Friday, May 29, 2009

My eyes, my eyes...

I decided this morning that rather than relying on Vaughan Roderick, I'd check out Lembit Opik's weekly column for myself online for the first time. Since I am running against him, I think its important that I do check out the pearls of wisdom he wants to share with the nation. Never again. Indeed, I have to praise the bravery of Vaughan Roderick for looking at it weekly. (Diolch a plis wnewch chi barhau gyda'r gwaith i arbed fy llygaid i!) Even though I knew the Daily Sport was bad, nothing had quite prepared me for how pornographic the site is. I can't believe an MP would associate himself with such a paper. All the main 'stories' were so degrading to women, and the site is scattered with sexual images.

Now, I'm no prude but in my mind, this is just completely unacceptable. I can't believe that his party is letting him continue to write in such a paper. It makes the Sun look like a broadsheet in comparison! The good people of Montgomeryshire deserve better. Surely, he'd have more of an impact writing for Farmers Weekly or something similar, talking about issues that actually effect his constituents? Opik seems to stick to the moto - all publicity is good publicity. Wrong. No wonder there's talk of de-selecting him - all those decent Liberal Democrats living in Mid Wales must be embarrassed and mortified by his actions. Bring on the General Election I say!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Night in after all...

At this precise moment, I should be on my way to Erwood Market Hall to represent Plaid Cymru at an Any Questions session organised by the Wye Valley branch of the Brecon & Radnorshire Liberal Democrats. I was really looking forward to taking part, but unfortunately have had to pull out as they'd also invited a speaker from the BNP. Whilst a part of me would love to challenge the BNP during a public debate and tear them to pieces, I don't think they should be given the time of day to be honest. By agreeing to share a platform I'd be legitimising their existence, and that's something I really don't want to do. Its a shame as I would have loved to debate with the other parties, but there we go. I'm sure I might get criticized for pulling out by some, but I have to stick to my principles. So, an unexpected night in for me tonight then. At least I'll have Question Time to keep me company!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wales on Sunday Poll

Well, well, well... Hardly surprising, but a poll conducted by the Wales on Sunday has found that 79% of those who voted wouldn't vote for their current MP in a General Election. Only one MP - Adam Price - managed to secure over 50% of support. The least favourite of all? Montgomeryshire's very own Lembit Opik with a staggering 94% saying they wouldn't vote for him again!

Ok, so there are problems with the poll. Only 1952 website visitors took the poll and I can't seem to find a full breakdown in order to see the number of people who'd voted in every constituency. Could be a very small sample in some, and a huge amount in other constituencies. Plus, there's no way of verifying that the voters were actually from that constituency. But, it is indicative of the depth of anti-politician feeling in the UK today. People are furious, and I can't say they blame them. I do hope the electorate aren't too rash when it comes to casting their vote though. Not all politicians are evil - some have genuinely worked hard for their constituents and should be kept in post. Others need to go. As I said this week, anything is possible in the next General Election. Every seat seems up for grabs - even a Plaid Cymru win in Montgomeryshire doesn't seem as laughable as it would have been a few months ago! Interesting times indeed.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

MP's Expenses Song...

This was sent on to me earlier so I thought I'd share it.

Wrestlo? Dim diolch!

Wedi bod yn chwerthin bore ma wrth ddarllen blog Vaughan Roderick yn dyfynnu colofn ddiweddaraf Lembit Opik yn y Daily Sport. Fedra'i law ar fy nghalon ddweud bod well gen i gael etholiad traddodiadol yn hytrach na phenderfynnu'r cyfan drwy wrestlo yn y mwd!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some thoughts...

2009 has not been a good year for politics. We’ve had scandal after scandal, and despite the Speaker’s resignation yesterday, I doubt things will change for a while. People have lost all faith in politicians, and to be honest, who can blame them? As I’ve said plenty of times before, being elected to represent a constituency is a huge honour and politicians would do well to remember that. Integrity and credibility are of paramount importance within a democracy and if people lose sight of that, well they deserve to be humiliated by the press and they undoubtedly deserve to lose their seats at the next General Election. Where there has been intentional fraud, I would also go as far as to say that some also deserve to be prosecuted.

The constituents I’ve been speaking to in Montgomeryshire are totally disillusioned with Westminster and are keen for the opportunity to cast their vote for a new MP as soon as is possible. People are genuinely asking why I’d ever want to get embroiled in such a world when I’m out canvassing and even expressing some concern that ‘a young girl’ like me should find myself involved in the dirty world that is politics. There’s a real sense that politics has become a dishonourable occupation and I think it shocked a few of them to see a youngish female going around canvassing. They’re so used to seeing middle aged men in suits go round spinning the same lines – it was nice in that sense to be able to surprise them!

