Saturday, 28 February 2015

International Womens Day - From Wales

International Women's Day 2015 is a celebration of strong, inspiring, talented and downright hardy Welsh women here in Wales! There is a warrior-like spirit among the female bretheren of Wales, that has produced singers, actors, doctors, writers, musicians, but also ordinary working class women - miners wives, carers, community leaders who are the real backbone of our great nation.

Whilst many newspapers will be full of the celebrity women who adorn their covers weekly on IWD, here in Wales we will celebrate the working class women who keep this country running; the real heroes doing the jobs no one else wants to do; caring for disabled relatives, nursing elderly people through dementia, those working in mundane zero hours contract jobs to make ends meet.

On top of the mundane jobs that the Con-Dem government take for granted, Welsh women are very active and vocal in their communities. Fighting to save local community facilities, volunteering at sports clubs, running foodbanks, school breakfast clubs. This is where you will find inspirational, intelligent, highly articulate women. Leaders of their communities. This is why I am very proud to live, work and write in Wales, and hopefully one day be honoured to represent us all in Parliament.

I wish women everywhere, but especially in Wales, a celebration of IWD, and an outward roar of  fiery praise from our own Welsh dragon, at the greatness achieved daily by all Welsh women.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wales and EMA - A Land of opportunity for our Young.

For the record, let's put this straight from the start. From the Welsh side of the Offa's Dyke we are  redrawing the education line. In plain language I serve notice on Cameron and his side kick Stephen Crabb, the "so called Secretary of State for Wales" the Welsh side of the Offa's Dyke path is the difference between educational opportunity for ALL young people regardless of income as opposed to  those who are able to afford it in England. In Wales we have Education Maintenance Alllowance at £30 per week but step over the border into Tory imposed England, and many are not able to access further education if they are poor. Cameron with Gove in charge pulled the rug under poor sixth formers and abolished EMA without a thought in England. With his Eton education Cameron was certainly taught all the prerequisites of today's Tory politician: empty stone hearted automatons, whose core belief is their divine right to rule.

Not so here in Wales. After a blistering performance by both Owen Smith, Shadow Welsh Secretary and Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales at Welsh Labour Conference last week, we are fortunate in having 2 leaders with a clear vision of  protecting the poorest in our society and providing opportunities to escape poverty. The best way to tackle poverty is through education  and the decision to retain EMA in Wales is helping record numbers of 16-18 year olds access further education and become the skilled workforce of Wales in the future. Nearly 30,000 Welsh teenagers are being helped with the weekly £30 which is a lifeline for books, expensive bus and train travel, often in rural areas and college lunches. This important lifeline makes huge differences in our communities and eases the burden for poor and working poor parents too. I shudder to think of the sheer scale of the waste of talent currently going on in England due to the abolition of EMA by the Nasty Party. But then empathy is not a quality you find among Tory MPs in general.

Why am I so passionate about EMA in Wales? My own son has access to it. He is nearly 17 and doing A Levels. His sixth form cannot afford to supply pupils with the course books he needs for the 4 subjects he is studying so he has to buy them all himself. English Literature and History for example have an extensive reading list. It is a sheer relief as parents that the £30 EMA is used to cover the course text books and he is able to study independently at home as a result and not just on loan books at the school library. This September our youngest son will join him in sixth form. We will have 2 sons doing A Levels. In England we would certainly have to consider whether we were able to support both sons further education. As Working poor parents, there are no further belts to tighten or cuts to be made. Would a decision to support one son and not the other have to be made? That's the kind of  issue facing many parents in England I am sure. In Wales opportunity and talent are embraced and nurtured under a socialist government. Children from poorer backgrounds can blend into their sixth forms and embark on school educational trips knowing that EMA is there supporting them.

 My sons sixth form also insists that although 2 hours voluntary work a week is optimal, it positively discourages any evening or weekend employment as the A level courses require 20-25 hours a week of study outside school. The EMA £30 support means my son is not juggling work and study and  worrying whether he can fit it all in. Instead he commits to volunteering with Childline and the NSPCC 2 hours a week which is providing him with valuable workplace experience. The sixth form is a level playing field for all, and ensures everyone is able to participate and take an active role in their studies regardless of income.

Abolishing EMA in England was not only a grave error of judgement from this abominable coalition government, but a direct attack on the poorest children in our society. And before the LibDems moan I most definitely point the finger at them! The LibDems had the power to halt the worse excesses of Toryism. They blatantly voted with their Tory masters to pull up the ladder of opportunity from children of the poor. Not only EMA but university tuition fees will be the shameful legacy of Nick Cleggs time as party leader.  They deserve the misery of electoral annihilation in May as a result.

The Tory War on Wales is unprecedented. Never has there been a Prime Minister and  Welsh Secretary hell bent on the destruction of a sovereign country within the UK. Like the right wing media, it's a fact that those who are shouting and protesting the loudest about Wales obviously have something they fear. Cameron fears Welsh success stories. Whether that is EMA, Free Prescriptions, Jobs Growth Wales or our early years Flying Start scheme, he broods within Westminster, with his out of touch extreme right wing spin doctors who are so London-centric they couldn't plot Wales on a map!

It's time to shut up Dave! There's a reason this side of the Offa's Dyke is loyally socialist. We want to live in a land of opportunity for all, not just for millionaires. We want to be led by leaders of integrity and vision like Owen Smith and Carwyn Jones. We want to live in an inspired powerhouse of Wales and Welsh success stories. We urge the people of England to boot you and your rancid party out  of No.10 in May and replace you with a Labour government.  Hope, compassion and empathy need to be returned to the UK and nothing less than Tory long term political wilderness will suffice!