My modern Chronicles of Prydain 3 - Back on the train / Reality of elections

 Ed Fordham, campaign coordinator for Mid and West Wales, on his time in Wales

 

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After 24 hours at home (as I type this I realise it was in fact 19 hours) and I'm back on the train dashing back to Cambria - Wales, Ceredigion, Aberystwyth.

And as I leap on the train - mid conversation to the team my husband gesticulates furiously drawing me to the doors.  "The seat you have grabbed," he whispers, "its next to Quentin Letts."  Mercifully and timely the countryside of Cheshire intervenes to cut off my conversation and I return to my seat more aware and more guarded now.

We swap notes, Quentin and I, about the General Election, he's been to the Tory Manifesto launch in Halifax and was at the Lib Dem Nightclub in East London previously, and we mildly gossip about Ceredigion electing Mark Williams and the Liberal traditional battle in the marches and borders of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys. And then back to our work.

But it reminds me of the reality about elections of the number of participants - there is an assumption and an oft heard assertion that journalists are all London based, metropolitan elite, when in fact many of them are out about and more listening to what is said and hearing what people think and say.

Indeed oft unknown to the public is the extent to which journalists dig under the surface of elections - they see and hear the unguarded moments, they meet and speak to voters, they see behind the scenes.  In fact as well as the parties, the campaigns, the leaflets, the manifestos and pledges, the voters, the candidates there are also the journalists.  Have a little thought for them as they try and grasp, distill and report what is going on.  One last tip: be careful. You never know they might be sitting next to you as you vent your frustration at someone.

note to self: check the Quentin Letts column tomorrow and see if he heard me on the phone.

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Phil Sandalwood: A side way glance at the election by Letter - 1

I’ve had a cracking old day on Cardiff Bay this morning. It was a bit nippy from the easterly wind while waiting for the LibDem campaign bus but I stood next to Glenis from Brecon who was entertaining us waiting lot by reading out news updates from her smart phone. I wouldn’t use one of those things but I should consider purchasing one maybe if they can be such great entertainment value.
“Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson,” she said with a broad grin on her face, "is genuinely worried about some of the things that Jeremy Corbyn stands for and believes in".
“Look who’s talking,” a bearded man from up North – probably Wrexham judging by the accent said.
"This is a time of great uncertainty in the world...” Glenis continued and tried to frighten us listeners with a stare, but we were still in stitches. That Boris would bring this up so soon after his debacle with the Russia visit was the perfect irony. With the two most disturbing politicians fighting over who is more irresponsible, it’s no surprise so many people came out to see Tim Farron.
Only days after Macron won in France, the leaver likes of Boris just seem to have seen the best of their political days. He’ll soon be driving the campaign bus for Le Pen in la France, where he’s sure to receive a “grand” welcome.

In the mean time I met a young bloke from Llanelli, Rory. A 19 year old student of politics, who excitedly held up an orange LibDem placard. God those were the days, I thought. His enthusiasm reminded me of my first days at Bangor University and our protest marches supporting the miners against Maggie Thatcher. While I bit into my sandwich Rory revealed to me that he is the actual candidate for the General Election and had already been campaigning for the LibDems over a year. I nearly chocked on a lettuce leaf listening to his story. I thought the younger generation had given up on politics, but Rory told me how many of his friends joined the LibDems after the referendum. Well I take off my wooly hat and Birkenstocks to this new wave of youth activists. Low and behold, Party Leader Tim Farron arrived shortly after with the orange and black campaign bus and Rory was even the first on stage to speak to him.

 

As Rory left me standing alone watching him on the stage I had the pleasure to talk to a lady from Llandeilo. Turns out she’s been keeping busy. Lesley Prosser was candidate for the county election in her ward, got elected on the town council and is now the candidate for her constituency at the General Election. “The people must be sick of your face by now,” Glenis said. “How many leaflets have they all had from you since January?”
Lesley smiled. “There’s a few more to come,” she said. “The people are all happy that someone cares enough to knock on their doors time and time again. I’m having great responses at the door step.”
I must say I’m not surprised. Lesley had some home-made banana cake with her which she generously shared around.
“Labour leader wants a Minister for Peace, but is not a pacifist,” Glenis read out from her smart phone. I tell you, I take a banana cake from Lesley any day over such lukewarm peace sentiment. I think the cakes would go a long way further and be more effective.

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Focus on Lesley Prosser

Lesley Prosser is proud to be part of a diverse, aspirational and tolerant community in Carmarthenshire East & Dinefwr. She will represent the best of Welsh values in Westminster during the challenging times ahead.

