I listened to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's machine-gun delivery of gobbledegook in Middlesbrough last Thursday. What is becoming very clear is that the Government is stalling because its elected Assembly agenda is being slaughtered on all fronts.

I was surprised that what was billed at last year's launch as an 'Information Campaign' has now become a 'Soundings Exercise'. The tactics are deliberate to keep it all as vague as possible and say we are 'listening and consulting.'

Why? Because the Government knows what has been offered is ill-thought out, ill-conceived and ill-advised.

Last Thursday I heard in Prescott's delivery more 'maybes and probablies' than I have previously heard. His body language was uneasy and he was irritated and bad-mannered with questioners who wanted to know vital facts such as where will it be, how much will it cost, who will be able to stand and how much they will be paid, how many members and what powers it will have?

We are six months away and we still do not know what we are being offered!

So here is a prediction. The Government is facing massive losses in the European and local council elections. It has been forced to do a hugely embarrassing U-turn on the European Constitution. A referendum which the Government will never win.

They will not be prepared to face three certain defeats in the assembly referendums in the autumn and then limp mortally wounded into a General Election in the spring.

So if you hear a screech and spot a Jag or two doing a hand-brake U-turn and the referendum is postponed or cancelled don't seem surprised...but the millions wasted on this pointless exercise will be lost for good.

Neil Herron,

North East No Campaign,

48 Frederick Street,


Updated: 09:56 Monday, May 03, 2004