PETER ROBINSON and the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland are set to play a star role in the Welsh referendum campaign on extra powers for the National Assembly, writes Clive Betts from the Assembly press gallery.
The Irishmen will be set against another group who will also play a key role in the campaign.
The other group will be a small cluster of Labour Party members centred on that island of true-Brits in Islwyn and Torfaen – together with their Tory friends in Newport and Monmouth.
The Labour backsliders call themselves True Wales – although with their perversions of Welsh politics and Welsh history they should surely have them more-correctly named Untrue Wales – and their organisation will surely head the disaffected members of what used to be affectionately called the “People’s Party” in the No campaign.
Following in the steps of that miner’s son who regrets he never worked underground – Neil Kinnock, of Islwyn – and of the Catholic Irishman who forgets his own people saw that independence was the only way forward – Don Touhig, of Torfaen – Untrue Wales will assuredly try to make a lot of noise.
Asked during the weekly Cabinet briefing, how he would deal with such doubters within his own ranks, First Minister Carwyn Jones was cautious on how he answered.
Within the Labour group of AMs, there are of course no doubters, he told us. You can be sure that anyone who did step out of line on supporting the move for a referendum for more powers would swiftly find him- or herself without a group to be a member of – in other words, he or she would lose the whip.
We all know that some Labour AMs are keener on additional powers than others. But that is inevitable in any political grouping. Yet Labour’s AMs do not embrace as wide a variety of opinions on this issue as the Tories did when their Assembly membership included the Abominable No man, David Davies, of Monmouth.
Mr Jones told us that the expected Assembly vote next week to pursue a referendum would then be sent to the party for its views. The First Minister was exceedingly vague about the terms which that party consultation would take. Perhaps because the methods would be many and various.
But what about Untrue Wales ? That is when Mr Jones got a bit sarcastic. How significant is that group ? Not very, he insinuated. A very long Western Mail interview with the group named only one individual. Surely the lack of other names is significant, Mr Jones seemed to be saying.
That is when the First Minister decided to turn on the pressure. Untrue Wales is arguing that the referendum is a stage on the slippery slope to independence. Mr Jones then pointed to another political grouping which is in the midst of discussions on an advance of devolution.
The Democratic Unionists are close to agreeing that Ulster devolution should be expanded to include both policing and justice.
Mr Jones invited Untrue Wales to ask the Democratic Unionists whether they saw this forthcoming change as being the next stage in their move to independence.
As Mr Jones’s wife is a Catholic from west Belfast (the nationalist side of the city), he could with ease include a barrow-load of sarcasm in his reply. “Does the DUP want an independent Northern Ireland ?” he asked.