The Welsh Liberal Democrats challenged Plaid Cymru on the eve of their conference to provide clarity on their position on LGBT+ rights and equality.
Last week a young trans woman of colour was removed from a hustings meeting after protesting about her inability to question a panel member and sitting Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Helen Mary Jones, over her previous comments on trans rights. The young woman has since blogged about her experience.
Leena Sarah Farhat, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Diversity lead, said:
“I was in the hustings. I saw a young woman removed from the hustings just for displaying a trans flag. The organization has given a mealy-mouthed statement that means nothing. But even worse, is the Plaid Cymru response. Helen Mary Jones remains a candidate, despite supporting groups that use language that harms and puts trans people at risk.
“If she was a candidate who said similar things about race, or disability, she would have been shown the door a long time ago. Does Plaid Cymru believe trans rights are less important? The lack of action by Plaid when it comes to discrimination is worrying."
Helen Mary Jones has been criticized widely for her support for the anti-trans group Women’s Place, and has shared content that uses trans people’s dead names – an action that puts them at huge risk of reprisal, or other hate crime.
Oliver Townsend, the Welsh Lib Dem candidate for Islwyn, and himself married to a trans man, added his voice to Leena’s call for action:
“This is about fairness, about hearing the voices of people who are under constant attack. My husband’s entire life feels like it is under constant attack from a right-wing element in our country – and I expected better from someone like Helen Mary Jones.
“I used to look up to her. When I was much younger, I thought she spoke so passionately for young people. It breaks my heart that she cannot see the damage she is doing, but sometimes standing up to people you respect is more important than staying silent.”
Both Leena and Oliver have called on Plaid Cymru to issue a statement addressing the row, and to pledge that action will be taken.
“If I was in the workplace, and I was sharing content and views like this,” Oliver said, “I would be disciplined. Plaid really need to think about what message they are sending to LGBT+ people, and those who stand with us.”
On first sight there seems little in Rishi Sunak’s budget to scare the horses. With tax threshold increases delayed and Covid support continuing for the time being, Sunak has avoided an immediate hit to families’ wallets.
Look below the surface though and what becomes apparent is that those on the lowest incomes will suffer the most once the measures outlined in the budget kick in.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Economy Spokesperson Andrew Parkhurst said:
“The most glaring example of this is the cruel decision to reduce universal credit at the end of September by £20 per week, just at the time when unemployment is expected to rise. This will hurt the poorest families the hardest and shows the lack of compassion and empathy that is at the heart of Tory thinking.
“The freezing of income tax thresholds may look harmless enough. The effect though will be massive – particularly if inflation takes off - and will hit the lowest earners the hardest as more and more workers get caught by the threshold and have to give up a fifth of the additional cash they earn. The wealthy on the other hand don’t get the personal allowance so freezing it has no impact on them.
“Even raising the rates of corporation tax will end up hurting ordinary people. It may seem like a tax on the rich – hence its initial popularity – but ultimately the tax is paid by customers, workers and shareholders. It will therefore put upward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on pay and dividends.
“The existing rate of corporation tax may be relatively low compared to other major economies but there are many factors that influence international businesses on where to invest. Leaving the EU has already made the UK a less favourable destination for businesses wanting access to the EU so this just seems like the worst possible time to remove a competitive strength.
“There was precious little in the budget about helping the excluded 3 million entrepreneurs, and nothing on reforming the broken business rates system or helping exporters hit badly by Brexit.
“Reforms to social care were also absent (despite Boris Johnson’s assertion 20 months ago that he had a ready-made solution), as was anything extra for NHS staff or carers.
If the Tories were serious about rebuilding our shattered economy fairly there would have been more about enabling businesses to flourish, encouraging exports, attracting inward investment, ensuring the economy is more resilient and able to withstand future shocks, investing in public health and protecting the most vulnerable.
“As it is, Sunak may have kept the Tory’s manifesto commitment not to raise headline rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT but in doing so he has sacrificed the poorest members of society and risked damaging our national interest.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are pleased to announce their candidates for the Mid and West Wales region in this year’s Senedd election.
The list will be led by party leader Jane Dodds. Jane will be joined on the list by former Assembly Member William Powell, Alistair Cameron, Cllr Steven Churchman and Cadan ap Tomos.
Jane Dodds and William Powell are both former parliamentarians and will be fighting hard to regain this seat along with holding Brecon and Radnorshire for the party.
