Senedd Election 2021: Cardiff Central Candidates in their own words

Senedd Election 2021
Polls predict that any party will struggle to form a majority government in the Senedd following this election. Source: Wojtek Gurak (via. Flickr)
Gair Rhydd interviews 9 of the 11 candidates for Cardiff Central ahead of the Senedd election 2021. Voters will head to the polls on May 6.

By Hallum Cowell | Head of Politics

Voters in Wales, Scotland and parts of England will head to the polls on May 6. Voters in Wales are voting to choose the next Welsh devolved Government. Those living in the Cardiff Central Constituency have the choice between 11 candidates, one of which will represent the area in the Senedd until, at least, the next election in 2026.

Gair Rhydd reached out to every candidate for interviews to give voters in Cardiff Central a look into the beliefs and arguments of each candidate. By May 1 nine of the eleven candidates have given either a spoken or written interview. You can find the full transcripts of these interviews below.

Jenny Rathbone – Welsh Labour

Zoom interview conducted on April 9 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

Because I think Welsh Labour has got the experience and the radical solutions to the challenges ahead. Just as we emerge from the pandemic, we’re now going to be entering a jobs crisis as well as a climate crisis and a nature crisis, and we aren’t even out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic’s concerned. Why should they vote for me? Because I’ve got ten years’ experience doing this and, we’re going to have a very difficult situation ahead. I think this is not the moment to be learning on the job.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

I don’t actually, I think that that is a national poll and doesn’t really tell you about the individual situation in each constituency, so it’s not something that Welsh Labour is taking that seriously. I think that it is worrying that people still think that Boris Johnson is somebody who is doing a good job. In some way that must reflect Boris Johnson’s performance, but I think that’s because people are possibly not paying much attention to what the UK Government has been doing in terms of giving a lot of money to their friends, which is corruption, and the opposition should be calling that out.

I don’t think, I would be terrified, if I thought people were going to put their trust in the Welsh Conservatives to run Wales at this difficult time, given just how far they’ve moved to the right. They’ve managed to purge most of their most sensible one-nation Tories from their ranks and the people they’ve put in in place seem to be people who are very little different from Abolish the Assembly party.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I think all University students are having to make huge sacrifices to protect people who are at risk of COVID. There’s no question that young people are doing something that is very honourable to protect people who are at risk of COVID. I appreciate that this is an incredibly difficult time for young people whether they’re three or thirty-three. And I think that life is not great for students and it obviously wasn’t the experience that students signed up to when they decided to come to University.

I have huge sympathy for students and the frustration they must be feeling because coming to University is all about being able to debate issue with colleagues and at the moment it’s all very artificial, to have all your lectures online is just not exactly the same as being in a tutorial where you can discuss things. But, hopefully as of next week you will be able to resume a lot more of what you normally do as part of your University education.

I think from the public health point of view that the situation really is very satisfactory at the moment because everybody’s been obeying the rules so as long as people are sensible and don’t get close to people, there’s still a lot of people who are carrying COVID even though they don’t know about it. I think people really do need to not go mad; as long as that happens I think we’re in a positive situation at the moment for resuming a lot of normal activities.

Mark Drakeford announced he is stepping down after this election do you think that decision will help or hinder the Welsh Labour Party, and who do you think is likely to succeed him?

He’s not stepping down any time soon, he will step down in time for somebody else to get into place before the next election in 2026. It’s really difficult at the moment to know who the candidates might be because we don’t know who’s going to be elected. I think it needs to be somebody who’s bilingual or at least has a good grasp of the Welsh language because I think that’s such an important part of our identity, we don’t all speak it, but I just think that is such an important part of who Welsh people are. As a feminist I hope it’ll be a woman, but we’ll have to wait and see because their politics will also be important.

Anything else to add?

A point I haven’t managed to get across yet which I’d like to, is the importance of Welsh Labour’s pledge to all people under the age of 25 that we will guarantee them a job, training or education. That’s a really important pledge for those of you who are coming to the end of your courses, you can be certain that you won’t then just be on the doll which is obviously a very depressing experience if you’ve just spent £27,000 on doing a three-year course. I think that’s a really important pledge to ensure that all young people are productively employed in something that relates to their interests and their direction of travel that they wish to take in their career.

I think that’s the most relevant one for students and one that, it doesn’t matter if you come from another part of the world, as long as you’re in Wales you will be able to rely on Welsh Labour if we’re in Government to ensure that you get either a job or an apprenticeship, or some training relevant to you interests, whilst we reshape the economy in line with the climate emergency. the NHS recovery plan is actually really good; young people who have mental health concerns arising out of the experience of the pandemic or for other reasons, I think there’s going to be a lot more talking therapies and much more collaboration, much more partnership, between citizens and our health and well being services.

Wil Rees – Plaid Cymru

Zoom interview conducted on April 13 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

Well, first of all it’s really important that students do vote, whichever party of candidate they want to vote for, they need to get out there and make their voices heard. Having just graduated myself as a student from Cardiff last year, I think perhaps I am the candidate best placed to understand the recent student experience throughout the pandemic and to know the wants and needs of all students across Cardiff. I’ve got a strong track record of having helped deliver positive change for students over the past few years as well, having played a part in the successful campaign to get the Welsh Government to ban letting agency fees which has saved students hundreds of pounds in the process.

Plaid Cymru also have a real bold and progressive policy offering in our manifesto, we aren’t just the party of Welsh speakers and, if you Wales to be a better place; whether you were born here or not, whether you’re a student or not, whether you’re from Wales or beyond we are the party for you if you want to make Wales a better place. Labour has been in power in Wales now for coming up to 20 years and it’s time I think for a new government that will turbocharge the Welsh economy and replace Labour’s record of broken promises and lack of ambition. Now in terms of specific policies that I think will resonate with students; a Plaid Cymru government will establish a national youth jobs guarantee to provide training or secure employment, earning at least living wage for every 16–24-year-old that needs one. Working on a green recovery, caring for our children, for our elderly, for our planet.

