Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Finger on the Trigger

News that the Welsh assembly vote next week could enable AMs to "trigger" the process for a referendum on further powers should come as no surprise.
But reports that the Assembly would not necessarily get the 40 votes it needs are somewhat surprising. Talk that both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say they could abstain could be more of a threatening searchlight trying to seek dissidents in the shadows. The result was a flurry of claims and counter-claims revolving around the potential date of a referendum and whether it would be concurrent with the next Assembly Elections.

We should expect next week's trigger vote to be passed, especially as UKIP are the only party uniformly opposing further law making powers, and even then would not reject a referendum on the grounds that it is a democratic tool.

However the process of reaching that Referendum is a knotty and many-tiered beast. The draft order for a referendum would have to be voted on by both houses of Parliament, with a change in power imminent yet not entirely predictable.

Both the Tories and Lib Dems say they wont back the trigger vote unless they get an assurance that the referendum will not happen on or around the assembly election day in May 2011, and do not want to fight two campaigns at once. But Labour and Plaid are not prepared to rule any dates in or out, and senior sources are adamant that no date has yet been chosen.

Although an Autumn Referendum might be favoured by most, coordinating such an event after the flurry of a General Election and a new Government hoping to put their stamp on policy would be a hard task.

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