Anti-democratic insult

If you thought that Blair’s ‘parish council’ parliament for Scotland was bad enough, try reading A voice for Wales. This is the title of the white paper published on Tuesday by Ron Davies, the Welsh secretary. Frankly, his proposals are an anti-democratic insult.

Ron Davies described the devolution on offer in A voice for Wales as necessary “to bring decisions closer to the people, to open up government, to reform parliament and to increase individual rights”. The white paper itself even claims that devolution will “liberate the energy of the Welsh people to make a real difference”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Davies’s white paper deprives the Welsh people of any democratic voice and aims to firmly embed them within the UK state.

Unlike Blair’s sop parliament in Scotland, the new 60-member Welsh assembly, to be created in 1999, will have no powers whatsoever. No tax-raising or primary legislative powers - period. This quasi-assembly will have a massive £7 million budget at its disposal and the role of Welsh secretary will be retained, so sovereignty remains located in Westminster. As the Welsh secretary reassured us, Wales would remain “firmly part of the United Kingdom”.

To call what is on offer a sop is being too generous to the Blair government - it is less than a sop. To accept such a “bureaucratic talking shop” (as Michael Ancram, the Tory constitutional spokesman described it) is to tug your forelock and become a slave.   

Naturally, Plaid Cymru welcomed Davies’ proposals - “critically”, of course. The Guardian, echoing the line of Socialist Party, Wales (and the SWP?), said that A voice for Wales “is to be welcomed as the step forward towards the modernisation of the British state”. However, even this, the most Blairite of Blairite newspapers, was slightly troubled by how “timid”, “unconvincing” and “limited” Davies’s proposals were, and how such an assembly would be “powerless” (editorial, July 23).

All revolutionaries and genuine democrats should treat this white paper with contempt and organise an active boycott of Davies’s “powerless” assembly.

Paul Greenaway