'The Old Man and the Sea' by Ernest Hemingway is a very good book. I've read it twice. When David Cameron delivered his 'Broughton Statement' it was the equivalent of old Santiago casting his line. The Welsh Labour Party takes the role of the unfortunate marlin who took Santiago's bait. Labour can huff and puff and thrash around all it likes - but there is no escape. There will be no veto of a request by the National Assembly for Wales for a referendum of the Welsh people on the issue of whether full law making powers in all devolved areas should be transferred to Cardiff Bay. If they ask, it will be granted. It's decision time. The ball in firmly in play, and it's in Labour's court. Around midday, the Labour marlin almost ripped the line from the old man's hands, but by nightfall, had accepted that the first swim for freedom had failed.
The horrible reality is sinking in. Welsh Labour knows that if a referendum is asked for, it will not be vetoed by a Conservative Government. Welsh Labour knows that the only time a referendum can now be held is Sept/Oct 2010. Welsh Labour knows that for this to be possible, a definitive decision to ask for a referendum must be taken before the General Election. Unfortunately for Labour, Plaid Cymru activists know it as well. If the decisive debate does not take place, the Coalition will fall. Labour tried it on today with this 'statement', which collapsed before the afternoon was out. Betsan reports on the climb down here. Carwyn Jones, if he wins, is going to have to face down his MPs or lead a minority government. The marlin will surely make another bid to escape - but it will not succeed. After a boring spell, Welsh politics is fascinating again.