We’ll make it easier for young people to get on the housing ladder through building 50,000 new social and affordable homes. We’ll take action to ensure an end to vice-chancellors paying themselves excessive salaries. We will establish a network of youth wellbeing centres for mental and physical health support for young people who maybe aren’t ill enough to require advanced psychiatric treatment yet need help and support with their mental health. Finally and I think most importantly, for me at least, is to tackle the climate crisis and doing that through setting Wales on a mission to decarbonise and to reach net zero emissions by 2035, banning non-essential single-use plastics this year as well as introducing targets to restore biodiversity by 2050.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

Well I certainly hope so, although I would like to see Plaid Cymru at the top of that election result of course. This really is a campaign like no other, and especially on the regional second votes it’s a close three horse race between Labour, Tories and Plaid Cymru.

So everything is there to play for. The pandemic has shown that when Wales goes our own way, that we do better and I think that has contributed to a change really in Wales, or a change that’s beginning at least. I come from a Labour family myself and if you told me at the last Senedd election that both me and my Dad would probably be voting Plaid Cymru, let alone me standing for the party, I would have probably laughed in people’s faces. But everything that’s happened over the past five years has created an unpredictable political environment where anything can happen.

So, no one can say for sure what is going to be the result on May the 6th but I really think from Plaid Cymru’s point of view we have a golden opportunity to get one of our best ever results in an election and if we win that will really set Wales’ future on a new, brighter, different and more ambitious path.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I think for sure, I’m not really sure if anyone can deny that. Having seen my final six months at university change beyond belief last year and seen the disruption continue now into the new academic year, talking to my friends and house mates for example, it’s clear that students have been let down. Even with individual lecturers trying their best in challenging times, it’s clear to me at least that students have been let down by higher university authorities as well as the Welsh Government.

On the academic side, students for years have been told that face-to-face teaching is more effective, necessary, even mandatory and that lectures won’t always be recorded even if students with genuine accessibility needs have specifically requested that. But with virtual learning now commonplace the pandemic has completely shattered that myth for example and, to be honest, I do have a lot of sympathy with students who are saying that they aren’t getting the same value for money from their tuition fees in comparison to previous years. So personally I’d like to see all options considered to make sure students are getting what they paid for also, on a different matter, when it comes to situations like isolating in halls or student accommodation and students have been told they’re not allowed to travel at certain times, go home for holidays or Christmas or whatever, students have faced massive impacts on their mental health and then when they’ve gone to ask for further support to help deal with that they’ve been turned away really and people looked the other way when they should be securing support for them.

They have been let down and even now young people and students are almost being scapegoated to a certain extent by the UK Government at least for being told they need to do their bits and get the vaccine when in fact what needs to happen is for the Government to get their act together and actually offer the vaccine to young people as soon as possible because I’m pretty sure I can speak for the vast, vast majority of young people and students when I say that we want the vaccine and there’s not going to be any issues with us not wanting it. And so it’s up to the Government to make it available to us.

Welsh Independence has seen rising support over the last few decades; however polling has never shown a majority in favour of a Welsh nation separate from the UK. With this in mind do you feel that Adam Price’s pledge for an independence referendum in 5 years, should Plaid Cymru take the Senedd, is attainable?

A Plaid Cymru majority government would certainly be a mandate to hold an independence referendum by 2026 and that referendum will put Wales’ future in Wales’ hands. We understand that not everyone is there yet with us in terms of being able to vote for independence but what we will do in government will hopefully show that Wales will be better off as an independent country in our own right. In terms of polling support, in the past two weeks polling has shown that up to 39% would be ready to vote for independence. Now obviously that’s not a majority but that’s before a proper campaign and even without a Welsh Government that’s in favour of it in the first place and it’s a much, much higher baseline of support compared to where support for Scotland independence was, say, before the SNP took support of Scotland in 2007 and unlike the EU referendum Plaid Cymru will ensure that in the event of any such campaign detailed and thorough proposals will be published to show what an independent Wales will be like and what we will be able to achieve. No one is denying that it’ll be tough, it will be hard work but Plaid Cymru are ready to put in that effort so yes, to answer the question, I do think that pledge is attainable but only if everyone who wants that referendum votes for the only party who is offering it in this election, which is Plaid Cymru.

Anything else to add?

(no further additions)

Calum Davies – Welsh Conservatives

Zoom interview conducted on April 12 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

Although I’m a bit long in the tooth now compared to some students, because I just celebrated my 25th birthday last week, I’d still like to think I’m a young person and as a young person I don’t feel that the Welsh Labour Government has worked for me at all, and I’d ask if it has for you as well as a student. We younger people have given up more than a year of our lives to protect older generations during the pandemic, but it seems that sacrifice will go without compensation, let alone reward. Although the Conservatives may not be the natural home for students, they’ll struggle to find in Cardiff Central a better champion then me when it comes to opposing intergenerational unfairness.

We need more housing and the Conservatives have said they’ll build 100,000 homes over the next 10 years, and I personally would oppose domestic vaccine passports before at least every adult’s been able to have, not offer, have at least one jab at the minimum; my natural instinct is to oppose such discriminatory schemes anyway, but that’s at least my red line, my reddest line of all. Welsh Conservatives I know would offer partial refund on tuition fees to reflect the sub-standard education and experience students have had during the pandemic. Like many reading this I’m at the end of my tether in compromising my freedoms in the best years of my life as to protect people who say they love lockdown, drives me crazy when I see that in polls and stuff. These are the same people who might think that young people are terrible for ignoring restrictions that are making our lives a misery and they clearly don’t give a damn that our generation suffered worse than any other age group during last year in terms of mental health and employment all the while house prices rise beyond reason to the extent where walking around leafleting places in Cardiff Central going, I’m never going to be able to afford to live in any of these places.

