MORE than six in 10 people in Wales do not know the country is run by a Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition, a poll has revealed.
The survey, conducted by ICM for BBC Wales, showed that just 39% of people knew the current composition of the Welsh Assembly Government.
Some 26% believe Labour is in power on its own, with 10% thinking the party is in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Incredibly, a further 8% think Plaid Cymru is governing on its own, while 3% believe the Liberal Democrats are running Wales, with 2% thinking other parties are in charge. A further 13% said they did not know who was in power. The figures exceed 100% because of rounding.
And in a further blow to pro-devolutionists, the poll also revealed that fewer than half of respondents were in favour of the Assembly being given full law-making powers.
Just 49% of people questioned thought the Assembly should have the same powers as the Scottish Parliament, compared to 42% who thought it should not.
It is considered unlikely that a referendum will take place during this Assembly term – one of Plaid Cymru’s primary objective – unless the margin widens.
Cultural historian Peter Stead said, “These are extraordinary figures and represent a monumental failure. Politicians have failed to use the media to get across what is happening, but there are major shortcomings in the media too. Instead of the Welsh TV news leading on crime and human interest stories, it should lead on political stories, because they are important.
“The sad thing is that politics hasn’t broken out of the Cardiff Bay village yet. I’d like to see the National Assembly go on the road, with plenary debates all over Wales.
“These results do, however, put a different light on the howls of derision we had from certain quarters last year when Labour and Plaid formed their coalition. The fact is, most people don’t know it’s happened.
“I suppose another way of looking at this is that there’s more to life than politics, and that people are getting on with their own lives. When I was a schoolboy, I knew the name of every MP in Wales, and their majority. The other day I realised there are Welsh MPs I couldn’t identify.”
Mike German, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said, “I’m not sure whether to be pleased or saddened that 3% of people think we’re running Wales. I hope those people aren’t too saddened when they find out we’re not.
“The low numbers of people who are aware of who is running the government reflects two key issues that blight Welsh life. One, the general apathy people display with regard to the way the country is run until it affects them directly. Two, the absence of a diverse national media in Wales.
“While I’m sure Western Mail readers will be pretty clear about who is in charge, it’s a fact of Welsh life that the London-based media have responded to devolution by chopping Wales off their news radar.
“When most morning newspapers in Wales are printed in London, and many people in Wales receive TV signals from English regions, rather than Wales, it is a constant battle to ensure people know what is happening in their own lives.
“It’s no coincidence that support for the Assembly is strongest in those areas furthest from the border, where people are more likely to receive their news from the Welsh media. The more people know about the Assembly, the more they tend to appreciate it.”
Tory Assembly leader Nick Bourne, the leader of the official opposition, said, “These figures suggest Plaid Cymru is very much the silent partner in this coalition. It’s clear they cannot make their voice heard and most people believe Labour is calling the shots.
“After a wasted seven months of political rhetoric and policy reviews, the Labour-Plaid Government has made precious little impact with the people of Wales. With such a miserable record of under-achievement it should come as no surprise ministers are failing to engage with the public.”
But Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones said, “Considering Plaid has only been in government for six months, the fact 47% of people know we are now a party of government is an encouraging start. We should remember that only 44% voted in the last Assembly election and, after being in the job for seven years, only 42% could recognise that Rhodri Morgan was the First Minister.
“With improved North-South transport links in the pipeline, hospital services protected and plans to cut red tape for both farmers and businesses being delivered, Plaid in government is making a difference for the people of Wales.”
ICM interviewed 1,210 adults in Wales for the BBC between February 22 and February 24