Thursday, 25 February 2010

Cross Party Lady Love

I don't want to get Matt Smith *too* excited, given what he said on his Formspring profile about his political crushes, but I am full of admiration for Plaid Cymru's Bethan Jenkins this week.

This is Eating Disorders Awareness week, and as I've had a family member struggle in the past with anorexia, it's something of a pet subject for me. Bethan has been a champion in highlighting the cause. First in a guest post for the F-word blog, she set out the reasons for her dismay with the results of a Beaufort survey carried out to assess people's attitudes to eating disorders in Wales, and set out the actions she is spearheading with her cross-party group on eating disorders and new charity BEAT Cymru in order to tackle the problem. It's impressive, holistic stuff -- I'm not going to repeat it here because I'd rather you went and read it. On Tuesday she cemented her actions to raise awareness by asking a well-worded question at Business Questions in the Senedd.

Eating disorders are insidious, subconscious, and symptomatic of an underlying mental health issue. They are to be taken seriously. I am glad there is an elected representative shouting about this cause in Wales, regardless of the party colours she wears. Cheers Bethan, I'm right behind you on this one.

St David's Day

For those of you who remember the Welsh Liberal Democrats' last Assembly Election manifesto, you may remember it included a commitment to making St David's Day a public holiday in Wales. It was also a commitment of Plaid Cymru, but as they haven't seen fit to bring it about or even bring it up thus far in almost two years of coalition government, I am going to assume they won't bother in the next two, either. I don't envy them trying to share power with the bloated carcass of fauxcialism..

Thankfully someone has at least spent a few minutes of their time putting together this petition on the Number 10 site. It's worth your signature, even though the last attempt failed. Maybe Gordon Brown will be more inclined to provide a little boost to morale in the run up to what will no doubt be a difficult election for Welsh Labour this year ;)

I've signed, with a wry smile on my face at my little fantasy that perhaps 'Iwan Llewellyn', who submitted the petition, might be a pseudonym of a miserable Ieuan Wyn Jones, resorting to any way he can think of to get Labour to listen to his ideas. Too mean?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Shocking Teen Pregnancy Figures for Wales' Labour Heartlands.

According to the BBC, Merthyr Tydfil has the highest rate of pregnancy (73 per 1000) among 15-17-year-olds for the whole of England and Wales, with Rhondda Cynon Taf coming second. And is anyone surprised?

What really irritated me, though, was the same tired response as we always get to these stories, that wasn't even graced with a name:

Proposals to tackle teenage pregnancies in Wales were unveiled last summer with plans for better sex education to be taught.

The assembly government also aimed to cut the rates of sexually transmitted infections and highlight the dangers of unprotected sex.


The Assembly Government are missing the point. Sex education *is* crucial, but it's nothing new. It's not better sex education that's needed, teenagers know very well how contraception works and how babies are made. What's needed is a paradigm shift whereby more teenagers in Wales realise their own value.

This is about young people having such poverty of aspiration that the only thing they can imagine will give them self-worth is the dependency of a child. When you have grown up in a place that was once a proud community, but has had its heart and soul ripped out of it by generations of Tory and Labour misrule; when your chances of shaping yourself a future by going to university are dashed by the eyewatering amount of debt you have to get yourself in to even try it; when you can't get a job or even a role in training no matter how hard you try or how capable you are; when as a childless, jobless young person you are treated like scum by the jobcentre staff.. it's a fairly inevitable consequence.

Maybe that's why so many people in Merthyr are so happy to have been presented with an alternative to the status quo. Amy Kitcher grew up in Merthyr, and she's radical, progressive, and wants to bring positive change and fairness to the valleys she calls home. She's started this in her role as the town's youngest ever woman councillor, as well as in an impressive breadth of experience in charity work. In the 2008 local elections, she and five colleagues took council seats for the Liberal Democrats and formed what was arguably that council's first official opposition in a very long time. The voters in those wards must have felt that breath of fresh air that can only come when so many people have been so disenfranchised for so long. And the old order of Labour and Independent councillors with their snouts in the trough and their backs on the people is very much under threat. Good! I hope she ends up as MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney in a few weeks' time. Not just because she's a Liberal Democrat and I'm some kind of cheerleader for everyone with a yellow rosette, but because in common with the vast majority of our candidates nationwide, she's a real fighter for social justice and equality, with deeply held convictions and values. That sets her leagues apart from those slick-suited career politicians who are in it to make themselves look good, to get their freebies, and to earn an easy buck with their smooth talking skills with no real connection to the words that are coming out of their mouths. It's those uncaring career politicians, the snakes so prevalent in the two arrogant and interchangeable main parties, who give glib remarks about planning better teaching of sex education and assume they will be seen as doing enough. At a time like this what young people in Wales need is hope and opportunities, not a patronising teacher putting a condom on a banana.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Do I aspire to being an MP?

Fair question I suppose, but one I find really tricky. I suppose the answer is no, but I'll elucidate.

When I was little, I used to watch Prime Minister's Questions with my grandad, my mum had given me a basic grounding in who did what in the commons before I went to school, politics was always something that was talked about around me, but at the same time, none of my family were 'joiners' of any flavour. I admired the things Paddy Ashdown said when I was what? 9? 10? and had I known then how easy it would be to be a part of politics, it would have been an ambition. As it was, I saw that there were only a limited number of people in that chamber, and just assumed it would be beyond my reach at such a subconscious level that it never occurred to me. Even though my mum has always told me I could be Prime Minister if I wanted. Mums say that stuff. She also says I could win a Nobel prize.

