Translation of a post by Vaughan Roderick, posted earlier today on my own blog:
Monmouth MP David Davies's decision to launch a campaign against increasing the powers of the Assembly hasn't caused much surprise in the Bay. David's opinions (and those of the two other Conservative MPs from Wales) are well known. What is strange perhaps is the timing - remembering that the results of Wyn Roberts' review of the party's policy on devolution haven't been published yet.
In one way David's plans aren't a problem for the Conservative Party. It has been known for some time that the party would allow its members to campaign for either side in a referendum. There are plenty of Tories who would work energeticly for a Yes vote including almost every one of the party's AMs as well as a number of prospective candidates who are likely to be MPs after the next general election.
It's possible to argue that David Davies's announcement is more a problem for those who oppose further devolution rather than a blessing. In the two previous referenda the main problem for the No campaigns was the lack of willingness from prominent figures in the Labour Party to cooperate with the Conservatives.
In 1979 there were two No campaigns - one made up of members of the Labour Party and one for everybody else. In 1997 although Conservatives made up most of those working for the No campaign new faces were used as its leaders. Ironically enough Nick Bourne and David Davies were two of those faces. Nevertheles, apart from a handful of people (including the unforgettable Carys Pugh) there were hardly any members of the Labour Party prepared to publicly associate themselves with the campaign.
Now perhaps I'm wrong about this but it's hard to believe any important Labour politicians would want to associate themselves with a campaign established by a Conservative - especially a Conservative like David Davies.
That could be a huge problem for those opposing further devolution in the next referendum because that vote will be held under the conditions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referenda Act 2000. That law allows the Electoral Commission to give assistance to the Yes and No campaigns in a referendum but only to one of each. In order to receive that assistance the campaign has to prove that it represents a broad swathe of those attempting to ensure the one result or the other.
It's possible that David Davies's decision to try and establish a group by himself will be more of an obstacle than a help when attempting to create an united No campaign. Wouldn't it be wiser to wait for promonent labourites (somebody by the name of "Kinnock" perhaps) to make the first move?
NB Readers unfamiliar with Welsh devolution should note that any referendum on further devolution for the Assembly would - following the rules laid out in the Government of Wales Act 2006 - only bestow full legislative powers in those areas already partially devolved to the Senedd. A Scottish style parliament would not be on offer without Westminster first passing substantial changes to the 2006 Act