In 2016 the Welsh Liberal Democrats were just 2,214 votes short in a region of almost 450,000 voters from winning a regional seat in addition to Brecon and Radnorshire.
Jane Dodds and William Powell (photo taken in 2019)
Jane Dodds said:
“I’m delighted to be leading the list in Mid and West Wales. As we emerge from lockdown and hopefully put Covid behind us we need a strong voice in our Senedd to ensure our rural communities are represented in the corridors of power.
“I am passionate about bringing people together, improving life chances for the least advantaged and finding ways to protect the natural world while generating a thriving economy.
“If elected I will speak up for all of Mid and West Wales and ensure that in the coming years every decision I make will help put our recovery first.”
William Powell added:
“I am looking forward to this campaign. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the difference one Liberal Democrat can make to the Senedd and I’m keen to see that number grow.
“Mid and West Wales is a very special place made up of unique communities, with land farmed by families over the generations and vibrant towns and villages each of which add character to the Wales we know today.
“I’m looking forward to fighting a positive campaign that champions the issues that matter to people across Mid and West Wales.”
Liberal Democrats across Wales have expressed grave concerns that proposed blanket water pollution measures will cause serious damage to our local farming communities.
The Party has condemned the heavy-handed and uniform policy being debated by Senedd Members today. If approved it will apply to all farms and farmers regardless of their size and the impact of their farming practices, which the Party says will hit small family farms the hardest.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are urging for a delay in the implementation of these measures while evidence is re-evaluated. The Party is also calling for funding to be increased to Natural Resources Wales immediately for an extensive monitoring programme of water quality throughout the country, including around all treatment works and sewage outlets.
William Powell, Agriculture Spokesperson and Senedd Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire, said:
“River pollution in Wales and across the UK absolutely needs to be tackled.
“However, I share the frustration expressed by NFU Cymru and FUW leaders that the Minister has decided to launch such a fundamental initiative in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when she promised 11 times not to do so.
“I also agree strongly with the view expressed by NFU Cymru President John Davies that this issue needs a partnership approach and one that extends beyond party divides.”
Mark Williams former Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Ceredigion and Rural Affairs spokesperson added:
“To embark on this initiative as we still grapple we a Covid-19 pandemic, and in the wake of the concerning implications of Brexit, is foolhardy at best.
“There is real concern and anger in the farming community across Wales, and once again, a view that genuine concerns have been ignored. We fervently believe in the principle that the polluter should indeed pay, and the sector must have the resources to deal with this, but Labour's ‘cut and paste’ approach in these regulations is not the focused and nuanced approach that is required."
The Party proposes an eight-point plan to tackle water pollution is available here.
A new Bevan Foundation report highlights has revealed the impact of Covid on household finances across Wales.
A new report from the Bevan Foundation has highlighted the impact that the current pandemic has had on finances of Welsh households. The report indicates that almost a quarter of Welsh households have seen a fall in their income due to a mixture of business shutdowns, furlough pay and redundancies.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said this report needs to act as a wakeup call to Wales and to whoever forms the next Welsh Government.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said:
“This report highlights the real damage done to our economy. Covid isn’t just a health crisis, it’s effecting every aspect of our existence. It should be a stark reminder that many people have lost a significant amount of income over the last twelve months and that when shops and restaurants do eventually reopen, our economy won’t magically return to normal.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross party economy recovery council to be established, made up of representatives of all major political parties, to work alongside business leaders and academics in order to discuss and a agree a sustainable and effective way forward.
“This report needs to act as a wakeup call to whoever forms the next Welsh Government and they need to ensure that their plans are bold and radical and that our recovery from Covid is put first.”
Commenting on the decision from the Office of Rail and Road to reject Grand Union's plan for a new Carmarthen to Paddington rail service which would have directly challenged the monopoly currently enjoyed by GWR, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said that this was a regrettable decision:
"This is a regrettable decision which will disadvantage passengers and only lead to higher fares and less choice.
"If we are to meet our obligations and aspirations on reducing carbon emissions we need to be encouraging people out of their cars and onto public transport, this decision will do the opposite."
Welsh Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Councillor Steven Churchman added:
"I hope this isn't the end for a potential second operator on this route and that soon passengers will benefit from increased choice and lower price on the railways.
"Competition drives innovation and provides the customer with choice and opportunity to challenge pricing. The decision taken by the Office of Rail and Road will be a blow for customers in these three key areas. Ultimately the only winners will be GWR at the expense of the environment and customers.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today called upon the Welsh Government to pledge to remove all unsafe cladding from homes and tower blocks without directly charging home owners.
