Welsh devolution message finds apathetic audience

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Marion Jenkins ripped off a grinning Tony Blair mask and proclaimed "Yes. I'm going to vote `yes' for devolution."

Ron Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, looked suitably impressed, as well he might, considering the reception accorded to his team of campaigners urging people in the Rhondda to vote for an elected Welsh Assembly on 18 September.

Ms Jenkins set up her joke and costume-hire shop, "Sew easy to make believe", in Hannah Street, Porth, last year. Politicians are of some news value to her. "I've got two Tony Blairs for hire at pounds 5 a night," she explained. William Hague? "There's no call for him round here," she said.

By taking devolution to Labour's heartland, Mr Davies is seeking to secure a big "yes" vote in five weeks' time.

Apathy seems more of a threat in Porth, one of a string of former mining towns than the "no" campaign funded by millionaire Sir Julian Hodge from his tax haven home in Jersey. But a posse of campaigners, including Peter Hain the Welsh Office junior minister, Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North, and Wayne David, MEP for South Wales Central, worked the shopping crowds expertly.

Devolution does matters to 84 year old Gertie Challenger. "We're Welsh and proud of it. It's time we had a say in our own affairs," she said.

Alan Rogers, MP for the Rhondda has reservations because proportional representation is being introduced to elect 20 of the 60 assembly members.

However his constituency Labour Party's general management committee reportedly voted down a proposal calling on members not to support the "yes" campaign by the huge margin of 68 to 2.

In 1979, Welsh voters decisively rejected devolution by 4-1. Yesterday, although the atmosphere was more pacific than revolutionary, a touch of the evangelical broke through. There was no need to preach to the converted, but there seemed to be enough "don't knows" to swing the result either way on 18 September.

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