Although I am standing for the Senedd I would want the UK Government to seriously examine the imbalance that exists when it comes to how generations are treated, I don’t want anything in return as a young person, but surely after the year we’ve had and the years to come it is becoming harder to sustain schemes like the triple lock on pensions. If elected I would like to explore the feasibility of using the income tax altering powers that the Senedd has to the benefit of younger people, to be honest, as a way to not only help them but also empower the economy for the good of everybody. And, I’m not just saying this as well because I’m talking to a student newspaper, these are the things I’ve actually said to friends, colleagues and indeed party members during the candidate selection process. I think a change does need to happen when it comes to this attitude. Also, just to rattle off some lines about what the Conservatives are actually going to do for younger people in terms of trying to get them back into work; we’re going to deliver 150,000 apprenticeships by 2026, refund tuition fees for those that choose to work for at least five years as doctors or nurses in the Welsh NHS, cutting tuition fees in half for Welsh students studying STEM and modern foreign languages. Basically trying to use in a very dynamic way the most economically beneficial degrees. Also we want to ensure that there’s proper mental health services for learners to access in schools, colleges and uni.

In terms of helping young people actually access work as well, helping young people access education, training and employment like I said with free bus travel and discounted rail travel for 16-24-year-olds, that was a policy we’ve had on our books for three years, so I’m happy we’ve committed that one. And also at a younger level, sort of pre-university, scrapping the Welsh baccalaureate to allow people to focus on GCSE, A-level and other vocational equivalents. When I did my Welsh baccalaureate, albeit it has been reformed since I did it in Sixth Form, I had to do a numeracy and literacy modules even though I was doing maths and English at my A-levels so there was a very poor use of time there for a lot of people and it’s been often used as some form of grade inflation basically so I’m not a super fan of that, looking to get rid of that really. Quite a few things there for young people to ponder I think, especially students.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

Well firstly, we don’t comment on polls like that really, and someone like yourself who has an interest in politics to the extent where they’re covering it for the student newspaper, there’ll be political scholars reading this that will easily be able to identify why we don’t comment on these polls. We know that voters are abandoning Labour, as we saw in 2019 because not only because of their governance in Wales over the last two decades but they do seem to be divorced from national values as well. As well as their flirtation with nationalism, the reasons to not vote Labour increase by the day and people decide to vote Conservative because we’re focused on the same priorities the voters have; we’re focused on Health, on education, the economy. Yet we hear the other parties flirting with messing around with the constitution at a time when that really is not what people want to talk about right now at all.

I think our policies have quite a lot of common sense in them, they’re not extreme or anything they just get the job done and that’s what we’re seeing a lot of from voters the last year, probably because they’ve got sick of all the arguing because of Brexit, they just want results. Labour’s domination and record I think is also what’s leading significant number of people in this country to move towards Devo-scepticism and I’m not surprised, I mean who would support a system that is being used as a gateway to independence, has seen not only our nation fail to keep pace with the rest of the UK since devolution but also actually fall backwards in many areas and also fail to rouse the public interest which is evident in low turnout. So, it’s not surprising to me that Devo-scepticism is going up and I think that is down to Labour, their own failure however, I would also then say that the solution to this is to vote for a party like ours, not the trumped-up jokers in the Abolish party who are clearly in it for jobs for the boys to be honest. If all those who voted for us in the 2019 General Election would vote for us in May this year there will be a Welsh Conservative government, it’s that simple, it is possible.

The Conservatives didn’t win Cardiff Central in 2019 that is true, but it is a realistic prospect that a government of some form can exist that isn’t dominated by Welsh Labour and it has been a problem trying to get that message out, not just in this election because of it’s unique circumstances but across the years. Why would we want to live in a one-party state, it’s just not healthy for democracy either so I would encourage people to vote for a party other than Labour for the necessary change that a change of government creates in the country.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Absolutely, and when I say absolutely I’m, again, not pandering to the student newspaper, I really do. I am really annoyed about how young people have been treated and that does go for students. I couldn’t imagine being a student right now, not only in terms of maximising the resources, I was a big user of my University library when I went to university in Manchester, but it’s also  getting the most from your learning experience. You get square eyes looking at zoom all day, listening to your lecturer or something. Sometimes you need that being in the room, it also gives you the energy I think, being around other people. You can also be quite lethargic, I’ve had it working from home over the last year, it’s not the same as having the buzz from other people being around you. But also being restricted from living your best life during some pretty formative years, people go to University not just for the education but the experience and get into their first years as a young adult, living independently. It’s actually a really important part of life experience there. Again, also with mental health, University can be pretty anxiety inducing not only in terms of making sure you get good grades, but also for first years leaving home for the first time it’s pretty important. I think this has just really exacerbated all those issues, especially when you have to be cooped up in, sometimes one-bedroom apartments or very small spaces for a long time, it can be really frustrating.

Of course, lots of students can go home with their parents and enjoy that but at the same time it might be a bit regressive, you might become your younger self while you’re trying to develop as a person, but it’s really frustrating. And that would be the same for those who don’t have a home to go back to and they’re already having to live their life, so I imagine it’s really frustrating. Add on to this paying full whack for an inferior service and unions voting what is, by the looks of it in Cardiff becoming an annual basis, to strike is basically a slap in the face to students who are consumers as well as future workers. This is totally unfair on them and I have friends in Cardiff University who tell me how annoyed they are with the way they are being treated, and I’d wage that they’re a pretty representative sample when it comes to the feelings of students about how their experience has been over the last 12 months. Of course we haven’t actually got a definite end in sight, it looks like you guys will finish this academic year still in some form of lockdown, or some form of restrictions, where’s the return to blended learning? And when does that blended learning start to accelerate into something back to normality because going back to normality is what people want.

Andrew RT Davies replaced the previous leader of the Welsh Conservatives in late January, do you think that this leadership change close to the election will hinder Conservative efforts to gain the Senedd?