The news follows a similar announcement from the UK Government. There are an estimated 148 high-rise residential buildings in Wales most in Cardiff and Swansea, several of which have been identified as having cladding which should be replaced.
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said:
“Three and a half years after the devastating fire at Grenfell it’s worrying that so many properties in Wales are still at risk because of unsafe cladding.
Many people living in high-rise properties across Wales do not feel confident that their property is the safe and are worried about potential fire risks.
“It’s high time the Welsh Government acted to make these homes safe.”
Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats have urged local MP and Welsh Secretary Simon Hart to take urgent action to end the trading barriers which are severely damaging Welsh ferry trade with Ireland fuelling concerns for the long term future of our ports.
This follows the claim by Glenn Carr, general manager at Rosslare Europort in Ireland that Wales should only have one ferry port in Pembrokeshire following a reduction by 49% in Rosslare’s UK ferry traffic. The Liberal Democrats believe it is essential to keep both Fishguard and Pembroke Dock ferry ports open.
Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said: “Some companies have chosen to take the sea route from Ireland to the European continent rather than going through the UK’s land bridge. They have done this to avoid the trading barriers which have arisen from our hard Brexit. Mr Hart and his government colleagues need to ‘step up to the plate’ and take urgent action to eliminate these trading barriers before we lose one of our precious ferry ports.”
Tina Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire said: “Both Fishguard and Pembroke Dock are vital ferry ports to our local community and to local businesses. Staff at these ferries have worked very hard to provide an excellent service which also benefits tourism and local trade. The government needs to end its trading barriers with Ireland to avoid the catastrophe of one of these ferries closing.”
Commenting on the cancelation of the 2021 Royal Welsh Show Welsh Liberal Democrat Agriculture spokesperson William Powell said:
“This will come as a grievous blow to many in the farming community across Wales.
“The Royal Welsh Show is an opportunity to showcase the best of Welsh farming to the world. Many businesses rely on the show for a significant part of their income and to lose this two years in a row will add yet more pressure to those who are already struggling.
“The Welsh Government must step up to the plate and ensure that firms who are already struggling due to Covid are appropriately helped following today’s news.”
A decision by the First Minister that volunteer political leaflet delivery isn’t allowed under lockdown restrictions is “an attack on our democracy”, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have said.
Whilst supporting the many measures the Welsh Government have implemented to tackle and irradicate Covid-19, Welsh Liberal Democrats firmly believe that election leaflets are a vital part of allowing the electorate to make an informed decision and party volunteers should be able to deliver these.
Mark Drakeford has stated in response to a Senedd Written Question that he doesn’t believe that political parties should be using volunteers to deliver leaflets and has suggested that parties should use paid delivery options instead.
With just over 100 days to go until the scheduled Senedd elections, Welsh Lib Dems argue that the delivery of literature is a vital part of democracy. Any restrictions on volunteer delivery will adversely affect smaller parties and independent candidates, creating an unfair advantage to larger parties.
Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that election leaflets are vital to allow the electorate to make an informed decision, and not allowing easy distribution of them could bring the results of any election into question.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:
“This is an attack on our democracy and a clear, partisan attempt to prevent election campaigning. Only last week the Welsh Government and the Electoral Commission said it was safe to hold elections, yet now Mark Drakeford is telling candidates not to deliver leaflets.
“Mark Drakeford should be following the science and not party politics. If it is safe for individuals to be paid to deliver leaflets, then it’s safe for volunteers to do the same. Stopping volunteer delivery means that only large parties and rich candidates will be able to campaign on any great scale.
“Previously any changes to the way elections have been run have been discussed by political parties and other stakeholders - this hasn’t happened in this case.
“I honestly thought Labour were better than this.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform and Ceredigion candidate, Cadan ap Tomos added:
“These elections need to be fair as well as safe. If candidates can’t deliver leaflets and communicate with voters, then they simply won’t be fair.
“For Mark Drakeford to say that leaflets can be delivered by post but not by volunteers is utterly inconsistent.
“The time when only the rich could stand for election should be well and truly behind us. Does he honestly think that a democracy where other parties can't hold Labour to account is the type of Wales he wants to live in? Does he think that an election under these conditions on 6 May will be free and fair?
“This is a blatant attempt to shut out smaller parties and many well-meaning independent candidates out of the democratic process.”