It has hardly come as a surprise to anyone that David Davies MP has decided to set up a ‘cross-party’ campaign against further devolution to Wales. Nor should it come as any surprise to anyone that he is planning to base his campaign on dishonestly equating devolution and independence and on the equally dishonest notion that Wales is inevitably and permanently stuck in a state of poverty which only handouts from our rich English neighbours can alleviate.
Dishonest it may be – and we should not expect less of him, given his previous form – but there is plenty of historical evidence that simple dishonest messages can work. It’s a trick which should not be underestimated.
The leader of the Tories in the Assembly – a man who has the same exalted status in the party apparently as their leader on Cardiff City Council – has issued a pretty mild public rebuke. Reading between the lines, however, he is considerably less exercised about whether what Davies says is right or wrong for Wales than about whether Davies might actually try and co-operate with the devil incarnate, aka members of the Labour Party. He manages to avoid expressing his view on the substance at all, dismissing it as a topic for another day.
Some, such as Guerrilla Welsh Fare, seem to be assuming that, when it comes to the referendum, the Tory group in the Assembly at least will join the ‘yes’ campaign, and that Davies is out of step. I’m far from convinced. It’s no accident that the Tories have yet to respond to the Lord Roberts review of their policy. It could mean one of two things in my view. Either Cameron really thinks that the issue is so unimportant that he doesn’t need to take a position of any sort; or else he wants to keep his options open.
I tend to the latter view. I think that, if Cameron believes that taking an anti-further powers (or even anti-Assembly) stance will boost his chances of getting to Downing Street, then he will not hesitate for a moment. This is no great issue of principle to him (what is?), it’s just part of a game where there is only one prize of any importance. And, if he does decide to follow that track, the rest of his party in Wales will be expected to follow his lead. Oh, I’m sure they’ll find some sort of fudge (“the time isn’t right”, “we need a wider review”), but I am convinced that we will find the Conservative Party in Wales throwing its weight behind the ‘no’ campaign sooner or later.
The whole basis of Davies’ proposed campaign may be utterly dishonest; but at least he’s honest in stating where he really stands on the issue, unlike most of his party who are still waiting to be told what they think.