Not at all, I know why you’ve asked that, there’s a logic behind it. But Andrew is a charismatic known quantity. He was our leader in the last election and voters in Wales, don’t keep a watchful eye on the Senedd on a 24/7 basis and usually, like in all elections really, you only really get into it in the last final weeks. And I think that that sense of continuity at election time is actually a bonus rather than a hindrance. He’s experienced and he knows the game, he would have done FNQs for over six years and contrast his energy and personality to pretty drab Drakeford and a rather egotistical Adam Price, and I think the choice of who should be First Minister is obvious. What would hamper Conservative efforts to gain control of the Senedd, or at least get in government will be wasted votes on non-parties like the Lib Dems and Abolish, rather than choosing a realistic alternative to this one-party state. We’re the only party that’s not interested in constitutional navel gazing, we’re getting results for people in Wales through backing business and improving public services and that is something Andrew is saying on a daily basis.

Anything else to add?

(no further additions)

Julian Bosley – Reform UK

Written Answers received on April 21 2021

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election? 

Students of today are the future of Wales. On graduating many will go on to become the leaders of our country, will protect our health and environment and through work pay tax to support our elderly. Across the UK, over 800,000 people have lost jobs in the past year, 54% of these have been among people aged 18 to 24. Reform UK will commit to never again having a full-scale lockdown for the people of Wales or any local area of Wales. We will adopt an approach where data drives decision making and those most at risk are offered protection to save lives, save businesses and protect jobs. Reform UK are a party that believes in raising the threshold at which people start paying income tax to £20,000 which will put more money into students pockets while working through education and when they graduate. We want to create an internet sales tax and scrap business rates in Wales to level up the playing field and give students fewer barriers to setting up in business in Wales. We also oppose and will never introduce vaccine passports for the population of Wales, and they serve little benefit domestically.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

Welsh Labour has dominated politics in Wales from the heritage of many decades of support. The current Welsh Labour party do not share the same values and beliefs as the party that parents and grandparents voted for. No vote should be taken for granted and politicians should work for the people of Wales, and not the people working for the politicians. The Senedd elections with the second vote being proportional representation mean that every vote matters. A vote for Reform UK on the second regional vote, even for those who choose to vote for Labour, or the Conservatives will put a diverse voice into the Senedd. If 1 in 10 people in Wales vote for us we will ensure the two-party state is held to account.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

University Students have been badly let down during the pandemic for several reasons. The standard of education with online learning has not been what students have paid for. Universities have of course not expected this shift due to Government regulations, but we believe students deserve some of their money back. We have been campaigning for students to have a third of their fees back. Across the UK, over 800,000 people have lost jobs in the past year, 54% of these have been among people aged 18 to 24. It is not only the delivery of education that has been badly hit but also the opportunities for employment to supplement income. Students have been labelled as super-spreaders of the virus through no fault of their own and for many people who have been away from home for the first time, the impact of the lack of social mixing cannot be underplayed. We must ensure this never happens again.

The Reform Party talks a lot about wanting to reform councils and the Senedd but what would these reforms look like, what kind of changes does the party support?

See attached file from manifesto

(You can find the Reform UK manifesto here, page 7 was attached to the email)

Anything else to add?

(no further additions)

Munawar Mughal – Abolish The Welsh Assembly

When offered an interview by Gair Rhydd, no response was received.

The Abolish the Welsh Assembly “statement of policy” reads as follows;

“The main aspects of the policy are:

Abolishing the Assembly/Senedd thereby removing a whole layer of politicians, 60 already in Cardiff Bay shortly to be raised to 90, and saving the £65+ million annually needed to support them

Giving tax powers back to Westminster, so we can’t be made to pay more tax in a Wales made so much poorer by devolution

Restoring one National Health Service, so patients in Wales can be treated equally to England, with shorter waiting times and better health outcomes

Allowing academies and free schools to set up in Wales to offer a better choice of schools, including the subjects taught and language used”

A complete copy of the Policy Statement can be obtained and downloaded by clicking on the following link

Our message is as clear as ever, abolish the Assembly and stop Wales from sleepwalking towards independence.”

Rodney Berman – Liberal Democrats

Zoom interview conducted on April 27 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

I think we need somebody who is going to be a strong representative for Cardiff Central and I believe that’s what I can deliver because I’ve lived in the constituency for 27 years, I initially moved here to take up a research post within Cardiff University. I have also got 16 years’ experience as a local councillor and during COVID I have been advising doctors throughout so I believe I have the experience to help influence the Welsh government going forward in terms of how we can best put Wales back on its feet, how we can rebuild the economy and how we can make sure we have people in this area fully represented with a strong voice who will campaign on local issues.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

I think that’s a matter for the electors to decide and very much elections are in the hands of the people who cast their votes so I think what they should be thinking about is who is going to serve Wales best going forward and what the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to do is ensure that the next Senedd term is focused on putting the recovery first, we have to make that front and central to what we do, we’ve got to rebuild the economy but do so in a way which puts the environment at its heart so that could be creating lots of new, green, jobs in areas like making housing more energy efficient; it could also be done in tackling the nature and biodiversity crisis.

If you want someone who is going to make that the focus of the Welsh Government, that’s what I can offer. I think there are choices here, the Conservatives and some of the other right wing parties would want to spend some of their time rolling back devolution and that perhaps isn’t what people in Wales want to see but on the same token you have Plaid Cymru who want to focus some of the efforts of the next Senedd term looking at whether we should have an independence referendum and my argument would be; this isn’t the time, we’ve got to focus everything on how we recover from COVID. We’re also having to deal with the impact of coming out of the EU and I don’t think we’ve seen all of the repercussions of that just yet, some of the repercussions have been masked by the focus of the news on everything to do with COVID; there has been an impact on trade, which itself is causing a downturn in the economy.