Lesley has experienced first-hand how the power of education can enhance children's lives. She was raised in a working-class family in Ammanford and excelled as a pianist from a young age. She won scholarships to study music and later choose a career as a piano teacher while she raised her family.

Lesley believes that investing in opportunities for young people will have a transformative effect on our communities. This very belief led Lesley into teaching, where she focused on nurturing and guiding pupils with educational challenges such as autism and dyslexia.

Her success in creating and leading specialist development units led to her advising schools throughout Carmarthenshire where she was also instrumental in writing county-wide education policies.

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In addition to education, Lesley's signature issue is ensuring that Wales remains inclusive and outward-looking post-Brexit. As the proud mother-in-law of two Europeans, Lesley believes that immigrants bring an economic and cultural vibrancy that should be welcomed and valued.

Lesley's first political experience was co-ordinating the cross-party Remain campaign in Llandeilo and surrounding areas where, despite disappointing results nationally, a majority chose to Remain in the European Union. Lesley has since been active in local Lib Dem politics, finishing second in the recent council elections as the first Lib Dem candidate for county council in Llandeilo since the 1970s.

Lesley is deeply concerned about the effect of Brexit on Carmarthenshire and Wales and of a Conservative government on education funding. She fears that short-term budget savings will have a disastrous effect on our communities for generations.

Lesley Prosser is the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr

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My modern Chronicles of Prydain 2: Ceredigion - Getting Mark's message across

 

Ed Fordham, campaign coordinator for Mid and West Wales, on his first few days in Wales

So here I am in the Ceredigion Liberal Democrat offices - working above the shop, as it were, in one of the UK's nicest seaside towns: Aberystwyth. This is a place that has all the benefits of a seaside holiday resort without actually feeling like it. You have the crashing waves, the rolling surf, a medieval castle, strong soaring cliffs and small narrow busy streets. There are shops, cafes and restaurants galore and due to the University there is a youth, an optimism, a bustle that is genuine, sincere and doesn't feel cruelly seasonal or weather dependent

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And as you look around you also know that there is a rich seam of liberalism. Now when it comes to elections I'm not soft and try not to get carried away with optimism - I know that what has been hard won can be swept away - but here in Aberystwyth there is a determination and pride.

Determination to pull through this election with a good result that re-elects Mark Williams MP as the Liberal Democrat representative for this part of the world, and a pride that fuels that determination in going out and selling Mark Williams to the voters of the Ceredigion constituency. The team here know that Mark has been an outstanding champion for the town, for the area and for Liberal Democracy - the task is to ensure that the voters share that knowledge and reward it in the ballot box.

Now the added challenge is the scale of the rural nature of the constituency - driving nearly two hours to get across the seat - and that doesn't include the finding of your house, building or precise destination - and the extent to which there are clutches of 2-3 houses in some of the most obscure locations. All beautiful, and enveloped by the rolling hills, mountains and some of the most scenic rural idylls you could hope for, but all hard to locate an over in what is a compressed timescale following all out Welsh local elections.

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So our job here is to rouse the troops, mobilise the favours, harvest the hard work of casework done by Mark month after month, and to secure the new mandate we know he deserves. It's blindingly obvious to me and hopefully to you, but to the voter out there - sceptical, cynical and perhaps a tad jaded by politics - we need to explain that Mark Williams and the Liberal Democrats are a stand out exception here in Wales and deserving of your support.

Ed Fordham, c/o 32 North Parade, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2NF
ed.fordham@libdems.org.uk

 

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Focus on Tim Farron by Rory Daniels

Today Tim Farron came to visit Wales to launch the Welsh Lib Dems' campaign and my team and I travelled to Cardiff Bay to witness the occasion. The weather seemed un-typically Welsh, and as soon as the battle bus arrived huge cheers rang out through the crowds. Welsh party leader Mark Williams welcomed Tim before giving a rousing speech, highlighting the importance of the Single Market to Welsh farmers and businesses. All of us stood behind Tim and Mark, orange diamonds in hand, heads nodding at a steady pace throughout. For many members present, the issue of Europe is why they joined, and I hope it’ll be the reason for many more joining, too.

After Tim's turn to address the lively audience, I was the first of the parliamentary candidates to join him on the podium. Whilst photographs were being taken we managed to find something we had in common: the struggles of running for parliament during our exams. As he would later explain to me in more detail, it was a young Tim Farron and Theresa May that went head-to-head in 1992. He joked that he only lost by a mere twenty *thousand* votes. Even with the weather starting to turn more Welsh, the huddle around us managed a hearty laugh.

