The leader of the Welsh Conservatives today sent out a dire warning than the anti-establishment mood following Brexit means that the National Assembly of Wales is in peril.
The people of Wales would probably not vote for devolution again if given the choice once more, he claimed.
There’s no evidence to back this up, and plenty of the contrary. The people of Wales are asked this question every year in an opinion poll.
According to the latest poll carried out in May, only 13% would support abolishing the Assembly, while 43% thought the Assembly should have more powers.
Andrew RT Davies points to the narrow majority for devolution in the 1997 referendum. But he ignores the large vote pro law making powers in the 2011 referendum.
It seems that Davies’ words are less of a warning and more of a statement of intent. The Tories now want to plant in the Welsh public’s mind the idea that they would be better off without the Assembly.
This could well be a successful strategy. The EU referendum is a good example of an issue that didn’t really matter to the public being brought to the fore by committed politicians and a supportive media.
As we also saw with the Scottish Independence vote in 2014, a referendum isn’t always won but it does tend to increase support for the less popular option.
A vote on abolishing the Welsh Assembly could well increase the % supporting to 30-40%. (As would a referendum on independence for Wales).
It’s no mystery as to why the Tories would like to see the back of the Assembly. It’s precisely the same reason why the Labour party are keen on the institution.
The Welsh Assembly continues to be a bastion of Labour support, while the Tories slipped from being the second largest to the third largest party there in May.
Furthermore, the Tories look like being in power at Westminster for a good decade or more yet.
Basically, this is a straight fight for the power to rule Wales between the Labour Party and the Tory Party. Welsh and British nationalism will simply be tools used to further both sides’ self-interest.
This is a fight for hearts and minds that the Labour party could well lose because of the lack of a strong Welsh national media.
Conversely, the Tories will be able to push their agenda quite successfully through a London press that has very little sympathy for Welsh or Scottish devolution.
The cloak of invisibility that shrouds Welsh politics has long served Welsh Labour well.
They know that their own missteps will be ignored, while the Welsh will continue to vote Labour in order to ‘give the Conservatives a bloody nose’.
However, if the idea of Welsh devolution comes under sustained attack, sitting back and keeping mum will no longer been enough. They’ll have to pull their socks up.