Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Powers poll 'must inspire voters'

Convention chair Emyr Jones Parry with Rhodri Morgan and Ieuan Wyn Jones
Convention chair Emyr Jones Parry with First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones

Welsh Labour leadership candidate Huw Lewis says a successful referendum campaign on more powers for the assembly will have to "inspire" voters.

He also warned against expecting victory through "wishful thinking".

He reacted to the All Wales Convention report recommending more power, but warning a Yes vote was not guaranteed.

Of his rivals, Edwina Hart said it was too early to set a referendum date, and Carwyn Jones said Welsh Labour had to consider the report fully.

Mr Lewis, the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM, told BBC Radio Wales: "We can't go to the electorate and say 'this is all about efficiency' and 'this is all about politicians being able to do things in committee in a more convenient fashion'.

"We have to inspire people as to how these extra powers will affect them and their communities."

I think there's a lack of understanding prevalent at the moment about how you actually win a referendum like this
Huw Lewis AM

The All Wales Convention, which was set up by the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition government, said the assembly should have full law-making powers if approved by a referendum.

But it counselled that while a vote in favour was obtainable, it could not be guaranteed.

Ministers would call a referendum, if it is considered winnable, by May 2011.

Mr Lewis said the convention's report was engaging and full of "good stuff".

"But I think there's a lack of understanding prevalent at the moment about how you actually win a referendum like this," he said.

He emphasised the cost of the 1997 referendum which set up the assembly, and the slim victory.

'Political journey'

"We emptied Welsh Labour's coffers to obtain that Yes vote," he said.

"We have a political journey to travel [before holding a referendum now].

"And statements about having a referendum in September [2010] - this is just nonsense.

"When it comes to a referendum itself I think this process needs an honest broker who is willing to inject some commonsense into this debate.

"This referendum won't be won on the basis of wishful thinking."

In a statement Health Minister Edwina Hart said politicians had a responsibility to make a judgement about when a referendum should be held.

"Today is certainly not the time to come to that conclusion, with the ink barely dry on the report," she said.

"The first minister will make a statement to the assembly next Tuesday which will set out the way in which its contents will be taken forward.

In an online article after the publication of the convention report, Counsel General Carwyn Jones said he was committed to campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum.

"I have also made it clear that I believe a victory in that referendum is more likely to be secured after the general election if Welsh Labour has fully considered and digested the report collectively," he said.

Welsh Labour party members, MPs, AMs and its MEP, and affiliated organisations such as trade unions, are voting on the leadership, with the ballot closing on 26 November.

The new leader will be announced on December 1 and confirmed as first minister a week later.

More powers for Wales says report
18 Nov 09 |  Wales politics
Is a powers referendum unstoppable?
17 Nov 09 |  Wales politics
Five minutes with the candidates
11 Nov 09 |  Wales

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