Though expenses dominated much of my conversations with potential voters, we did go on to other topics as well, the most notable being TB and the culling of badgers, sheep tagging, street lighting, the closure of Woolworths, wind farms, local hospitals and transport in rural areas. These are all issues of huge importance in Montgomeryshire – many of which have had an impact on my own family living in the area. Elin Jones, the Rural Affairs Minister, is highly regarded by all I spoke to and the farmers in particular appreciate having a minister who understands the issues and problems they are facing and that they can trust to implement effective policies. Many were keen to hear and challenge my views on agricultural issues, and were glad to hear that I spent many a school holiday on farms in Montgomeryshire, helping out especially during lambing season. Indeed, I think they were pleasantly surprised that I could identify the different types of sheep and cattle at the farmers market from my days going round all the agricultural shows long before deciding I’d ever run for parliament. The response was fantastic and really positive – much better than I anticipated even – and I’m feeling encouraged. Personal donations have been pledged for the campaign by people who’ve never voted Plaid before, and there’s a sense of momentum building.

As I said yesterday, the events over the past few weeks means that anything is possible in the world of politics by now. It’s a truly historical time that we’re living in – democracy seems to be making a comeback – and no political party can take anything for granted. The challenge for politicians is to respond in a considered and appropriate manner and implement effective and long term changes rather than simply being reactive. More than ever before, manifestos will be of huge importance in the next General Election and every pledge will be scrutinised, and rightly so. My pledge is a simple one if I’m elected as Montgomeryshire’s next MP: to put Montgomeryshire first and represent the constituency to the very best of my ability, in a totally honest, open and transparent manner. Something tells me I won't be the only one campaigning on such a basis!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Interesting times...

Well,well,well... so Kirsty won't refute that the Lib Dems might de-select Lembit! What a week... Obviously, it would be the right thing for them to do in Montgomeryshire. But for those of us who are running against Lembit then it would indeed change the race quite dramatically.

Glyn is seen as the favourite by many, but my own campaign has also been given a considerable boost. The reaction when I have been out and about has been outstanding, and there's a real sense of momentum. Yesterday was particularly positive in Welshpool, and then at the public meeting. People believe that anything can happen in the next General Election, and will be scrutinising leaflets and manifesto pledges more than ever before. I had people coming up to me saying that they were definitely going to vote Plaid for the first time in their lives... and even offering to campaign. And these weren't obvious nationalists or Welsh speakers either. Can't wait to get back to Montgomeryshire asap and hit the campaign trail again. There's quite a few interesting events coming up that I'm going to attending from the very obvious to the not so obvious.

People in Welshpool yesterday would love a General Election as soon as possible. And I can't blame them... People are angry and they want change. Personally, I'd like a few more months to campaign but if it happens, then bring it on I say! This is an election like no other. No party can take anything for granted and that's why I'm excited to be a part of it all. Less people look dubiously at me when I say that Plaid Cymru are running to win in Montgomeryshire by now! The rule book has been thrown out of the window and anything is possible. Interesting times indeed!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Public Meeting next Monday

Details below in an article from the County Times. We're having an open meeting in Montgomeryshire next Monday night - anyone welcome to come along and ask anything to me and also Eurig Wyn who's running for Plaid in the European Parliament elections. Should be a fun evening! Hoping people will have some tough questions ready for us. If not, get thinking!

Question time for candidates from Plaid Cymru

Voters in Montgomeryshire will have the opportunity to question two Plaid Cymru candidates for forthcoming elections at a public meeting in Llangadfan.

Eurig Wyn, who is standing for Plaid in the European Parliament elections on June 4, and Heledd Fychan, Plaid's candidate for the Montgomeryshire seat in Westminster, will be facing the public at an open meeting to which everyone is invited.

"Eurig Wyn has already served as an MEP for Wales from 1999 to 2005, when Wales' representation was reduced from five to four, and he is an exceptional candidate," said David Thomas, Plaid's Montgomeryshire Chairman.

He added: "Both Labour MEPs, Glenys Kinnock and Eluned Morgan, are retiring and neither has shown much interest in Montgomeryshire. In fact, it would be fair to say they have been conspicuous by their absence. Plaid's MEP, Jill Evans, by contrast, is hardly out of the news and has provided immense support to the businesses and residents of Mid Wales. Labour is putting up a weak and inexperienced team so it would be great to have Eurig Wyn representing the interests of Montgomeryshire alongside Jill Evans in Europe."

Sharing the platform in Llangadfan will be Heledd Fychan, recognised as one Plaid's rising stars who has already come to prominence by her forthright views on student tuition fees and the celebrity status of MPs.

"Heledd is superbly talented and really has her finger on the button," said Mr Thomas.

He added: "She is one of Plaid's chief bloggers and has already attracted a wide following from both Montgomeryshire and beyond. S

"She is not afraid to speak her mind and has a passion to make politics in Montgomeryshire a serious affair again. She is committed to working full time for the people of Montgomeryshire and will be a huge asset as our MP."