We need to make sure that the Welsh Government is focused razor sharp on recovering from COVID, recovering the economy, recovering the health service, rebuilding the environment, creating a Wales that’s better than it was before and that’s what the Welsh Liberal Democrats can offer and, I think, people should think about when they cast their vote.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I think there has been an issue with students across the board because a lot of students feel they have paid a high amount in tuition fees and not necessarily had the tuition they’d have liked to have seen, having largely had online teaching through the last year but whether or not that could have been avoided, I don’t know. One thing I do know is that Welsh domicile students have been able to benefit from grant funding support thanks to the actions of Kirsty Williams, who is the Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister, in the last Senedd term and that’s something we want to concentrate going forward, to make sure we give students support with their living costs, which I think is vitally important.

But yes, we have to look at the long-term implications, we have to look at what we can do to help anyone who’s been in a crucial stage of education; whether at university or perhaps sitting their A-levels and may have lost out in the last year. We have to look at how can we make up for that, how can we maybe get them some of the benefits they would otherwise have got had it not been for COVID, how perhaps they can catch up on anything they’ve missed out on. I think it’s been inevitable; I think to a certain extent it’s been necessary; we’ve had to get on top of COVID, that has to have been the priority.

You could argue on how we’ve preformed that at different stages but ultimately we also have to think about, what have been the down sides, and how now can we focus on fixing those down sides, particularly now that things are improving, now that the vaccination program has begun rolling out, we’re beginning to open up again and hopefully we won’t have to go into another lockdown so let’s now look to address what unfairness there might have been to certain sectors, including university students.

Do you think that the pandemic has made the Welsh public more likely to vote for parties other than the big three (Labour, Tory, Plaid) and if so why?

I think there’s quite an interesting dynamic to this election campaign, I’ve been knocking doors for the last couple of weeks, prior to that we weren’t able to knock doors due to COVID, so I haven’t had as many conversations with voters as I might normally have had at this stage of an election. There is a lot of uncertainty I think out there and to a large extent people aren’t switched on to the idea, I think, at the moment as much as normally as to who they would vote for and that’s partly because they’ve been occupied with COVID and the impact of COVID on their lives. But what I would say to people is we don’t have to go back to business as usual even if we come out of COVID.

We can look to building a different Wales, and that can be a Wales that the Liberal Democrats could offer which for instance could put the environment much more to the fore, creating a billion-pound fund that we could spend each year on environmental measures; partly from public money, partly from private money and refocusing extra spending that the Welsh Government already incurs in making sure that a good proportion of every budget is spent on measures that help the environment. Let’s look at some of the things that have changed during COVID and perhaps there is more of an appetite for people to work from home, maybe not the whole week but part of the time, how can we put in the infrastructure to support that? Perhaps people have learnt more to appreciate what’s on their own doorsteps, so how can we build more sustainable communities, so we have a policy, for instance, of adopting the idea of 20-minute neighbourhoods where you try to have all the facilities people need on a regular basis within a 20-minute walk, cycle or bus ride from where they live.

If we can bring in policies like that to underline how we want Wales to move forward we can create a different Wales, a better Wales and therefore maybe it is the time for voters to look at other ideas, not just rely perhaps on who they’ve voted for in the past but to look to somebody who brings something fresh, something radical. They may feel that after having 24 years of Labour governments in Wales, right through from when Tony Blair won the general election in ’97, through devolution that maybe it’s time for a bit of a shake up, looking at doing some things a bit more radically and that’s something that the Welsh Liberal Democrats could offer.

Anything else to add?

The only thing I would say is that I am standing as a candidate in Cardiff Central and Cardiff Central has traditionally been either Liberal Democrat or Labour in the Senedd and very much it’s looking like it will be another Labour, Liberal Democrat fight this time. We were a very close second at the last Assembly election, as it was called then in 2016, and it’s looking close again. For people in Cardiff Central they may wish to think who they want to represent them locally but it does certainly look again like it’s going to be either Labour or Liberal Democrat here.   

Ceri Davies – Green Party

Zoom interview conducted on April 18 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

To understand that I think a little bit of background is needed, I haven’t taken the decision to stand lightly and choosing the Green Party lightly and it’s really about where we think politics is going in Wales and do we think what we’ve had over the last 22 years of devolution has really delivered. I’d really like students to consider what kind of society they’ve got, what they’ve live through in the last 22 years, what Wales is like now, what we’re looking at, and I don’t want to spend this interview talking about other parties but the Green Party for me, the reason I went toward the Green Party, is because it offers an awful lot of the things that I want from society. Obviously, the environment is a major issue, I would say I’m not a traditional environmentalist, but I worked in this area for quite a long time, and it’s really put it at the top of the agenda for me and that’s something the Green Party has been leading on for an awful long time which other parties are now beginning to appreciate and look to address but one party stands out as addressing the climate emergency for me and that’s the Green party.

And when you look at the Green Party it also looks at a lot of other societal issues and how we can improve society and really is one of the only radical parties putting new and progressive policies forward like; universal basic income, four day week, new funding models to fund government and really looking at ways in which society can change, something that we haven’t really seen in the UK for decades really, as radicalism has left a lot of the other parties that were traditionally associated with that. I don’t want to suggest that students are only really interested in education, but I imagine it is a big aspect of what students are going through and these key policies that the Welsh Green Party are putting forward and I suppose the standout one is removing fees; making access to further higher education a lot more flexible then it is currently.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

No I think it will be some time before Wales won’t have Labour as a dominant party and the Labour Party in Wales is there for good reasons, historically it has delivered but, as I mentioned in my earlier question I think that kind of radicalism and the delivery aspect which Labour once had in a lot of Welsh communities has long gone and for whatever reason that is the party is no longer delivering for communities in Wales. But I think that legacy is very evident in many parts of Wales and they will still deliver a strong performance at the Senedd. It might not be one to put them into government as a whole, they’ve never actually had a majority in the Welsh Senedd. So I still expect Labour to be the largest party, probably by some distance. The Conservatives are doing well on national and local opinion polls, but I think that universal swing representation you get in polls won’t follow through into constituencies and regional votes, but I probably expect Plaid and the Conservatives to be neck and neck with the other parties picking up a seat here or there on the regional list. In terms of your main question I can’t really see Labour not being the largest party, if not having enough seats for government.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I’ll be blunt, it’s an area I’ve only briefly looked at for this interview, it’s not something I’ve focused on, but I think an awful lot of sectors are being let down during the pandemic and I do think that the university sector and students really have been, Not just in Wales but across the UK in very difficult circumstances I have no doubt. But if I was a student, and I have been a student at Cardiff University, if I was expected just to stay in halls and not attend university which you’re now paying quite considerable amounts for. I don’t think there’s been any kind of suggestion that any money will be paid back or anything like that. I think there has been a let down and a disparity about what’s being said at a political level to what’s actually happening on the delivery level. So, yes I’d agree at the moment students aren’t being treated as well as you’d like in the current situation.

