4. LOCAL BRANCH ACTIVITY AND ORGANIZATION IN THE YES FOR WALES CAMPAIGN 1997 INTRODUCTION In September 1997 Wales voted by a narrow majority to accept government proposals for a devolved National Assembly for Wales. This historic ballot, together with a similar vote in favour of a Scottish Parliament a week earlier, marked the commencement of a new era of regional governance in Britain. However, the vote itself can also be seen as heralding a new style of electoral politics. Referendums are an unusual occurrence in British politics, held by many to be incompatible with the tradition of parliamentary democracy. Prior to 1997, large-scale referendums had been held on only four occasions on membership of the European Community in 1975; the Northern Ireland 'border poll' of 1973; and on Scottish and Welsh devolution in 1979 (Seyd, 1998).1 However, the Labour government elected in 1997 has taken a more positive attitude to referendums as both a populist measure for increasing public participation in decision-making, and as a way of approaching controversial issues. Since 1997 referendums have also been staged on the establishment of an elected mayor and Assembly for Greater London (May 1998) and to endorse the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland (June 1998). Further referendums are promised on electoral reform and British entry into a European single currency; and the government has hinted that referendums may be held as precursors to establishing regional assemblies in England, to institute elected mayors for cities outside London, for local decision-making on selection in state schools, and on local bans on hunting with hounds. The advent of the referendum as a common feature of British politics will bring with it a new style of political campaigning. The first-past-the-post electoral system and confrontational style of British politics have militated Michael Woods