The meeting will take place at the Cann Office Hotel, Llangadfan, Llanfair Caereinion, on Monday, May 18, starting at 7.30pm.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Post-Dublin thoughts

Whilst looking out of the window of the aeroplane last night as we started the descent to Cardiff, I felt conflicted. I was delighted to be home in Wales and struck by the beauty of the country whilst viewing it from the air, and yet I felt desperately sad that I'd had to leave Ireland after a fantastic few days there. Not for the first time in my life, I found myself thinking - if only I could be like Sabrina the teenage witch so that I could split myself into two versions of Heledd Fychan. I think that's the only possible solution to my dilemma. Both Heledd's would live extremely happy lives. The one Heledd would live my life here in Wales as it is now and the other would be a writer and a historian living in Ireland, sharing her time equally between Dublin and Galway. Unfortunately, since I am not Sabrina, I have to chose between the two options. Hence the feeling of conflict.

My years living in Ireland were phenomenal, and I miss it dearly. And its not just my time at University.Even when I lived there after graduating, it was truly magical. I had a fantastic circle of friends, an interesting social life and was happy, doing my research in the trinity library, going to comedy clubs, baking and just living a normal existence. I never wanted to leave. I'd started to learn Irish, and was determined that any children I'd have in the future would speak both Welsh and Irish fluently. I was even contemplating how I'd go about setting up a new political party in Ireland to represent the new Ireland, as I didn't have any affinity with the existing ones and yet wanted to be involved in politics there. I'd floated the idea past a few friends, and there was some consensus that one was needed that wouldn't be entrenched in the politics of yesteryear and yet was different enough to create an impact. An Irish version of Plaid Cymru perhaps!

I didn't make a conscious decision to move back to Wales. It was down to personal circumstances, and the decision was made overnight. And yet, it seems lucky that it did happen. All the things I'm doing now in Wales are the things I'd dreamt of doing when I was a teenager. Plus, more than ever, I really appreciate how important my family and the Welsh language are to me. Its fantastic to be back, and I'm loving working in Cardiff and campaigning in Montgomeryshire. It would be such an honour if I was ever an elected representative in Wales. I care deeply about the future of the country, and would like to contribute to its development for future generations. I wouldn't have had the same passion or understanding of what was needed had I become involved in politics in Ireland to a greater extent than I did. Student politics is very different to grown up politics! But the fact that I'm happy here doesn't mean that I don't miss Ireland. That's why I still say that I'll probably end up retiring in Galway after a career here in Wales! Wouldn't be a bad way to spend the last few years of my life…

Anyway, back to the weekend and my impressions of Dublin since the onset of the recession. Well, there were far less people out during the evenings and far less tourists than usual but other than that, I didn't see much of a difference. There were new expensive shops, bars and restaurants still opening and prices were still sky high in most places. There were certainly far more offers to be seen outside restaurants than usual - 2 for 1 meals or cheap lunch/ dinner meals - but the top end bars and clubs were as expensive as ever. I'd never been to a place called Krystals before, and I doubt I ever will again. It was one of those places where you paid the privilege to enter - 15 Euro - and then the had joy of having to pay sky high prices for drinks. I definitely felt that I shouldn't have eaten for six months if I wanted to fit in there. Oh, plus go platinum blonde with huge hair. And be orange. Skimpy clothes would also have helped. A complete overhaul really. Ah well - you find those sort of pretentious places everywhere unfortunately. I usually manage to avoid them as I much prefer to party in a good old-fashioned pub or a cheesy club anytime!

It was frightening though to hear stories from my friends about acquaintances of ours who have lost their jobs. Many have to consider now either to re-train in something else or move abroad. Both options are tough, especially if you have commitments such as a mortgage or a family. I can't imagine how distressing it must be. None of us ever imagined things would be this bad in Ireland again when we were in University, and its come as a huge shock for the majority. I am confident it will gradually recover though. Things had spiralled out of control and personal greed needed to be reigned in. At least this now puts people rather than profit back on the agenda. Well, that's the hope anyway!

There's an interesting by-election going on in Dublin South at the moment, with RTE's former economics editor George Lee running for Fine Gael. Its quite a coup for the party and his RTE bosses are fuming as they were only told he was quitting to run half an hour before the formal announcement was made. Lee has been very critical as a journalist of Fianna Fail's economic policies and many now feel betrayed that someone who was supposed to be unbiased has decided to run for the opposition party. Indeed, I heard quite a few people say that he would have been much more respected if he'd decided to run as an independent. Lee says he's doing his bit - putting his money where his mouth is. Its certainly a gamble, and I personally think it’s a brave and bold move. It seems that the seat is his to lose now. People seemed to be treating him like a pop star when he was canvassing, with elderly females even saying to him that they were praying for his victory. I'll be watching that result with great interest and will keep you posted on the blog of any developments.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Off to Dublin...

