Silly PPER!

This is not a term that will be oft found on this blog but In Fairness to True Wales, despite the rhetoric, it is not True Wales' policies or difficulties that have thrown a spanner into the workings of the Government of Wales Act referendum campaign it is the inadequacies of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (the PPER Act), an Act drafted without the foresight to know that this sort of pickle would almost inevitably arise.

I was speaking to an English friend a couple of weeks ago who is an avid supporter of electoral reform, he was excited by the prospect of the AV referendum, not just because of the issue but because it will be the first time he will be allowed to campaign and vote in a referendum. To me, an old stager of referendum campaigns, that statement came as a bit of a shock, especially as he is a few years older than me. Since I was born there have been 9 Welsh referenda, 5 of which I voted in, and 2 in which I campaigned before voting age. I have also voted in two parish pump referenda.

My English friend is correct, English voters who are under 54 years of age have never had a chance to vote in a referendum, and that is the main difficulty that the PPER Act has. It was drafted by and voted through Westminster by people with little or no practical experience of referenda.

One of the clauses of the Act states that in order to be designated an official campaign the applicant must show that the applicant adequately represents those campaigning for the outcome at the referendum in relation to which the applicant seeks to be designated. Anybody with experience of referenda knows that this is a clause that it would be virtually impossible to comply with, on either side.

I always voted Yes (Dry) in the Sunday Closing Act referenda. I voted Dry, the first time, because I worked in a pub at the time and I didn't want to work on Sundays.

Many Nationalists voted Dry because the Closing Act was the only visibly distinct Welsh Act at the time that made Wales different.

Members of Licensed Clubs and owners of Licensed Restaurants, unaffected by the Act, knew that they had huge profits from being open when the pubs were closed.

Licensees in just over the county border pubs use to give avid support to keep their own counties wet, whilst campaigning just as avidly to keep the neighboring county dry.

The teetotal chapel vote went dry in the hope that one day closing would be the start of a slippery slope towards seven days dry.

The idea that such varied opinions could coalesce into a single campaign that would adequately represents those campaigning for the outcome is patently ridiculous!

During the 1997 Devolution campaigns George Robertson MP declared his support for Scottish Devolution because It will kill Nationalism stone dead. I am sure that Lord Robertson genuinely believed that, he might even be correct - if it wasn't for devolution would Scotland be more or less likely to be independent now? Whatever the answer to that question, I know for a fact that Alex Salmond wasn't campaigning for a Yes vote in order to kill nationalism stone dead! Salmond hoped that he was on the No side's slippery slope!

Incompatible views that can't be included in the PPER "outcome" clause!

Daft Act, badly drafted, but in the context of my No Not Good Enough Campaign – if the National Assembly had the powers to control its own Elections and Referenda (it doesn't), today's confusion, which is probably a balls ups caused by a lack of experience of referenda in England , would have been avoided by the more Referendum Savvy Assembly!

If it does nothing else, I hope that my eccentric, hopeless, bloody pathetic, not credible, nutcase, brilliant idea etc campaign, has at least highlighted some of the weaknesses of the Act!


  1. Bill Chapman21/01/2011, 08:55

    If there are real enthusiasts for greater powers for the Assembly, they ought to be out knocking on doors, giving out leaflets and explaining their enthusiasm. It can happen. We've just had a by-election in Marl Ward, Llandudno, with four candidates engaging with the voters, leafleting and door knocking leading to a Lib-Dem win. To my knowledge nothing similar has happened with regard to this referendum. Indeed, no one even mentions it it conversation. Political people like me watched "Dragon's Eye" but most people watch the "soaps" or a film.

    The Act may be at fault, but so are the lethargic campaigners.

  2. Thoughtful post, old fart, and one that blows a huge hole through the 'scrutiny' argument of True Wales. The Referendums act went through both houses of the Westminster parliament, and its committee stages, and ended up a total dog's dinner. And as you say, had it been drafted and scrutinised in the Assembly, it would have been far more effective.

  3. George Robertson was a secret Bilderburger pursuing a hidden agenda.

  4. I agree that knocking on doors is still the best campaigning tool available to political activists Bill, but your point is spoilt by the fact that fewer than a third of those entitled to do so actually voted in the Junction by-election. (And hearty congratulation to Cllr Shotter on her victory)

  5. I was looking for some figures I remembered posting on Amlwch to Magor when I was still writing it a couple years back and stumbled across this post from August 2008:

    "The second question that has to be asked is: Who on earth will run the No campaign this time round? The Electoral Commission gets to decide which No group is to be the "official" one they will be seriously hindered this time round "

    I must say that I never imagined it would be you :-D