Honest John: Huw Lewis defends his corner

Huw Lewis is Labour's assembly member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. He has a hefty majority and ambition to match. As a politician loyal to the Blair agenda, he'll be monitoring developments in the Labour party closely as Rhodri Morgan's tenure as leader comes to an end. I'll keep the introduction short because the questions and answers are plentiful...

Would you be prepared to PUBLICLY have your fingerprints and DNA taken for your new ID Card, before the election? (ianp)

It would be a pretty boring thing to do PUBLICLY. I remain to be convinced about the need for ID cards, and would want some firmer guarantees about cost before committing one way or the other. But if your implication is that I have a criminal past, I have no fears there!

Where in your opinion does the clear red water lie within your manifesto and London Labour's? (Marcus Warner)

I don't think we should get too hung about the idea of "clear, red water", we should never look to do things differently for the sake of it - but only when it makes sense to our set of circumstances in Wales. There are a number of issues like the Mobile Mammas childcare scheme and like the Welsh baby bond dividend which I have been lobbying for - that show we will go our on way when it makes sense to do so.

Are alcoholism and drug dependency offences that should be punishable or illnesses that should be cured? (Sion Gwilym)
Clearly there is a difference to be drawn between alcohol consumption and drug use - one is legal - the other is not. However, addiction to either is incredibly damaging for the individual and can tear families apart - you need a balanced approach, treatment for the individual, but punishment for drug peddlers. I would be happy to see a grown up conversation between all parties after May about our approach to drug dependency and treatment.

There's a housing crisis in many parts of Wales. What would you do to redress it or are market forces above all other considerations? (der)
I think building more affordable housing is the key - and I'm glad to see some innovative solutions being introduced in Wales to that end.

What is your favourite album of all time? (Marcus Warner)
Astral Weeks, Van Morrison.

Can you tell me where you stand on the following issues. (che gra-vara)
1. The decision to go to war in Iraq
I supported the war in Iraq - and rather than rehearse all the same arguments again, I would point people to the recent book from Observer writer, Nick Cohen, on the subject which runs through in great detail the social progressive's case for war. However, I would also say that much of the handling of post-War Iraq, has been disastrous. Not least the American decision to send home the entire Iraqi army.
2. The decision to renew Trident
I think it will be some time before Assembly Members have a decision to make on this, but I backed the decision to renew Trident. Aside from the arguments on deterrent, consider the hard nosed rules of foreign policy. Those who argue on one side that the USA dictates too much on foreign affairs, then want us to disband our armed forces and downgrade our deterrent don't understand how the world works.
3. Cuts to PCS jobs
I don't think any party is arguing against the notion of reorganising the civil service, if it means we can spend more on front line services. Or are they? What I would say, as I did in the Assembly debate on the matter, let's look at this in the round - we don't want to be shifting HMRC jobs from the Valleys to Cardiff for example.

What have you done as a party or an individual to help engage young people in politics? (Marcus Warner)
On a personal level I engage very closely with all the schools in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney and we get as many kids down to the Assembly as possible.

What would you do for places like Pontypridd and Blaenavon which are being used by the Utility companies as training grounds? Most streets in both villages have in excess of 400 dig patches each per street. (ianp)
I'm sure they are not digging up the streets for the fun of it. I'd rather have some temporary roadworks than a gas explosion to deal with - but I'm quirky like that. Blaenavon has received massive grants from the Assembly and associated bodies to develop the fabric of the town, and links to the World Heritage Site. Ponty is also benefiting from huge investment in both roads and rail.

You've identified yourself with the child poverty initiative, hoping doubtless to garner much profile. Please tell why, given that Labour has just admitted it's failed its own Child poverty target this time around, we should believe you this time? Is that why you've been a little silent lately... ? (Dave Rodway)
Child poverty under the Tories - up by 100,000 a year. Child Poverty under Labour - down by (rough average) 60,000 a year. Plaid Cymru say Independence first. Take your pick.

Who is your political hero and why? (Marcus Warner)
Clement Attlee - everyone knows why, or doesn't know enough history.

Do you believe that the Welsh language should be given official status in Wales? Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the Right to Services in Welsh? Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the right to work through the medium of Welsh? (hedd)
As far as is practical, everyone in Wales should be able to communicate in whichever language they choose in their day-to-day life. But, whichever way you cut it, 80% of people in Wales can't speak Welsh - are you suggesting that we select our future workforce only from the 20% who can?