UK Politics is often dominated by the two main parties, Labour and the Conservatives. Is Welsh politics more equal between parties, could the Green Party gain the Senedd? Or is a coalition more likely?

I think Wales has a different dynamic to when we talk about UK politics because, as with Scotland, it’s got Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the national parties which add a third dynamic, which perhaps isn’t so evident in wider UK politics, particularly now that the Lib Dems aren’t what they once were. The Green Party, I want to be someone who is realistic about where we are, I think if we look at the polls and what we hear from the ground I think it’s a very difficult campaign this year as we haven’t been able to do normal political engagement as it were. And personally I would have preferred the election to postponed slightly so that we could get the messages out in a more traditional way, for example I can’t really engage with students in this constituency currently because you can’t canvas or campaign.

I’m very realistic about the Green’s position, I’d like to think one seat, maybe two, on the regional list could happen but our regional voting system probably isn’t the best we’d look to, the Green Party would much prefer something like a single transferable vote where we could be a lot more accountable, because we’re going to end up with a certain percentage of the vote across Wales but with very minimal representation. In terms of a coalition, I think a coalition is almost certain post-election despite what the politicians say they’re going to do. I think there’s only been one assembly, Senedd period, where it hasn’t been a coalition approach because everyone forgets the current administration is supported by the Lib Dems and independents to make a government. I do expect, fully, the next administration to be coalition of some or even a minority government running by some sort of support mechanism, probably between Labour and Plaid. The Green Party would, and it’s difficult for me to say as a constituent candidate, but whoever is elected will look to support the parties in administration but also look to deliver some of the aims written in our manifesto and our wider policy beliefs.

Anything else to add?

The one thing I’d really like students to do, the constituents, is to really just have a little look at the manifestos. There are tools you can use, which I think Cardiff University are involved in and a number of other Universities, to put people’s own personal views and preferences against parties and their local candidates. And that’s really useful to really highlight where they might actually fit rather than what they traditionally perhaps believe they fit in. But really if there is a chance to look at the manifestoes and just see what resonates with you and I suppose the one thing I’d like to end with is have a look at the society we’ve got now which has been formed over recent decades by the domination of two main parties but also contributed to in Wales, both Plaid and the Lib Dems have been in government in Wales in the last 22 years. Look at the issues that matter to you and are they being addressed? Or, do we really need to step back and have a little bit more radicalism that Wales was once famous for.

Thomas Joseph Franklin – Freedom Alliance

Zoom interview conducted on April 26 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

Well firstly I’m running for the Freedom Alliance not for personal gain or glory, I decided to run because I’m rather concerned by the direction Wales and, to a larger extent, the rest of the UK is being taken in response to COVID. The last year, with the lockdowns, has been in my opinion very damaging for many people across society. In my opinion the corner stone of any society is absolute freedom of an individual to do what they want, when they want providing they remain within the framework of the law, they remain lawful. That in itself lends not only to students but all aspects of society whether you’re middle-aged working, retired. I think it’s imperative that fundamental human rights and freedoms are at the cornerstone of that. That’s why I’d argue that students, and the rest of the public at large, hopefully should vote for the Freedom Alliance, and myself.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

I think it probably will come to an end; Labour has been the dominant party in Wales for some time. I looked into some statistics when I read this question and I saw that back in the 2016 Welsh elections only 45.6% of the electorate turned out to vote. So, close to 55% didn’t even cast their vote, I fall into that category of 55%. To me that indicates that over the half the population of Wales who are eligible to vote are disillusioned with the current political system, matters not who they vote for pretty much they get more of the same, I think that’s one reason. Also, why I think Labour will be unsuccessful this election, coming now in a few weeks, is the lockdowns, the damage that they’ve done, I think, is huge and it’s been at the hands of Welsh Labour, primarily.

I think for those two reasons Labour will be unsuccessful. With regards to the other parties coming in, who are pro-lockdown, I think personally this is a unique opportunity for the people of Wales to shake up the political landscape and I hope that they end up voting for candidates who are promoting individual sovereignty and freedoms over the parties who are pro-lockdown. In my opinion it has to stop, it has to stop. I think Labour will be unsuccessful yes.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I can’t talk from personal experience because I’m not in the shoes of a student so I’m only looking from the outside in. I have no doubt that your education has suffered even though we have means of technology, like how we’re conversing now to be able to talk so you can still connect with lecturers and teachers and what not. I don’t think it’s any substitute for being in the classroom, in the space directly. And, depending on what subject you’re learning, not all subjects are possible to be conducted through these means. So I do think that students have been let down, without a doubt. Aside from education, social interaction has been non-existent pretty much and again I’ve never been a student, never been to university but I know, having grown up in central Cardiff and having frequented the nightlife there through my 20s, that social interaction is huge for students and it’s a big draw and a big plus. So yes I do believe that students have been let down, very much so.

The Freedom Alliance upholds that people should “Make their own free and uncoerced medical choices“. Most other parties would argue the opposite, that lockdown is necessary for the public good. What are the arguments for the Freedom Party’s position and what would you say to pro-lockdown groups?

