THE BLOG
23/06/2015 16:32 BST | Updated 23/06/2016 10:59 BST

The Big House... From the Inside

As expected the government has yielded on the little matter of holding the In/Out EU referendum on May 5th 20116, the same day as the general elections in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (as well as a host of other local elections in England). They were facing a strong case against, as I discussed in my last column, and with their counter arguments being, let's be kind, a little fragile.

I would of course like to think that the point I made about EU citizens potentially being turned out of Welsh polling booths, having exercised their right to vote for our National Assembly but before giving a kiss to the EU, or not, carried the day. After all there might have been some embarrassing pictures in the foreign press. But then again, given that they would be foreign, they would scarcely count in our great scheme of things.

So what was Mr Cameron's reasoning in considering such a move in the first place.

Well, I suppose that he might have hoped that no one would notice, or had they noticed would not care two hoots. Ken Clark, as a Tory pro EU relic, had been dismissive of all the hoo-ha ... details ...details ...

And perhaps on the positive side, combining the referendum with the elections might have nudged the turn out figures up a little.

Perhaps people might even have been inclined to follow the lead of the party that they had just voted for domestically, and, at least in Scotland, without the distraction of a visible UKIP vote. (And whatever the rhetoric, don't imagine for a nanosecond that either Cameron and his confederates, or whoever is leading the Labour party on any one particular day would be in favour of making for the exit.)

They could also have been anxious not to leave the matter to the enthusiasts, that is, the diminished but still virulent UKIP, the anoraks of the Liberal Democrats and their own numerous Europhobes. (Whilst the rest of us get on with watching the delightful antics of three legged dogs, rabid housemates or any manner of 'Great British' this or that on the best television service in the world).

Historically, turn out rates for referenda have been miserable, witness the damp toot of the AV vote. And the most recent referendum on the powers of the Welsh Assembly scarcely wrinkled the surface of the water. The witless ultra-unionists, as you may recall, couldn't even get it together to register as the official 'No campaign'.

Incidentally, the Scottish referendum was a wonderful exception with a whopping 97% registration followed by an 85% turnout. I suppose that's why it sent the establishment in such a tizzy. The wretched voters might have chosen the 'wrong' option. That in turn explains the unprecedented anti campaign run by allegedly magisterial and unbiased institutions such as the Treasury and the BBC (my spies tell me that Auntie's battle cry was 'Let's give one for the Empire').

Anyway, all these hopes about the date are now gone, partly I must claim in the face of the determined derision of the SNP, ably abetted by Plaid Cymru.

So, it'll be an early referendum I suppose, to deny the other side time to stop attacking each other and to organise. But not on May 5th. After the summer hols but before the party conferences (with all the delicious opportunities they would afford for bloodletting).

MPs are sometimes distributed by columnists short of inspiration into bishops or bookmakers. Were I less of an unwilling bishop and more of a freewheeling bookie I would venture a groat or two on the last Thursday in September 2016. But beware, there's no money back guarantee if you were to be so reckless as to follow my suggestion.

- - -

On Wednesday last we had Welsh Questions and there was plenty to get your gnashers into. My question, inevitably, was on the miserable state of the health service in Wales under Labour's loving care (see many, many, Hansards past).

No one though had thought to ask about the reorganisation of local government (yum yum!).

You may have heard that the Welsh government intends to re-establish 8 counties, similar to the pattern pre 1992, in the course of which they will dispense with the services of hundreds of local councillors. I foresee much blood on Labour floors before that one goes through.

But all this did serve to remind me of the very first day I spent in the employ of one of the old counties, that byword for institutional petty corruption, Mid Glamorgan (and sometimes not so petty either).

My manager called me in and looking me in the eye said, 'Whatever you do, make sure your expenses are straight. If they want to get rid of you that's the first place they'll look'.

He made it unscathed to a deserved retirement and his advice kept me out of the pages of the Daily Telegraph.

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