You mention "services" - does that include business? I would be in favour of businesses, where they can, offering support for workers to take Welsh lessons. I don't favour compulsion on the Welsh language, and I think I'm right in saying that the Welsh Language Board doesn't either. I'm nervous about a rights based approach - but that doesn't mean I'm somehow against the language, I just wish my own attempts at learning had gone better!

What are you going to do to encourage a more comprehensive coverage of Welsh politics in the media? (sanddef)
Am I allowed to agree with Jonathan Morgan? It is not up to us to dictate to the Welsh media what they cover and what they don't. I do think it is a shame that we in Wales don't reap more benefits of having a world class School of Journalism in Cardiff - but perhaps that will come with time.

How would you like to see the assembly develop in the future? (der)
I'm excited about the post-May Assembly. I think we will end up with a much more democratic system, with individual AMs, subject committees - and the public (through a Petitions Committee) - having a say on new legislation in addition to the party or parties of Government. In short - we are facing big changes, let's see how they go before thinking about further development.

How may of the 500 jobs you claimed when the assembly came to Merthyr were real jobs? - ie how many people moved up with the assembly and how may jobs were filled from Merthyr when they arrived *and what other than cleaning jobs were they)? Also, why did you move your family out of the valleys? (valleys mam)
They are all "real jobs", but they are jobs that have moved with the department of Social Justice. Nobody, least of all me, claimed these were 500 new jobs for people in Merthyr - I can send you a copy of the piece I did for the Merthyr Express on this if you don't believe me. But don't be so short-sighted. What kind of impact on the local economy are 500 extra workers going to have? With staff turnover, there will be plenty of opportunities for local people to get work in the new offices - I think, roughly 50 local people already have jobs there. This will be a permanent local employer for people in Merthyr that simply wasn't there before.

And I haven't moved my family out of the Valleys.

Blimey. That was a session. Huw had by far the most questions to answer of all our brave politicians. So what's the verdict? Is it more Mother Teresa than Jeffery Archer? You decide.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Blamerbell @ 5:15 pm,

37 Comments:

At 5:30 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

He didnt dodge the awkward questions in all fairness...

I dont totally agree with him about 'clear red water' being something for the sake of it. I see it as essential to the future of the Labour Party in Wales.

 
At 5:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When did Penarth join the Valleys

 
At 5:44 pm, Blogger Valleys Mam said...

But don't be so short-sighted. What kind of impact on the local economy are 500 extra workers going to have?

They have a canteen and all needs met within the building so what impact, are you doing an attribution study

Staff turnover, good point, is you looking to up skill local people to be able to apply for the jobs. Or may be positive discrimination

I've looked at the application form you need to be a Philadelphia lawyer to understand it

 
At 6:22 pm, Blogger Che Grav-ara said...

To be fair I think Hugh did answer honestly. I don’t agree with many of his answers but at least he was willing to be unpopular. Some answers I will comment on though.

"Those who argue on one side that the USA dictates too much on foreign affairs, then want us to disband our armed forces and downgrade our deterrent don't understand how the world works."

What I understand we will have trident but the USA will still dictate as they have the guidance ability!

"But, whichever way you cut it, 80% of people in Wales can't speak Welsh"

Kind of the whole point of making Welsh an official language Hugh - to get people to speak it more confidently and purposefully!

"I don't think any party is arguing against the notion of reorganizing the civil service, if it means we can spend more on front line services. Or are they? "

I think people are arguing against them? Or did I hear sue Essex crocodile tears about supporting PCS workers against the plans incorrectly?

Still cheers for your honest, if disagreeable answers.

 
At 6:52 pm, Anonymous Daran said...

Very honest and human answers - wouldn't have expected anything else from Huw. His views are always direct and promote debate.

Blamie, you certainly chose well with your AMs for questioning - no manifesto regurgitation and some genuinely interesting responses.

Would be good if candidates with blogs did more to encourage direct questions from the electorate.

 
At 7:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

theres no opposition that can win in merthyr and so were stuck with Huw

honest, maybe rehearsed i'd say

Never mind there always 2011 - maybe

 
At 7:05 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

As far as is practical, everyone in Wales should be able to communicate in whichever language they choose in their day-to-day life. But, whichever way you cut it, 80% of people in Wales can't speak Welsh - are you suggesting that we select our future workforce only from the 20% who can?

You mention "services" - does that include business? I would be in favour of businesses, where they can, offering support for workers to take Welsh lessons. I don't favour compulsion on the Welsh language, and I think I'm right in saying that the Welsh Language Board doesn't either. I'm nervous about a rights based approach - but that doesn't mean I'm somehow against the language, I just wish my own attempts at learning had gone better!