With reference to uncoerced medical choices my take on it is your body, your choice. Nobody has the right to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do with regards to how you treat your body. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, my stance is pro-choice and to make that choice we require informed consent where the risks and benefits of a particular treatment are given so that we can decide what is best for us in our given situation and everyone’s situation, in my opinion at least, different and unique.

Definitely not an anti-vaxxer, very much pro-choice and we need informed consent around that. As for the lockdowns I’d like to draw your attention to an ONS graph from September 24th, 2020. It’s a graph highlighting COVID-19, when the pandemic kicked off, the green bars are deaths not related to COVID and the blue bars above are, apparently, deaths related to COVID and then there’s a dashed black line and that shows the five-year national average. With regards to the lockdowns I think they were introduced in March last year, on the 23rd of March, and literally just after that the deaths spiked. You can see this on the graph, looking at the 27th of March and the blue bars then indicate that they start to spike. It says on the ONS website that this is related to COVID-19, I would argue more so that, and I’m not saying all of the blue bars, so I want to be careful what I say and how it’s interpreted, I’m not saying all of the blue is related to COVID. I would also argue then that some of it is due to the lockdowns; people not being able to access medial procedures, diagnostics, mental health.

I have a close family member who works within the police force, they’re based up in the Valleys, and the middle of last year they told me that domestic abuse has soared, and suicides have soared. You can’t lock people up and expect them to behave normally and rationally, some can, and some can’t handle it, so why not let society remain open, let business remain open; schools, universities and then have a targeted response in protecting the vulnerable and the elderly, those who are most at risk to COVID-19. At the moment it’s like we’re using a large net to pull in everybody when we only need to target a small portion of the population, again, those being those who are vulnerable and those who are elderly.

That would be my approach and I am also aware that there are many other people who think like that, I want to highlight the Barrington Declaration, it’s a declaration that was set up last year and signed by many scientists and doctors as well as members of the public. When you read the actual declaration it makes a huge amount of sense in responding to COVID-19 instead of using a destructive method of lockdowns, in my opinion they do far more damage and I don’t think we’ve realised at this point in time how much damage they have done, this is going to rumble on for years and it’s only through looking back in history at this time that we will, I think anyway, see the extent of the damage that’s being done, I think we need to be very carful going forward that they’re not implemented again and that’s why I have decided to run, to hopefully stop anything of this nature happening again in Wales and across the UK.

Anything else to add?

I do think this a unique opportunity for Wales, there’s a lot of parties that have sprung up, Freedom Alliance is one of them, in relation to what has happened this past year so there is definitely an underlying mood that people want change and I just hope they utilise this opportunity. And particularly those who haven’t voted before, again referring back to the last election in 2016, over half the population of the electorate didn’t vote so I would appeal to that group of people, if you were disillusioned and have been for some time in regard to the political landscape, this is an opportunity to have your say and make that statement, and make that statement by choosing a party that doesn’t promote lockdowns, yeah I hope they take up that mantle.

Clem Thomas – Gwlad

Written Answers received on April 28 2021

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election? 

Very simply, students have more of stake than anyone in the prosperity of the Welsh economy over the coming decades. They’ll be seeking work, finding homes, and raising families. No party is more focused on delivering the thriving economy which they’ll need than Gwlad. Labour won’t do it – if they were ever going to, they’d have done it by now after 22 years in power; and even their own economy minister has admitted they don’t know what they’re doing. The Conservatives won’t do it – they know that a thriving Welsh economy would embolden the independence movement, and they’ll always prioritise strengthening the Union over acting in Wales’s best interests. As for Plaid Cymru… well, they’ll just support whatever Labour do. Gwlad is the only party that puts Wales first and understands that this means putting the Welsh economy first with sensible, tried-and-tested pro-business policies.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why? 

Labour has never delivered for Wales; the main reason people vote for them is that they’re seen as the best way of keeping the Conservatives out. It may be that this “Tory-phobia” is fading in the aftermath of Wales’s strong support for Brexit, but any flirtation with the Conservatives will ultimately end in disappointment. The Conservatives will always put the interests of the Union – in practice, their home counties heartlands – above those of Wales. Wales’s winning streak will only start when it abandons these legacy parties and adopts Wales-based parties which will always put Wales first.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Very much so, although we also think that the pandemic has exposed more fundamental weaknesses with the university system. Even with the additional financial support given by the Welsh Government, many students leave university heavily indebted after an education which won’t necessarily improve their long-term job prospects and earning potential. We think it would be a good idea to follow the lead of other successful European countries in enhancing the status of vocational and further education, and also to encourage entrepreneurship among young people, so that more people may achieve their life goals without relying on the current formula which dates back to the Blair government of the 1990s. Our ‘Citizens Income’ policy, giving a reliable income to people which, unlike Universal Credit, won’t be taken from them if they start work, is one of a number of measures in our Manifesto to help young people start their own businesses.

There are now three Pro-Welsh Independence Parties running in Cardiff Central, why should those in favour of an independent Wales vote for you over Plaid Cymru or Propel?

It’s a good thing that there should be a lively debate over what sort of country an independent Wales should be. While we long to see Wales as an independent country, we don’t want it to be a one-party state: we want it to be a vigorous multi-party democracy. Therefore we encourage students to look closely at all three parties and choose the one which most closely reflects their priorities, in preference to a tired old Unionist party which has never delivered for Wales and is never going to. If their priorities are economic growth, freedom of speech and conscience, and equality before the law for all who make Wales their home, then they should choose Gwlad.

Anything else to add?

(no further additions)

Dilan Nazari – Propel

Zoom interview conducted on April 21 2021.

Why should Students vote for you in the upcoming election?

