By Callum Sloper
A student from Cardiff University has been selected by the Welsh Conservative Party as their candidate for Cardiff North in the next Welsh Assembly elections. The 2nd year law student and previous Big Brother contestant, Joel Williams, secured the nomination at the end of November 2018 and recently launched his election campaign on the 26th January.
Williams commenced his campaign by heading out into his constituency to speak to residents, starting in Rhiwbina. He has also been taking his campaign to social media, using his Twitter account to convey some of his key messages. Williams is an ardent supporter of the proposed M4 Relief Road, stating it is more necessary than ever before, whilst also expressing support for housing the homeless who are currently living on Cardiff’s streets.
Williams took a year out of his studies in 2017 after being elected as a councillor for the Pontprennau & Old St Mellons ward on Cardiff City Council. He also recently spoke publicly at the Students’ Union AGM against the controversial ‘Protecting our Palestinian and Jewish Students’ motion, where he joined with the Jewish Society in arguing that the motion would have created hostility towards Jewish & Israeli students.
The Welsh Assembly, which Williams is hoping to gain a seat in, is made up of 60 elected Assembly Members who control devolved areas of policy such as education, the NHS and transport. He will need to overturn a Labour majority of 3,667 votes to win in the next Welsh Assembly elections, which will take place on Thursday 6th May 2021.
Although the bulk of Cardiff University is in the neighbouring constituency of Cardiff Central, an estimated 8,268 students live in Cardiff North where the Heath Park Campus is based. This means that there is a potential for the student vote to play an important role in Williams’ bid to become an Assembly Member in 2021. Students are more commonly seen as left-wing when it comes to voting, with student support for Jeremy Corbyn & The Labour Party surging in the 2017 general election, so it will be interesting to see if Williams is able to win student backing under the Conservative banner.
Williams told Gair Rhydd that part of his plan to appeal to students includes “a commitment to work with employers to enhance post-grad opportunities”. He also expressed that he will be “working pragmatically with businesses to highlight the benefits of Cardiff as an employment destination, thereby creating skilled jobs and sustained employment”.
Williams’ offer to students is likely to chime better with final year and postgraduate students who are facing the prospect of entering the job market, although he also hopes to swing younger voters through his existing media profile. Williams made his debut in 2015 when he entered the Big Brother House by telling the world: “I would love to be Prime Minister, and yes, I do think it’s achievable”, giving a small insight into what was to come. He became the bookies’ favourite to win the final, before finishing as runner-up and returning to Cardiff to begin his studies as well as his political career.
With the 2021 Assembly Elections a few years away yet, Joel Williams has realistically just begun his political journey. It will be a long time before we see whether his campaign efforts will realise his hopes of becoming the AM for Cardiff North. Will he be able to overturn the Labour majority and ‘turn Cardiff North blue’? Only time will tell.