A typical wishy-washy insular Labour approach towards the language. The point is not that 80% don't speak it. The point is that 20% do. Second class citizenship is simply unacceptable in any civilised society.

 
At 7:07 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

Be really good to have a regular 'honest John' section...

I know John Griffiths would be keen to do one...

Bethan Jenkins? I think Blamerbell could swing an interview with her!

 
At 7:25 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

Sandeff,

But does every single one of those 20% want to live their lives totally in Welsh? Many south walian cymraeg speakers see themselves as bi-lingual and proud. What about areas where welsh speaking is way below the national average? Should a business in monmouth be compelled to offer welsh to the same degree as a business in Gwynedd? what will that honestly achieve?

25% of welsh citizens were not born in Wales also.

Second class citizenship is a bit much i am sorry. It would be impossible in a practical sense to offer totally bi lingual services in all areas of Wales. There simply isnt enough welsh speakers...I totally agree that something needs to be done like that, but that is the reality.

As far as business is concerned i think it should be demand based, to compel them to offer services in welsh would place another burden, particularly on small businesses.

Encouragement and not compulsion is the key for me...although i accept you come from a different angle on this.

 
At 8:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bethan Jenkins? I think Blamerbell could swing an interview with her!"

Nah, she's probably end up having to phone Ty Gwynfor to ask for clearance when answering questions, and would probably run away when the going get's tough anyway....a'la Dragons Eye style

 
At 9:40 pm, Blogger bethan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:43 pm, Blogger bethan said...

anon- I do not run to Ty Gwynfor for answers. I have my own mind and I will speak it freely. You can interpret the Dragon's Eye piece as you like. I definitely shouldn’t have been door stepped by Phil Parry. Do you see Welsh Labour Ministers being treated that way? No.

His actions were totally unprofessional, but you were not there and wouldn't know.


Any more comments, you should use your own name. Using anon is running shy of confrontation and honesty if ever I saw it.

 
At 4:09 am, Anonymous dave rodway said...

I notice he didn't answer the question about tribalism. You say he didnt dodge them. he simly chose what to anwswer. His govt said they woudl reduce child poverty by X amount,. They didn;t. Take your pick. Re Tribalism... no anwser. I'm voting Plaid. Huw Lewis is their best advert yet.

 
At 8:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huw Lewis's comment on Trident was really amusing. The Uk doesn't have an independent deterrent. The rockets and the war heads all require US technology. The only country with an independent deterrent in Europe is France with its force de frappe.The Uk will never be able to use its nuclear capability without US approval.

 
At 8:56 am, Blogger Ordovicius said...

Second class citizenship is a bit much i am sorry. It would be impossible in a practical sense to offer totally bi lingual services in all areas of Wales. There simply isnt enough welsh speakers...I totally agree that something needs to be done like that, but that is the reality.


No it is not. We have a right for equal linguistic status -End of story. I think your perception of what that would entail is grounded more on fear than on reality. It is possible, practical and necessary to offer totally bilingual services. There is no rational argument against it whatsoever.

 
At 8:57 am, Blogger Ordovicius said...

As far as business is concerned i think it should be demand based

Again, no. We are talking about a human right.

 
At 9:57 am, Anonymous huw said...

In answer to Dave Rodway's point - I answered every question Blamerbell sent me. Yours wasn't included. Perhaps because it was rubbish.

But, if you are still keen for an answer let me say this - I'm proud to be a Labour Party member and believe that only through a Labour government can we achieve any form of social justice in Wales. If that makes me tribal, then so be it.

Would you prefer an end to the party system?

Valleys mam - seriously, if you think there is a problem with the application process for the jobs you are talking about, please get in touch, I can take this matter up. And as an aside, I don't think all 500 people are staying inside the building all day every day.

 
At 10:46 am, Blogger hedd said...

Why do New Labour members in Wales push the 80% v 20% argument all of the time? Why create the split? The language belongs to everyone in Wales, not just Welsh speakers. We are not talking about giving the right to 20% of people but to 100% of the people to be able to learn and/or to use the language in their daily lives.

Why do so-called Socialists like Huw Lewis fight for the rights of big business instead of the rights of the people of Wales? Why in terms of the environment the Labour Party are certain that legislation is the ONLY way as the private sector is only interested in profits - Carwyn Jones said to that effect on 'Week in Week Out' a few weeks ago. There is no talk of asking big business nicely to conform to legislation relating to the environment. Are you saying that the Welsh language is basically not important?

Why not answer the questions Huw (which are obviously not rubbish as they were chosen By Blamerbell!) No wishy-washy answers, simple YES or NO.

