David Cornock draws attention to what, at first sight, is just another gaffe by Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid’s leader in the House of Commons. Llwyd apparently briefed journalists to the effect that he isn't particularly bothered about holding a referendum on a parliament before 2011, even though his party made this a key element in the One Wales accord. Llwyd said that he believes it to be more important to get the current system working properly first.
Now, call me cynical, but I think that if a Labour MP had said that, there would have been indignant howls from Plaid quarters, and the words 'dinosaur' and 'Brit-nat' would be flying all over the place.
I find it difficult to believe that even Llwyd, who does seem to find it difficult to remain on-message at times, could have made a blunder on this scale. Although I generally err on the side of the cock-up theory of history in preference to conspiracy, in this case I start to wonder. Could he be acting as an out-rider for his leader in Cardiff?
Many inside and outside Plaid have long doubted whether Ieuan Wyn Jones is really that keen on another referendum, suspecting that slow creeping gradualism (aka the LCO procedure) is much more in his nature. Of course, he needed to get a commitment to a referendum before his party would sign up to One Wales, but the ‘commitment’ is, in reality, a lot less firm than some might think.
Many have commented previously that the purpose of the Commission, under Emyr Parry-Jones, is far from being clear, and there has always been a suspicion that it was intended, above all else, to simply buy some time. It took one of the most contentious issues in the agreement, kicked it safely into the future, and thus allowed the deal to be struck.
If this line of argument holds, then, having bedded the government down nicely, there comes a point where Plaid members’ expectations have to be ‘adjusted’ to match that which the party’s leaders expected all along, namely that there will be no referendum in the term of the current Assembly. Those who negotiated the deal can hardly simply stand up and say that they always knew it wasn't going to happen, and there has been a strong adverse reaction whenever anyone from Labour started stating the obvious. If someone had to fly this kite, then who better than Llwyd?