Right, let me introduce myself first of all; my name is Dilan Nazari, I am a candidate for Cardiff Central on behalf of the Propel political party. Basically, the difference between me and other candidates in Cardiff Central is that Propel is not one of the political parties that you would call the establishment. We are a new political party that was established nearly six weeks ago, and the difference between us and them is that we genuinely care about people and we are fighting on behalf of people to eliminate corruption and defend students that we believe have been let down by the UK and Welsh government during, and even prior to, COVID-19; if you look at the tuition fees and other things, it’s clear that students haven’t been looked at as the future generation. Another difference between Propel and other parties is that we believe in direct democracy which automatically gives students and student areas freedom to express their own ideas and allows government to make decisions fit for the situation and circumstances.

Welsh labour has been the dominant party in Wales since the inception of the Senedd, with the March Welsh Political Barometer showing a 2% gap between Labour and the Conservatives in Wales do you think this winning streak is at an end, and if so why?

There is a reality since the inception of, what was the Welsh Assembly, and is now the Welsh Senedd, or Welsh Parliament, that Labour has been in power and even before that. Labour hasn’t done much for students, Labour was the party who introduced tuition fees, and at least didn’t stand in opposition to tuition fees rising from £3,500, when I went to Cardiff University, and then it was increased to £9,000 in England and Wales followed, gradually. So if you look at it, Welsh Labour in Government, as well as other political parties such as Plaid and the Liberal Democrats have also been involved in this, otherwise I am sure this couldn’t happen if they were a proper opposition. So here Propel comes in, we in Propel believe in education, for free education for all students or at least bringing fees down to the amount that someone like myself paid, I paid around £3,500 when I did my degree, which compared to what students are paying now is three times as much. Those two political parties, especially during lockdown, they have been vivid for students that they are not political parties standing for students because these political parties in the Welsh Senedd they are subject to corporate lobbying, Cardiff University is a corporation, and so they have a heavy influence in the Welsh Senedd and Welsh Government so because of that what they did was not in favour of students in terms of Cardiff students in the Cathays area. But what we do is the complete opposite of that, we are not part of the establishment, we are genuinely determined to fight the corporate lobbying which was one of the reasons that students were the second group to pay for the Coronavirus, after front line staff. We believe that the lockdown wasn’t done properly. There are a lot of other countries, for example New Zealand, that dealt with lockdown much better by cutting it from the source. They opened up immediately and they provided finance and everything for appropriate sectors of society, including students, and we could have done that in Wales, there are only 3.5 million people in Wales and in terms of students they are the backbone of the future generation in terms of science and education and culture and everything, but the Welsh Government let them down to be honest because they were listening to their bosses in the corporations and the lobbyists in the Welsh Senedd.

Do you think that university students in Wales are being let down during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

(Question was addressed in previous answers)

Both Propel and Plaid Cymru are seeking to give Wales Independence, but why should voters who want an independent Wales vote for Propel over the better polling Plaid Cymru

There is something I want students and the Cardiff Central people who live in Cardiff Central in general to know about this; there is a huge difference between Propel and Plaid Cymru in terms of political philosophy, we’re dealing with finances, we’re dealing with how elections work as well as voting systems. We believe in decentralised direct democracy so that by itself separates us from Plaid Cymru they may, in their slogans, say they are pro-independence, but they have been working with nearly all the other political parties in the Welsh Senedd, some of which are against independence, so that’s a visible contradiction.

We believe in a decentralised independent Wales so each area, each location, each community up to 80/90% could determine their own future and govern themselves in a way that suits their region. So if you look at it, it is the best idea for students, for example during lockdown if they had power, decentralised power, to make decisions for themselves if they definitely already had proper representation in the Welsh Senedd they could do better and they could look after people better. But because the system is centralised, which Plaid Cymru is supporting this centralisation of the power even further, and to be honest it doesn’t make any difference if you have a centralised independent system.

In this respect the difference between us and them is that we believe in an independent, sovereign but decentralised system for Wales which would give power to the student communities in Cathays, Heath and Roath, students who are mostly located in those areas, and wider Wales to make decisions that really fit them with coordination with lectures and the University. And another thing which is part of our 10-point Contact With Wales we are very serious about eliminating and regulating lobbying in the Welsh Senedd, so the lobbyists are free to do whatever they want, to run our affairs, which both directly and indirectly affects student’s accommodation, student’s finances, students were let down during the lockdown having to pay for accommodations which should be paid for by the Government because of the way they did the lockdown for example, Boris Johnson shook people’s hands and didn’t care until he went to hospital  and realised that COVID-19 is very serious but it was too late, and COVID has spread all over the UK, including Wales. The Welsh Government did the same thing, they had the power to do whatever was needed to implement better measures in terms of lockdowns, but they didn’t so overall, as I’ve said from the beginning, after the front-line staff students were the second group to sacrifice and pay for this unnecessary and wrong lockdown measures.

Anything else to add?

I want to ask students go and read our constitution, go and read the 10-point contract with Wales which is on Propel’s website, I’m not asking for you to vote directly for me immediately without reading our constitution. We care about ecology, we care about environmental disaster that we are facing, we care about renewable energies. We care about all the issues that we know students care about because we are a really fresh political party based on a fresh political philosophy that is focused on renewable energies, focused on direct democracy and focused on eradicating child poverty and lessening tuition fees or maybe eradicating fees altogether if we see it is possible. All that distinguishes us from other established political parties who take their votes for granted, that’s why they don’t care.

Brian Johnson – Socialist Party of Great Britain

When offered an interview by Gair Rhydd, no response was received.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain’s “Who are We” section reads as follows;

“The Socialist Party is like no other political party in Britain. It is made up of people who have joined together because we want to get rid of the profit system and establish real socialism.

Our aim is to persuade others to become socialist and act for themselves, organizing democratically and without leaders, to bring about the kind of society that we advocate.

We are solely concerned with building a movement of socialists for socialism. We are not a reformist party with a programme of policies to patch up capitalism.”

And under their “We are Unique“ section, the following;

The Socialist Party has been unique in Britain throughout the twentieth century for:

–Consistently advocating world socialism – a fully democratic society based upon co-operation and production for use.
–Opposing every single war
–Opposing every single government
–Being a democratic and leaderless organization

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