1, Do you believe that the Welsh language should be given official status in Wales?

2, Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the Right to Services in Welsh?

3, Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the right to work through the medium of Welsh?

 
At 12:37 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

Hedd,

As much as i dont speak with any authority i would like to attempt to answer these questions...i also hope i can get your perspective as i think the language is something that can unite us.

1, Do you believe that the Welsh language should be given official status in Wales?

YES...Mainly in regards to getting EU funding to increase the number of people who can speak it.

2, Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the Right to Services in Welsh?

I believe they have the right most definitely. I still think this would be very difficult to implement, particularly in a wales wide way. Once again there needs to be far more funding given to people learning welsh, i believe that all employers should offer an avenue for their employees to learn welsh.

3, Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the right to work through the medium of Welsh?

Although where possible encouragement should be given to allow for this, the practical implications must be taken into account. How would you accomodate one welsh speaker in the workplace? on a day to day basis how could that person carry out their job effectively without being bi-lingual? How could any company dealing with non-welsh companies accomodate this? Do you think that small struggling businesses should be burdened with offering employees the ability to conduct their work in welsh, when their companies work is conducted entirely in english?

Once again i think where it is practical to be able to conduct work in Welsh i think it should be available. But you need a multi-faceted approach. The promotion of Welsh, and the rights of Welsh speakers must be part of the drive to get more people to speak the language, and therebat increasing the prospect of widening welsh speaking services. We must walk before we can run in this respect. I believe in reality if all businesses in Wales are compelled to offer this service in all areas of Wales, then many small businesses will simply not employ Welsh speakers. That is reality unfortunately.

Will you also allow ALL languages to be given the same opportunity? Many of you have pointed out it is a human right, a universal right i am sure you will agree.

 
At 1:35 pm, Anonymous der said...

I would like to see Huw's replies to Hedd's questions.

 
At 3:55 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

Although where possible encouragement should be given to allow for this, the practical implications must be taken into account. How would you accomodate one welsh speaker in the workplace?

Again, another tired old argument.

 
At 4:06 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"In answer to Dave Rodway's point - I answered every question Blamerbell sent me. Yours wasn't included. Perhaps because it was rubbish."

Yes, to be fair Huw answered all the questions I sent him.

I left a few out because I considered too many questions from the same person a little excessive. So 'Blame' me!

Cambridge is lovely in the sun by the way:) Just come off the punts and am filling up with caffeine before returning to the pub.

Bon weekend all.

 
At 4:30 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

"Although where possible encouragement should be given to allow for this, the practical implications must be taken into account. How would you accomodate one welsh speaker in the workplace?

Again, another tired old argument."

Answer the question?

 
At 1:38 am, Blogger Ordovicius said...

Answer the question?


There was no real question, just another boring and irrelevant "what if" scenario used time and time again to avoid the real issue, which is that Labour support discrimination.

 
At 9:00 am, Anonymous Toodle Pip said...

Ordovicius - I'm sure that in your little Independent made up world, where the Hills are filled with Mount Rushmore-esque engravings of Dafydd Wigley and people actually watch S4C, the language 'rights' you speak of are a the main political hot topic.

In the real world, however, there are issues which are far more pressing than forcing language down people's throat. Face facts - not only do a vast majority of people in Wales not speak Welsh, they don't bloody want to. In school, it's a joke subject which most kids sleep through - but the language obsessive still include these utterly disinterested and verb-less kids as 'learners'. Granted, there has been an explosion of middle-class interest in Welsh Medium education in recent years, but that’s mostly due to parents wanting their kids to avoid going to that nasty comp down the road.

As for this 'right' to learn Welsh, what about the right to live above the poverty line? What about the 'right' to a decent transport infrastructure? The 'right' to quick hospital access? Let's get these properly sorted first, then deal with the minority interest stuff like Welsh. And Morris dancing.

 
At 9:54 am, Blogger Marcusian said...

Toodle Pip,

Although you are a bit harsh you speak alot of truth...

 
At 10:35 am, Anonymous der said...

toodle pip,

Are you a member of the Labour party by any chance.....? Language and culture is integral to one's being. If we were animals....then no....but that what differentiates us from them. You compare the Welsh language to Morris dancing.....says it all. It's pointless arguing with a philistine such as yourself.....and Marcusian, I said before that you spoke some sense. I am beginning to think that you are a wold in sheeps clothing.

 
At 2:21 pm, Anonymous toodle pip said...

der - no, I'm not a Labour Party member, but I am a committed Labour supporter. Is supporting a Party a dirty thing in your books? If so, I'm surprised, as your continuing obsession with all things Welsh makes you sound very much like a committed Nationalist.