Well, I'm flying to Dublin this morning and I am honestly so excited . Its been ages since I was last over so it will be fantastic to be back, and catch up with my friends. I'm heading to the Trinity Ball tonight which will be a real blast from the past. Yes, I'm bound to feel ancient amongst all the students but my friend and I are determined to prove we can still party all night! Will then have to do it all again on Saturday night to celebrate my friend katie's birthday. Can't wait!

It will also be interesting to see how things are there at the moment. It will be my first time back since the recession kicked in, and i'm curious to see how Dublin has adapted. Though i've been reading the irish times online and so on its not the same as actually being there and seeing for myself what's changed. Expect a blog update on Sunday night!

Right, time to board my flight now with a copy of the daily telegraph. Should make for some very interesting reading today! Well, if you're a political nerd like me anyway.. Hope you all have a fun weekend!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Says it all really...

Even though the addresses are in the public domain, I'm not going to put them up here but its worth noting that the three top candidates for the Conservatives in Wales are registered to vote in.... England. Yes, seriously. Kay Swinburne will be voting in Ledbury, Evan David Lewis Price in London and Emma Louise Greenow in Staffordshire. Thank god for number four, David Chipp, who's voting in Monmouthshire. Still, 3 out of the 4 is a pretty damning... Hmmm, and I wonder why people doubt some Tories in Wales when they say how important Wales is to them?

I was feeling guilty that my vote is in Arfon rather than Montgomeryshire at the moment! At least I'm voting in the right country!

Ask Rhodri

I have a confession to make. I was one of the 17 'ordinary' people at the Ask Rhodri session last night. No, I wasn't spying on behalf of Plaid and I didn't ask any tough questions. I was there because of my day to day job so actually stayed silent and listened, which was admittedly a first for me.

It was a shame that there weren't more than a handful of us present, as it was a really interesting night. Rhodri Morgan spoke frankly and honestly in a way that connected with the audience. It was all very relaxed, and everyone who wanted to speak got a chance. The questions and questioning could have been tougher, but still... we Welsh can be terribly polite sometimes! Plus, since he's retiring I think people know that there's little he can actually achieve now - far better to focus your anger and ideas at those who will still be elected members.

I don't know why more people didn't turn up. Being the political nerd that I am, I'd actually turned up early to make sure I got a seat. It was very disappointing that they didn't have to turn anyone away. I honestly thought it was going to be full of people. After all, its not every day that you get the chance to ask the First Minister a question of your choice. It amazes me to think that a Plaid Cymru branch meeting in Montgomeryshire has more people turning up to it, more than double the numbers in actual fact!

Despite the low turnout, I'm still glad I went and I would encourage anyone to go along in the future. The Museum certainly got an interesting answer to the question we submitted, and it was obvious that Rhodri is fully informed and interested in our collections. But really, its the typical voters that should have been leading the way last night rather than organisations. Voter apathy is a challenge every political party faces, and there's no easy answer. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try though, and I hope the assembly continues to hold events such as this one in the future. I'll certainly be there but it would be nice to have some company as well!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh dear...

So Gordon Brown hasn't had a relaxing bank holiday weekend. First the little terrier that is Hazel Blears attacks him, now Harman wants his job. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost but not quite. After all, he has been a dithering and dull Prime Minister. And ineffective. No wonder that even his party faithful are losing all respect for him.

Blears said she was surprised by the reaction to her article. Surprised, really? Pull the other one love.. When you write an article which refers to a disastrous youtube clip by the Prime Minister and slate the way Labour are handling things at the moment when you're a cabinet minister, then what do you expect the press to do? Note it quietly? As if! I doubt she's naive enough to think that.

And as for Harman... Well boy, isn't she in need of reality check! Nobody wants her to be Prime Minister. She'd be a disaster, and she always make a mess of PMQs when she has to step in now. She should just be grateful that she somehow managed to become Deputy Leader and leave it at that. Ok, she's been back tracking all day but still.. its obvious she'd like the top job.

Politics is a nasty business, and when times are bad, the vultures start circulating. Its bad enough for a PM to put with the opposition parties, but when his own ministers start attacking him publicly then surely he must feel like there's no point carrying on like this. Knowing Brown, he will. He's waited so long in Blair's shadow and finally its his time to shine. Well, theoretically anyway. Didn't quite work out like that... And things aren't likely to get any better for him.

The sensible thing would be to get it over and done with now and call an election. Yes, Labour would in all likelihood lose, but possibly not as badly as if he decides to leave it for another year. Personally, I don't think he has the guts to do it. He'll be praying for a miracle, and hoping he can turn it around over 12 months. But it would be best. Surely, people are reminding him of what happened last time when Labour left the election to the last minute? Eighteen years of a tory government... Enough said I think.