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Comment Jonathan Edwards Politics

Johnson must pull a rabbit out of the hat to save the Union

DESPITE being in the middle of the Senedd election as I write this article with less than two weeks until election day and postal ballots in the post, the real political action is likely to come in its aftermath, writes Jonathan Edwards MP.

The main reason for this is that it seems the SNP Express is about to steamroller its unionist opponents in Scotland, even though the electoral system was precisely designed to stop SNP domination.

This means that the national question will be the centre stage of the UK political debate, regardless of what happens on May the 6th.

It will also consume the political debate in Wales, giving added fuel to the fires of Yes Cymru.

The current Prime Minister of the British State is the sort of guy who likes to pretend problematic matters don’t exist.

He far prefers to stick his head in the sand and snub any elephants that cohabit a room.

It’s true to say that the British Government has used Brexit as an excuse to rage an all-out assault on Welsh and Scottish powers and that all the assets of the State are already being deployed to hype up project fear 2.

However, the key issue that will face the Prime Minister on May the 7th is that there will in all probability, with the obvious caveats that anything can happen in politics especially in the last week of an election, an SNP Scottish Government with a clear electoral mandate to hold a second referendum.

Simply saying ‘no’ to such a referendum in my view would become an untenable position for it would mean that the British State was no longer a voluntary union of nations.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but I suspect the Scots are highly unlikely to take that as an answer from their Westminster overlords.

Whilst opinion polls indicate a steady majority for independence, such intransigence by Westminster would be a tipping point.

The so-called ‘project love’ won’t even do as a sticking plaster when dealing with the political dynamics at play.

Whether he acknowledges it or not the Prime Minister effectively faces two choices when reality bites, both of which are equally unpalatable to him at this moment in time.

The first he concedes the call for a referendum.

Some unionist strategists believe if a referendum is inevitable and it’s better to go early as father time favours the nationalist cause.

This is where I believe it gets interesting for us in Wales, as the same strategic thinking also applies to our case.

At the rate the Yes movement is gathering momentum in Wales, it’s far better to fight a referendum in the next year or so than face the inevitable further down the line.

Referendums are in the gift of Westminster.

When Labour boast in Wales they will block any vote on Welsh independence they have neglected to consider that it might actually be in the interests of a Tory British Government to put the question.

Tory strategists will surely look just beyond the consideration of the best timing for the unionist side in a referendum.

They will be acutely aware that an independence referendum will further polarise Welsh politics on the national question offering the best hope of dismantling Labour political hegemony as it did in Scotland.

The second option is that Johnson will bring forward a new Act of Union creating a confederal structure as a means of modernising the British State into a fit shape for the post Brexit era.

This ‘shoot the fox strategy’ could only probably be carried off by Johnson, and would actually play well with the forces of English nationalism that he inspires if messaged as empowering England as opposed to conceding ground to the Celtic periphery.

In essence, this would devolve all powers apart from areas such as defence, foreign affairs, monetary policy, and the monarchy. In areas such as the internal market and trade, and war-making, formal equal partner frameworks would be set up.

Conceivably Johnson could follow a third strategy, with an act of Union that either abolished the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments or removed their autonomy completely. That, however, will surely encourage a backlash that Westminster won’t be able to control.

On the eve of the Brexit referendum, Boris Johnson famously wrote two letters for each option. The first weekend in May could see a similar candle burning exercise in No 10.

This brings me back to the election and the choice facing the people of Wales.

Who do they want to lead Wales through the big debate on the horizon?

Labour and Tory politicians whose first political instinct is to bend the knee to Westminster, or nationalist politicians who have spent their whole political careers aiming for this point in the history of our country?