You talk of language and culture - sorry to disappoint, but the two notions are not joined at the hip. I am a proud, patriotic Welsh man who, like the majority, gets a little pissed off at language fascists looking down their noses at me because I don't speak Welsh. Using less vowels doesn't make you Welsher, or cleverer, mate.

As for the Morris dancing joke, it was just that - a joke. Surely they still let you laugh in Team Plaid? Or does it need to be simultaneously translated first?

 
At 10:48 pm, Blogger Marcusian said...

Der,

I am a bit confused what you mean, but i assume its some sort of veiled insult...Ho hum.

 
At 12:31 pm, Anonymous rodway, D said...

Dave Rodway says:
I think we, and Huey too, are fauiling to see the glaring issue here: Labour have been crap at making the UK and equal place, and have failed to meet THEIR OWN child poverty targets. They spend billions in Trident and go to war on lies.
I think that povert is probably more important than Welsh, but Huw and his defender always omit to tell you that their approach is neither nor. IE they fail on that AND on Welsh.

Again: have these peopel ever been to places liek Caernarfon and Blaeunau ffesitniog, where Welsh is real, working class labguage spokien by peopel who have the right to have their language respected, and not mocked by tribalist plonkers who like to remain anon?
Youre never very far from the anti-welsh underbelly with this lot, a smokescreen for failing their own peopel day after day.

 
At 6:21 pm, Anonymous der said...

toodle tit,

I am not a member of team Plaid as you say.....but they will get my vote this time around. So you get "a little pissed off at language fascists looking down their noses at me because I don't speak Welsh." A little paranoid aren't we? I speak Welsh....and I don't think I have ever looked down on those who don't. Maybe you should seek some kind of counselling. Incidentally, please reserve the use of the word 'fascist' for more deserving examples. Mind you, being a Labour party supporter, I doubt if you can make the distinction between fiction and reality. WMD anybody?

 
At 3:30 pm, Anonymous toodle pip said...

der

You're right, mate. I've seen the light, and am going to start learning the mother tongue. Actually, you can give me a hand - what's Welsh for "language obsessed knob-end who can't divorce the mistake of one leader from the core principles of a socialist party of principle"?

Ta. You twat.

 
At 3:38 pm, Anonymous der said...

no mate....start with the basics.... Cnucha bant! That should get you started.

 
At 6:46 pm, Anonymous rodway said...

Toodle pip...
'core socialist principles'? Laboru? Look around you matey, what planet are you on, cos its not PLanet Wales, or PLanet UK I once met some Moonies who were like you.
DR

 
At 9:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"socialist party of principle"

It's taken me a few hours to pick myself up off of the floor...due to laughter. I read today that the IMF have now termed Labour's Britain as a tax haven for the super rich. You know people like Abramovic...and yes Mittal - Labour party supporters will know who he is. :-)

 
At 12:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've watched Huw Lewis from a distance and I do not think the people of Merthyr deserve this sort of representation. This is pure New Labour, spin doctoring at it's best. Using the good will of people of a deprived area as a stepping stone to greater things. Merthyr and rhymney people can do better and elect someone who has their real concerns at heart.

 
At 3:24 pm, Blogger Independence4Celts said...

Well, I smell a hint of racism from toodle pip. This is Wales, the language Welsh; get it? I'm not a Welsh speaker, but am a believer of Welsh freedom. I'm sick and tired of people who say that Plaid and the Welsh language is only for Welsh speakers. Like I said I'm not a Welsh speaker and neither are my friends; who also support Plaid. We believe that the Welsh language, seeing as though we are in Wales, should be the official language; just like Irish is in Ireland.
I don't want anyone forcing languages down people's throats; but wait a minute, wasn't our great great grandparents and those before them hit in school if the teacher ever heard Welsh coming from their innocent mouths? Where is the human right there? Wasn't people who spoke Welsh, since english rule, looked down and was classed as second class citizens. I think that was toodle pipis tryig to say is, that he doesn't care for the history and culture of this fine and beautiful land; let it stay in english rule forever; while other countries around the world get richer.
Wales is the poorest country in the UK and one of the poorest countries in Western Europe. Let's show the rest of the world that Wales is separate from England and we can look after ourselves; just like Ireland. There are other small countries in Europe like ourselves, but they rich; well so can we be. "O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau! (O may our old language endure)" Taking from the Welsh national anthem. Cymru am byth!!! (Wales forever!!!)

 

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