997 to approve the then United Kingdom’s Government’s plans to establish an elected Assembly for Wales scraped through with a tiny majority. The people were offered a democratic body to govern some affairs, to replace administration by three ministers appointed by the British Prime Minister and a plethora of quangos. I delivered leaflets in favour then, although I had concerns about the original plan’s relative lack of powers and the failure to separate the executive and legislature adequately. I saw it as a choice between direct democracy on the one hand, and administration by appointed ministers, civil servants and quangos on the other. Yet only half the electorate of Wales bothered to vote, and only 50.3% of those voted in favour.

    I hope the vote tomorrow will support simplifying the tortuously restricted law making powers of the National Assembly for Wales with a very clear majority.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m not surprised that the initial vote was close – people take a lot of convincing that it’s a good idea to have even more politicians because that’s not necessarily the same as having a better democracy.

      Moreover the political system in the UK remains highly anomalous. We still have an undemocratic second chamber – the House of Lords – and there is no equivalent of the devolved governments for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for England.

      Personally I’d like to see the Lords replaced by an elected Assembly, parts of which are devolved to the regions with an English Assembly in London in parallel to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff and the others in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each would vote and create laws on regional issues, but UK law would have to be passed by all components of the devolved assembly system. This would not only be more logical, but also more democratic. Which almost certainly means it will never happen.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Peter: One of the inherent problems of democracy is that the qualities needed to get elected are not correlated with the qualities needed to run a country well. The system which does not have this problem is the hereditary system (as in the House of Lords before the 20th century, and a monarchy that is more than a rubber stamp). The hereditary system has other obvious problems, of course: you can get a bad king, and the aristocracy is not likely to represent the concerns of the majority of the population.

      It seems to me that until recently we had a system in which the weaknesses of the two systems mitigated each other. Even with a nepotistic life-peer-dominated House of Lords quite a lot of bad legislation from the Commons got knocked back – mostly legislation with totalitarian elements, a fact which very clearly suggests that we do not need more democracy in the system. In Iraq, moreover, the USA faced the contradiction of imposing democracy by force.

      I am all for a great deal of democracy in our constitution, because it enforces accountability; but it needs to be thought through. Democracy is not a panacaea.

      Anton

      • telescoper Says:

        I agree. There are many areas – e.g. science policy – where our politicians simply don’t have sufficient understanding to make good decisions. What happens then is that policy is made up by the grey eminences of the Civil Service who don’t know much either and don’t even have the virtue of having been elected.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      I have a dislike of politics and politicians, but a great admiration for statesmanship. The downside of democracy is politics: you can’t have one without the other.

      The decision by the 1997-2001 Labour Government to establish parliaments/assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with different powers and responsibilities (rather than a single, common model) was probably necessary given the very different functions exercised by the old Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland offices. The Labour Government did have a policy for England: it was to establish a series of regional assemblies case by case, rolling them out over many years following regional referendums. The first referendum approved the London Assembly, but the next, of course, led to a heavy rejection of the proposed Northeast assembly. That killed the policy and nothing else has been done for England. There is a rather odd imbalance in the British constitution in that there has been democratic devolution to the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but nothing equivalent in the case of England.

      There is still the issue of what should be done for England: a national parliament or a series of regional assemblies. My reading of the situation is that an English parliament is probably the most popular choice at present.

      However, it should be remembered that democratic devolution to Scotland and Wales was only achieved after many decades of campaigning, and against established political opinions. There are campaigns to establish an English parliament, but they are not of the scale of those that persuaded political parties to commit to establish to devolution for Scotland and Wales, and to continue following the failures of 1979.

      And of course, the upper chamber of the United Kingdom should be democratically elected.

    • “Peter: One of the inherent problems of democracy is that the qualities needed to get elected are not correlated with the qualities needed to run a country well.”

      In The Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke solved this problem by using a lottery to determine the chief executive.

  5. If it is our duty to vote, then it is our elected representatives’ duty to act in the best interest of the voters rather than in their self-interest/the interest of those with the most money. I think many people have doubts about the latter and, hence, doubts that their vote counts at all, especially if they live in a safe seat in our first past the post system.

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