Honest John: Wood fires off final answers

Here it is, the last Honest John post. Jonathan Morgan, Mick Bates and Huw Lewis have been and gone. After this I'll have to start writing this blog myself again, which frankly sounds a lot more trouble than getting you lot to ask the questions and persuading some gullible politicians to answer them.

Last up is Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central. Leanne has hit the headlines for her role in the anti-Trident protests in Faslane Naval base, in which she was arrested. She is one of those politicians whom we lazily tend to prefix 'outspoken'. Let's see if it's justified...

Are alcoholism and drug dependency offences that should be punishable orillnesses that should be cured? (Sion Gwilym)
Before I was elected I worked as a probation officer. I take the view that substance dependency is an illness, often triggered by traumatic events - undealt with childhood abuse and bereavement being commontriggers. It depends on the offence and the circumstances - a drug dependent murderer should be punished. But to continually send people to prison who commit offences like possession, or crimes to fund their addictions, or who are violent after drinking, without time for meaningful rehabilitation work, makes no sense unless there is a break from or some form of management of the dependency. That means being prepared to deal with the reasons for the addiction, and it means that the person concerned has to be motivated to make big life changes. In that sense, the addiction should be treated as an illness. I think the solution for the long term lies in helping children deal with trauma. We're not good at doing that.

Who is your political hero and why? (Marcus Warner)
I don't have any heroes. People who have influenced my politics include Malcolm X, Annie Powell, Gwyn Alf Williams, Maya Angelou and many other people who are not famous. All for different reasons - Malcolm X and Maya Angelou for their resistance to oppression. Gwyn Alf for giving me a history I can relate to as valleys Welsh. Annie was a communist councillor for Penygraig, the ward I later represented for Plaid. She was highly respected for her work in the community, her campaigning and known for sticking to her principles.

Do you believe that taking part, (and getting arrested) in the anti-trident campaign in Scotland has helped the cause of Plaid Cymru? (penddu)

I don't know, but furthering the cause of Plaid was not the aim. The Faslane 365 campaign has been running since last October, and there have been 730 arrests so far. The campaign has raised awareness and challenged the existence of Trident and its replacement. We have no say on Trident replacement in the Assembly. People in Wales have no say on this, despite the fact they'll have to pay their share of its estimated £76bn cost. I'm passionately opposed to nuclear weapons, and felt I had to do something to register that opposition.

We never know whether protests have any effect. I do know though, that doing nothing is guaranteed to have no effect.

What is your favourite album of all time? (Marcus Warner)
I don't have one. There are a few and they change over time. Favourites include Catatonia's International Velvet, Bob Marley and the Wailers' Catch A fire, Pulp's We Love Life and Miles Davis' A Kind of Blue.

Please explain, in detail, how Plaid Cymru would fund, in an Independent Wales, all the current services provided by the Welsh Assembly Government at current and projected spending levels PLUS the welfare state, pensions, defence (something Dai Lloyd has yet to be able to give me an answer to via the letters page of the Western Mail), policing and security, foreign affairs, international trade relations, S4C and Broadcasting in general, and all other reserved matters. (Martyn Williams)
Via taxation, the way all countries do. Six member states of the European Union are smaller than Wales. Eight of the ten richest countries in the world have a population of less than 10 million, including all 5 Nordic countries. An independent Wales could clearly pay its own way. I believe the people of Wales are no less talented than the people of Ireland and that we could successfully run our own affairs. An independent Wales would have the option of reducing the defence budget, re-prioritising public services.

What have you done as a party or an individual to help engage young people in politics? (Marcus Warner)
Plaid has a strong youth movement, which keeps all elected members on our toes. Working with them involves attending freshers' fayres and public meetings and I did a tour of universities with Dafydd Iwan, putting the case for independence. When I was first elected I wrote to all secondary schools in the region asking to be invited to speak to the students about politics, in a non partisan way. That resulted in many invitations, and some schools continue to organise something regularly. I find through discussions with groups of young people that they are mostly not apathetic towards politics, but they don't know what to believe from politicians as they see so much spin. So I try to talk straight. The aim of the schools visits is to try to get the students to think about how they can change things, not just by voting, but by writing to politicians, asking questions of parties, and generally getting active in campaigning work.

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 towns have in excess of 400 dig patches each per street. (ianp)
I would take the utilities back into public ownership so that that necessary digging could be co-ordinated and reduced.

Do you believe that the Welsh language should be given official status in Wales? (hedd)

Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the Right to Services in Welsh? (hedd)

Do you believe that the people of Wales should have the right to work through the medium of Welsh? (hedd)

How would you like to see the assembly develop in the future? (der)
I would like it to become an independent parliament.

What are you going to do to encourage a more comprehensive coverage of Welsh politics in the media? (sanddef)
I can't do much to change the way the media work. We can't blame the media for not covering assembly debates and committees if they are boring.

