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For some, no still means no

The Yes campaigners in the Assembly powers referendum are unveiling what they hope will be their most compelling line-up of supporters today: people who voted  or campaigned for a No vote in the last Welsh referendum back in 1997.

Chief amongst them is the leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly, Nick Bourne. One of the leaders of the No campaign back then, he’s now one of the cheerleaders for a Yes vote this time.

Not all of his party has made the journey with him though as proven by the party in Newport, which has been the most vocal in opposing any further devolution.

And with the referendum just days away, they’ve gone further. I’m told every member of the Conservative group on Newport council – which shares power with the Lib Dems – has signed a petition ‘against giving the assembly more powers.’

I haven’t yet seen this petition and I know Yes campaigners will dispute its claim that this referendum has anything to do with more powers.

Even so, it’s a strong message from a prominent and powerful group of Welsh Conservatives and puts the Newport 17 alongside the group of  12 councillors in Wrexham which has taken a similar stance.

What’s not yet clear is how representative they are of opinion amongst grassroots Conservatives which is why the party’s officially neutral in the referendum. Not an easy position to be in for Nick Bourne, but at least it deals with the tensions within his own party.

I know of one senior Welsh Conservative who, despite being very much in favour of devolution, still hasn’t decided how to vote on this occasion.

But to put it in context, Yes campaigners say small groups such as the Newport 17, however prominent, don’t come anywhere near the many more from all parties and none who’ve signed up to the numerous groups and public meetings that have come out in favour of a yes vote.

We’ll know soon enough. But there might be an earlier clue before Friday’s results. ITV Wales has a YouGov eve-of-poll poll which is published on Wednesday.

By the way, the leading light among Newport’s anti-devolution Conservatives, Councillor Peter Davies, is claiming history – and the history of a different party – on his side of the argument.

The electors of Gwent though still being proud Welsh men and Women have always been proud of their right to independence. A fact Lloyd George will attest to when he held a public meeting at the City’s famous Kings Head Hotel near the market on 16 January 1896, and he was howled down when proposing Welsh Nationalism. After the meeting he  gave up supporting the cause of Nationalism.

Yes campaigners say these small groups don’t match up to the numerous groups and public meetings that have come out in favour of a yes vote.

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About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.

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