Organised by: Cynnal Cymru, Wildlife Trusts Wales, Hub Cymru Africa, Wales Environment Link, Christian Aid Wales, Tearfund, Love Zimbabwe, WWF Cymru, Renewable UK Cymru, Stop Climate Chaos Cymru, NUS Wales, Sub-Saharan Advisory Panel, Welsh Centre for International Affairs, Sustainable Places Research Institute: Cardiff University, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, National Federation of Women’s Institutes – Wales, Size of Wales, Fair Trade Wales, Disability in Wales and Africa, Friends of the Earth Cymru, NUS Wales, and Cardiff University People and Planet student society.
The hustings, chaired by veteran political broadcaster Glyn Mathias, aimed to address some of the biggest long-term global issues affecting the lives of people in Wales and around the world and how the different political parties propose to address these if they were to form the next Welsh Government.
The hustings brought together representatives from the main political parties in Wales to discuss, in particular, how their party would work towards developing their vision for the implementation of the Future Generations Act in Wales.
William Powell – Welsh Liberal Democrats
Alice Hooker-Stroud – Wales Green Party
Llyr Gruffydd – Plaid Cymru
Anna McMorrin – Welsh Labour
Ross England – Welsh Conservatives
UKIP did not respond to the invitation
With the focus very much on the Future Generations Act and its implementation, this was a key hustings event from the perspective of Frack Free Wales and Egnio Cymru. My main objective was to seek out the candidates views on these group’s main objectives and try to gain their signatures for their ongoing petitions to Welsh Government. In summary:
BAN ON FRACKING IN WALES
- William Powell – LD – unequivocal support and signed the petition
- Alice Hooker-Stroud – GP – unequivocal support and signed the petition
- Llyr Gruffydd – PC – unequivocal support and signed the petition
- Ross England – Con – not in his constituency!! Refused to sign the petition
- Anna McMorrin – Lab – ‘isn’t our moratorium great?’ Refused to sign the petition
MOVING TOWARDS 100% RENEWABLES
- William Powell – LD – yes in principle – reservations over large onshore wind farms – signed the petition
- Alice Hooker-Stroud – GP – unequivocal support, including for large scale projects, and signed the petition
- Llyr Gruffydd – PC – unequivocal support and signed the petition
- Ross England – Con – yes to more renewables if cost effective and part of a mix that includes fossil fuels etc. Refused to sign the petition.
- Anna McMorrin – Lab – yes to community renewables in particular, BUT refused to sign the petition.
I’ll cover a few points in more detail below, but the basic divisions were consistent and clear:
To the left, we had Plaid Cymru, Greens and Lib Dems all largely singing from the same song sheets, but with subtle differences in emphasis, as we would all expect and indeed hope. Most importantly of all, they were all singing the songs we want and need to be hearing, if there is to be any substance to the potential for change embodied in the Future Generations Act.
To the right we also had remarkable harmony, but in terms of shallow, meaningless pap. Both Tory and Labour candidates were happy to mutter greenwash platitudes, and cite achievements that are anything but when scrutinised, but when pushed to put their names to the meaningful change embodied in our petitions, they had nothing to say but a point blank refusal.
I have to make special mention of Llyr Gruffydd’s performance. I cannot ever recall a politician saying exactly what I wanted to say, and even in very similar manner to the way I would have wished to deliver it. It was almost as if he was my mouthpiece. He completely demolished the Labour pretence that there is a moratorium on fracking in Wales . He also demolished Labour claims to have done anything meaningful to support Community Energy to date, despite McMorrin citing it as a glorious achievement of the Labour administration. Even on other issues, he took my own position regarding the M4 relief road; that something has to be done, but that the Black Route is incompatible with the essence of the Future Generations Act, but that the Blue Route could be an acceptable compromise. When I first encountered Llyr, probably about 5 years ago he did not convince me that he could handle the Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food portfolio he was given. He has consistently grown into the role and clearly worked hard to improve his understanding and knowledge base. This in turn has made him a much more relaxed and assured performer. He helps to allay my fears (a little) that Plaid Cymru do not have enough talent to form a competent government.
I also have to make a special mention of Alice Hooker-Stroud’s performance. I have to say that the more I see of her, the more impressed I become. She has the calm assurance of someone who actually understands what she is talking about (ain’t that a refreshing change after the PB years?!). She does however have a rather academic, almost school ma’am manner, that is fine with a educated audience but unlikely to engage the disaffected. I have no hesitation in saying that she would make an excellent Assembly Member. There is a small chance that all the stars may align and let her squeak in. That would be real bonus for all concerned. Sadly, the Greens have not done enough on a consistent enough basis to make it happen this time around. As good an AM that I think she could be, I don’t think she has what it takes to be the effective leader that the Greens in Wales desperately need in order to become an election force. Until they sort out their priorities for the use of their limited time and financial resources, they will continue to fritter both away on vanity projects that impress too few, rather than doing the hard graft needed to win elections.
Enough of personalities, to conclude, here are a few collected soundbites from the evening that give a little food for thought:
- RE says Tories voted against the Future Generations Act in part because they were concerned local authorities were being given extra responsibilities without the extra funding to enable them. (Hmm…… whose fault is that then, Ross?)
- Both AM and LG highlighted the important role that the Future Generations Commissioner will have in helping implement the Act. The first Commissioner took up her role on 1st February this year. What do we know about Sophie Howe? There appears to be a distinct lack of environmental strength in her background, which does not augur well, but she is also a former Labour councillor and Deputy Police Commissioner (for Labour), and seeing FoTEC’s response to her appointment as possibly ‘compromising’ the role, is not a good start!
- There was general consent that the survival of the Welsh steel industry was important, if for no other reason that steel has a crucial part to play in just about all major infrastructure projects, be if renewable energy generators, or railway lines. Attitudes towards protectionist tariffs however took typical party lines.
- The best idea that came from RE for the Tories (and therefore I doubt it is their actual policy!) is a proposed annual review of progress with carbon emissions to monitor and hopefully ensure the desirable direction of travel with these.
- AHS made a slightly unusual (in the sense of not a typical Green position) case for big scale renewable projects, citing figures I did not quite get about logarithmic efficiency gains.
- WP raised legitimate concerns over TAN8 guidance on renewable energy projects and its inadequacies. A review and rewriting of TANs (Technical Advice Notes) is something that LG also supported. The lack of any TAN appropriate for fracking activity will not be a problem, of course, if we get it banned.
So, for what it’s worth, my marks out of 10 for the candidates before us at this hustings:
- Llyr Gruffydd – PC 9/10
- Alice Hooker-Stroud – GP 7/10
- William Powell – LD 5/10
- Ross England – Con 4/10
- Anna McMorrin – Lab 3/10
- DNS – UKIP 0/10