Ultimately, the reason that Westminster is taken more seriously is because it’s seen to be making more serious decisions. Until the Assembly makes the big decisions (taxation, defence, war, criminal law etc) the media's coverage of Welsh politics will be inferior to UK wide politics. Getting the London based media to take Wales' stories seriously is difficult, unless there is a perceived threat to British institutions e.g. the monarchy or the armed forces. So to answer the question - I'll try to be more interesting!

And that concludes our trawl through the souls of the people desperate for your vote on May 3rd. So was it McCain's straight cut oven chips or Birdseye potato waffle? You decide.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 4:17 pm,


At 6:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excpect headlines on Wales Elects for Leanne supporting Independence. What a scoop!

At 9:56 pm, Anonymous Martyn Williams said...

I'd have thought "Leanne supports higher taxes to fund independence fantasy" would be better - which I dont think would go down to well at all with the people of Wales.

At 10:30 pm, Anonymous Rodders said...

What a great answer to Martyn Williams' pessimistic question of how Wales would fund itself! It reminds me of the "It's the economy stupid" tagline! By this I mean any other question similar to Mr Williams' should be answered "through taxation, stupid"!

When will people realise that Wales is not subsidised by England. Even if it was, would we really like to go on for another 800 years saying that we can't make it on our own because we receive subsidies? If, according to Mr Williams, we did receive subsidies why don't we try an pick ourselves up and drag our sorry arses out of being subsidised? Typical moaning and no action.

At 10:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does she say take the utilities BACK into public ownership? The utilities have never been owned by the Welsh public, I guess she means British public ownership.

Annie Powell and Gwyn Alf were Communists, all over the world the communists killed millions of people. Maybe as many as the Nazis. Of Course GAW and Annie didn't kill anyone since the Communists never had power in Wales. If they had come to power no doubt it would have been a different story. Malcolm X a hero, for God sake grow up girl. Malcolm X achieved nothing. Anyone with half a brain would have said Martin Luther King.

At 7:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The utilities have never been owned by the Welsh public,

Glas Cymru - thought that was welsh community owned

At 8:03 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gwyn Alf was amazing and one of my heroes too, as is Maya Angelou
Tell you what it would be interesting to go back and see how many current elected members of all levels were card carrying communists at some point, I can think of a few
Communism is a sociological theory
Christians have killed thousands too but that’s not taken up as a club to beat people who go to church -anonymous what a flawed diatribe.
PS I am and have never been a communist, so don’t use that as an argument to say I am biased

At 8:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leane is yummy. Mmmm

At 12:04 pm, Blogger hafod said...

What is it about Labourites who are obsessed with Wales' inability to feed itself - the Albania of Western Europe was one description recently.
The UK is running a massive £22 billion deficit at the moment - does that mean it's incapable of balancing the books?
Martyn Williams seems to think Leanne said "higher taxes". She did not, she said reprioritising what we spend taxes on and (no doubt) taxing the rich more so we create a more equal nation.
Wales is a country with fabulous natural resources so how come we're so sodding poor?

At 12:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the answer we honest, couldn't really detect a party line

not bad at all

Good idea for a rather dull election Blamerbell

At 2:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant stuff from Leanne.

Independence all the way!

And of course she meant bringing the public utilities into Welsh public ownership! Who's the pedant?rdwiks

At 12:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No valleys mam the Communist Party of Great Britain was a political organization not a sociological theory, it was also a party directly controlled and financed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. For example if the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church was an organisation that actively murdered, tortured and imprisoned millions of innocents around the world, then I would say that its members had blood on their hands.

Anon - I wasn't being pedantic about my Back into public ownership comment. I believe it reveals Leanne's British rather than Welsh outlook.

At 9:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's great. Lets go and tell the good people of Blaenau Gwent that half of them won't be able to work in the council, the post office, Boots the Chemist etc, as each employer will have to provide shop service in Welsh just in case someone comes in and demands to be served in Welsh.
Oh, and the doctors and nurses. Lets not forget what happened in Quebec in the 70s, when there was a terrible shortage of health workers as all those who could not speak French were sacked.
Are we talking compulsory lessons?

At 2:55 pm, Blogger Independence4Celts said...

Plaid seem to be the only party of Wales that take notice of the young here in Wales. Why should I have to pay thousands of pounds to go to University; education should be free to anyone who seeks to better themselves. Helping youngsters on the housing ladder; someone the other day said "£5000 isn't enough"; what's the other parties doing?
I totally agree with Leanne's statement about independence and that we can actually look after ourselves. I mean at the moment Wales is the poorest part of the UK and one of the poorest countries in Western Europe; why? Isn't the UK one of the richest in the World? The fact is that the english government as raped our land of resources and still is. We need to take control of this. Stop them from flooding anymore valleys so that their cities can have water; they're are our valleys, therefore, it is our water.
I know in my lifetime, we will be free; no more subjugation. CYMRU AM BYTH!!!


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