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My team and I were delighted at the number of media people that approached us, either for a chat or to arrange an interview. There seemed to be a real sense that the Welsh Liberal Democrats were looking strong in this election, and the media weren’t leaving without distributing their cards and candidates talked to. Finally, after Tim had given his last interview, crowds started to dissipate and he met a gaggle of Lib Dem university students for a photo and chat. There was just time for one final dose of laughter, as a young boy sat in the driver’s seat of the battle bus, and Tim joked that we’d found our new driver.

Everybody I met today, upon finding out that I’m a 19-year-old parliamentary candidate, greeted me with a sense of excitement. Time after time I heard ‘thank goodness you’re running: we need more young people in parliament!’. I couldn’t agree more. 

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I don't usually vote

Elections can feel as if there is little at stake, that they are about minor differences regarding levels of taxation at most and about other small issues. It's understandable that those less interested in politics don't exercise their right to vote because they don;t see the big differences between the parties. And voting doesn't always seem to bring a big enough change.

This time, however, the situation is gravely different. The referendum was decided by a small margin, making many people who didn't vote partly responsible for an outcome they actually didn't want. Yet, the outcome will affect their livelihood dramatically.

The choices Theresa May is making now will affect your life much further than any of the laws and bills that have come into being over the last 40 years: How we bargain with the EU and whether we can keep access to the single market will affect your job prospects, your bank balance.

It's not too late to show Theresa May that you don't agree with her hard Brexit and her heartless policies. International research projects in science and health, intelligence cooperation, our trading ability and overall prosperity are at stake and it should be you who gets to decide whether the deal she negotiates is worth the hoped-for gains from leaving the EU. 

The Conservative manifesto also includes some grave invasion into social media and privacy laws and endangers civil and human rights which will impact your every day life. A vote for them is to surrender control to an authoritarian Prime Minister on polling day.

Since its existence the NHS has never been in a bigger crisis. Voting Tory will reduce the quality of and your access to our free health services and worsen the way our elderly and parents will be looked after. Your vote will decide whether parts of this institution will be sold off or privatised, ignored and run into the grounds – or whether there will be a solid funding from a 1p Income Tax increase to save this valuable service from its current crisis.download_(2).jpg

Conservative school cuts will limit your children's chances, depending on your income and unfair funding, ignoring actual class sizes. You can stop the planned cuts as well as the pointless introduction of grammar schools and vote for a better funded education system instead. 

Your vote will determine whether you and your children can enjoy a future free from pollution with larger portions of our electricity coming from green sources or whether short term opportunism will lead to more premature deaths from increased environmental damage.

Your vote will decide if we reach a house-building target of 300,000 homes a year by 2022, keep housing benefits for 18 – 21 year-olds, extend free childcare to all two-year-olds and reduce the cost of bus travel for the 16 – 21 year olds. The Liberal Democrats will ensure a safe global world by suspending arms sales to countries with poor human rights records and making sure at home that no vote is wasted by introducing proportional representation and giving 16-17 year-olds the right to vote.

All of these issues will determine your future, your prosperity and chances in life. Your vote will decide if you will be stuck in an isolated nationalistic world of the past or in an open, tolerant and progressive future with opportunities for you and future generations.

Does this sound like a vote you want to miss?

A vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats can change Wales's future – your future.

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“More Health and Education workers needed in Parliament and more Politicians that listen to the views of those on the ground,” says Andrew Best, Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Torfaen

Andrew_Best.jpgHeadteacher one day, Headteacher and Parliamentary candidate the next, standing for election even took Andrew Best by surprise. 

As a full time Headteacher of two Worcestershire schools Andrew is taking his candidacy in Torfaen very seriously. He is eager that the voice of the public sector is being heard and wants to see more health and education workers in Parliament.

“I’m concerned that as a group we are under-represented and that we should be in Parliament leading on policy.  In 2015, over 60% of MPs came from a business, finance or politics background, whereas only 13% of people came from an education or health background.” 

However Andrew believes that lessons can be learnt from the Parliamentarians who listen and take on board the views of those in education and health.  David Laws was the Liberal Democrat that introduced the Pupil Premium to temper Gove’s right wing policies.  Kirsty Williams is listening to Welsh teachers to make improvements in Wales despite funding issues caused by Westminster.  Andrew says “The money available to spend by the Welsh Government depends on the funding decisions in London.  We have seen, over the last few years, a sustained reduction in resources available to the Welsh Government. But, despite that, this year we have seen an increase in the overall education budget and that includes money going to the pupil deprivation grant and making money available for reduction in infant class sizes.”

