Plaid Cymru Cardiff Central candidate Martin Pollard talks to politics editors Carwyn Williams and Rhiannon Tapp. Martin joined Plaid Cymru about 18 months ago, and is also the Chief Executive of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.
Why did you want to be a candidate for Cardiff Central?
Well specifically for Cardiff Central, I have lived here for a large part of the last eighteen years. I love Cardiff. I think there’s a huge amount that this constituency has to offer. Cardiff needs to become much more ambitious in order to become a UK city and a world city, and at the moment we are not seeing that level of ambition for Cardiff or for Wales.
And do you think students are an important part of that ambition?
Absolutely, having been a student here in Cardiff, me and my friends fell in love with the city. With Cardiff there is a sense of community that you don’t tend to get with other big cities.
Students are vital to this city, and are essential for the future of Cardiff. I want to see far more students who come to study in Cardiff to stay in Cardiff, no matter where they’re from; with more jobs on offer and affordable homes for them to be able to do that.
Why should students vote in Cardiff, rather than back home?
I think it depends on you personally. I did vote in Cardiff when I was a student. I voted for a number of different parties before joining Plaid Cymru, 18 months or so ago. I think people should vote where they feel at home; if you feel like you want to make Cardiff or Wales your home, or even for the next three or four years, it’s important that you do vote here. Vote where the impact of policies will have an effect on you.
What do you think of the political record of the current MP for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott?
Well, she has been representing her local constituents in some areas, but you have to question it when you have any Liberal Democrat MP in a student area and look at the record of the Liberal Democrats as a party, in terms of the promises they broke when they entered the coalition back in 2010. Without wishing to personalize it, Jenny Willott has been a minister within the coalition government, and so has to bare part of that responsibility that has damaged the economy and led to students paying considerably more in tuition fees.
What is your stance on tuition fees?
Well, we think there are two different ways you can answer that. Firstly our ambition is to scrap tuition fees altogether, if we could, we would do that, but at the moment we can’t. And that’s because if you look at the policies of the Westminster Government and the austerity measures in place, its not possible to cut tuition fees. What we want to ensure is that Welsh students, studying in Wales are able to do that for free. And we certainly oppose any increase in tuition fees. However, realistically, at the moment, we can’t stand and say that we promise to get rid of tuition fees, because it’s not economically possible. One thing we’re noting is that it might be possible if Wales were fairly funded, if you look at the way Scotland is funded and applied that to Wales, Wales is underfunded at the moment by £1.2 billion.
Many students in Cardiff are from outside Wales, should they consider voting for the Welsh nationalist party?
That’s a very interesting thing; I was born in England, but now I consider myself Welsh, an honorary Welsh. Plaid Cymru is the most welcoming party, we haven’t gone along with the mainstream bandwagon and we are not afraid of confronting the norm and UKIP, like other parties are. We think just because you live in Wales you don’t have to consider yourself Welsh or speak the language, but Plaid Cymru are an alternative to mainstream politics, we are pro-immigrants and it’s impossible to have a good strong economy without immigrants.
What is your opinion of Leanne Wood’s leadership of Plaid Cymru? Is she taking the party in the right direction?
She is taking the party in the right direction, and a fantastic job at it. What she brings is real life experience, from a real valley community. She has seen first hand the cuts that have happened and she has first hand experience of the people to target and please then. She is part of a different type of politics, inspiring a new different type of politics, with the SNP and the Greens, that is fighting against the ‘grey’ three party system.
What would you say to people who might take Russell Brand’s advice and not bother voting at all?
I understand that people are feeling fed up with politics and traditional politicians. I understand they’re put off but I wouldn’t go with that. We have a democracy, it might have flaws but it’s important to elect politicians to represent your views. Not voting isn’t an option if you feel strongly about anything on the table. We’re in the situation where if you don’t vote, we could end up with another five years of the same.
Do you think that if there was an equivalent of the Scottish Referendum here, that we might see young people get involved and would we see that kind of participation here in Wales?
Yes, definitely. Plaid Cymru want the same powers that Scotland has, and 70% of the Welsh public agrees with us. I think here in Wales we’ve got the talent, vision and drive for more powers but we need more drive for more powers, and people for effect, not just managers, as our politicians. I think if we have those sorts of politicians, then we will definitely inspire young people to get more involved and support the idea of an independent Wales.