Right now? I don't have the time. It takes years of full-time dedication to become an MP, well unless you're in the labour or tory parties where they have safe seats and can get people on those green benches with no real effort or intention of engaging with the individuals they represent.. but I wouldn't want to be that kind of MP if I was going to be one anyway! I have my daughter to raise, I have a business to run, I have a whole life lived outside politics and my membership of the Lib Dems is more a matter of moral support and interest than it is ambition.

In the future? I can't say. I don't know how I'm going to grow in the next ten years any more than I could have told you who I was going to be now when I was 19.

Ask me anything http://formspring.me/stephm0g

Thursday, 11 February 2010

That's a Harder Question Than "Which Way do Your Joists Run?"!

How much honesty and integrity would you have as a politician-would you "toe the party line"? Name three policies of the Libdems/things that any Libdems stand for that you disagree with?

I really can't foresee any great desire to be 'a politician'. I have far more fun being a gobshite party member. That said, I'm not going to skirt the serious question..

Honesty is paramount to me. If I can't look myself in the face and know I'm ok with everything I've done and said, then I feel ill. If the party ever wanted me to lie or cover something up, I'd be the first to refuse, and to walk if I had to. I might look like a 'cheerleader', as one LDV commentor recently put it, but that's really not the case. To me, the preamble to the party constitution chimes so precisely with the way I feel politics should be, that it's a gut thing. And if policies and ideas don't match with that gut feeling, I'm very uncomfortable with them.

You want me to get out my controversial side for the lads, is it? Well, I've not got much dissent to voice, but here are your three examples, such as they are:

In common with Lembit and several others within the Lib Dems, I was against the ban on hunting. The party at the time, including then leader Charles Kennedy, was for it and I was pretty disappointed in them. They did at least allow a free vote on the issue, but I think we may be due a new debate on this one. I'd like to see it overturned. Put simply, it's illiberal.

A little further down the awkward almost-libertarian niche in my instincts, we find the voice in my head that every time I reread that policy of spending the money saved by ditching ID cards on 10,000 extra police officers responds by saying "really? REALLY?!" -- I think there's better ways to spend it. I know there are in fact. Taking away one way of recording and monitoring people and replacing it with more people to watch people and collar them for any perceived wrongdoing is um.. nonsensical in my view. But then I do come from Pembrokeshire, where the police we've got are already so bored from a lack of much to do that they seem to fill their time playing a game of "stop and search every young person in a car". Give me the evidence that 10,000 extra police officers will enrich the lives of UK citizens and make the country a better place to live, and I'll be behind it. But for now I'll stick to my view that people are a lot more likely to behave like criminals if they're treated like they're guilty until proven innocent. I'd like to scrap some of the 20% of the world's CCTV cameras that record our every daily move in this country, too. How much would that save? Can we spend it on preserving biodiversity and improving the maintenance of urban green spaces, please?

As for things individual Lib Dems stand for that make my hackles rise - here's one solid example that highlights a recurrent problem. Tom Brake and his Early Day Motion of 2008 to ban cannabis seeds (still highlighted on his own website here: http://snipurl.com/uc956). Banning things is not high on any liberal agenda, frankly. And this kind of bandwagon-jumping is what makes doorstep campaigning tough going at times for those of us who don't indulge in it. It's all very well Tom making himself more popular with his constituents in the moment, but when he's doing it by signing up to some Daily Mail worthy, kneejerk conservative action, I am not impressed. There's far more integrity in sticking to liberal principles and giving the counterarguments, even if it's hard. Even if it costs you votes. I would never want the banning brigade to vote for me anyway.

Lifted wholesale from here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Curious?

Live for the next half hour, and around periodically after that. Ask me anything you like, no topic off limits but no guarantees you'll get an answer either if you get too out of hand! http://formspring.me/stephm0g

Monday, 8 February 2010

Taking the Mick

Poor Mick Bates, eh? What rotten timing, to have a night out go completely Pete Tong for an AM right at the worst possible moment, when the Welsh Lib Dems are trying to have a nice bit of upbeat conference coverage.

Oh, hang on. If you squint at this article you'll see that although it was written this morning, the incident in question happened on the 20th of January. Wonder why it wasn't considered news til over two weeks later then? I'm seething.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Blah blah who would you do a deal with blah blah blah..

Really, really, REALLY tired of every time a Lib Dem has any airtime, the only thing the interviewer keeps asking is what the party would do in the event of a hung parliament.

Get. this. through. your. heads.

IF one was generally supportive of the Conservative party, they would join the Conservative party. IF one was generally supportive of the Labour party, they would join the Labour party. (Though why anyone would want to do either is beyond me).

The Liberal Democrats do not exist as some organisation who just wait to see who they can lend their influence and expertise to. They're a party in their own right. In case you haven't noticed, they have a fully costed manifesto based on their own guiding principles and liberal instincts. Their own agenda.

Whether the Lib Dems are the third party, the second party, the outright winners or partners in a coalition, what they will do is the same as they do in those different positions at different levels all over the country - they will push for the reforms that make taxes fairer and greener, politics more accountable and less paternalistic and corrupt, and individuals freer to make their own choices over their own lives.

It's simple enough to understand, media goons! Think of some new questions, we've had enough years of the tired rehashing of this one. Or better yet, try asking Labour and tory talking heads whether they would go into a coalition with each other. It has to be said, those patronising authoritarian stuffed shirts all have more in common with each other than they do with any of my friends...