Andrew says: “Some of the policies of other parties are not supporting health and education and unlike Kirsty Williams they just don’t listen. Theresa May is betraying working families by scrapping school lunches.  The Liberal Democrats provided a free hot meal at lunchtime for all infants and will extend to all primary school children, many of whom are from poorer working families. Theresa May is cynically taking those meals away and forcing families to pay, with a cost of £1000 for a family with two children in year 2 or below.  On top of that we have party policy dreamed up on the whim of one person.  Grammar Schools are the personal mission of Mrs May and would cause damage in England and waste resources. The more money that is spent ineffectively in England, the more likely that this will impact on us in Wales in reducing our deal.”

In Health the issues are the same, responding to a warning from the chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee that general practice is on the “brink of collapse,” Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb commented: “Instead of £350m a week for the NHS, under the Conservatives we’ve seen the health service being gradually run into the ground. 

Andrew says “Health and Education need investment and our Welsh government needs to be given the finances to support a good deal in health and education.  The long term deal is also under threat from a hard Brexit or the Brexit that the Labour party have no idea what it will look like.  It is time that we increase the Liberal Democratic voice in Parliament but also get a voice for the public sector who fight daily for families and their rights on the ground.”

Andrew Best is the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Torfaen

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Housing Benefits for 18 - 21 year-olds

Rory Daniels, Welsh Lib Dem candidate for Llanelli says:


Young people in Wales deserve the same rights as everyone else. The Welsh Lib Dems will 
reinstate housing benefits for 18-21 year-olds.

 

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Focus on Jane Dodds and her campaign team

One of my General Election campaign highlights was meeting the activists in Newtown today. Our Montgomeryshire candidate Jane Dodds heads a highly motivated, skilled and competent team – no wonder the book makers put her a close second with quite good odds for a potential Lib Dem gain.

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The atmosphere in the Liberal office, a stunning building from 1620, was buzzing with excitement and can-do attitude. Among the crowd were several of the 17 recently elected Lib Dem county councillors, still glowing from the joy of their success at the ballot box. 

I'm personally chuffed about Jane's great bookies odds because I happen to know her from several Welsh Lib Dem conferences and think a lot of her, politically as well as a person. 

I’ve met Jane at a Lib Dem Conference in Wrexham. I had no idea then who she was and what she stood for. All I remember was a lovely lady who spoke with good manners who could hold her own in discussions. I liked her and was taken in by her friendliness and welcoming attitude towards me. As I spoke to people at the conference I learned that Jane was quite an activist and had already made a name for herself in Montgomeryshire, campaigning for health care, environment and social services.

If you look at her website, Facebook page and twitter stream you can see how active a candidate she is, and that's all year round, not just during this election campaign.potters.jpg

“Might well be our next MP,” a friend who lives in the area reckons. “Wouldn’t mind that at all, and so would quite a few of us. Time we had an MP who’s in touch with the people and the issues at hand.”
I would like to think so, too. After all, Labour can't win in the constituency, so it's between an old guy for the Conservatives and our dynamic Jane.

To come back to the meeting: It must have been one if the most efficient ones I've experienced. Everyone was focused and well prepared and plans and action points were drawn quickly, but all in a calm and confident manner. If you ever need to experience the calm inside a Lib Dem campaign team show up at their beautiful Liberal office in Newtown, Montogmeryshire.

Jane Dodds is the Lib Dem candidate for Montgomeryshire

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Christoph Fischer on why students should vote

Why should students bother to vote?

 

The referendum was decided by the older generation, depriving the younger people of the future they desired. The choices Theresa May is making now will affect your Brexit-riddled life even further: your job prospects, your freedoms, your privacy, your civil and human rights, your bank balance, the level of pollution of the environment you and your children will live in, quality and access to health services, education and how your parents will be looked after.

It's not too late to get a say over the deal Theresa May plans to negotiate with Europe. Student exchange programmes like Erasmus, International research projects and your ability to work abroad are at stake and it should be you who gets to decide whether such a deal is worth any possible gains from leaving the EU.

The Conservative manifesto includes some grave invasion into social media and privacy laws and endangers civil and human rights that the younger generation has taken for granted. How the gap between those willing to surrender control to an authoritarian Prime Minister and the more liberal youth plays out on polling day will decide how harsh you will be affected.

Another civil right that the younger generation probably is taking for granted is free medical care, i.e. the NHS. Your vote decides whether parts of this institution will be sold off or privatised, ignored and run into the grounds – or whether there will be a solid funding from a 1p Income Tax increase to save this valuable service from its current crisis.

Britain needs an economy that creates jobs and opportunities. Your vote will decide how much money the UK will invest to stimulate growth and how much money will be poured into education, research and innovation.

Conservative school cuts will limit your children's chances depending on class sizes and, more importantly, your income. You can stop the planned cuts as well as the pointless and bizarre re-introduction of grammar schools.

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