Friday, June 24, 2005

Morden's First Black Mark

Apologies for the lack of updates recently but it's been a hectic time for us all; a mixture of exams, work and music festivals has left us lacking in any real energy.

Just a quick reminder that Ms Morden is also still alive, last week she even went as far as speaking in the House of Commons asking Peter Hain:

Will my right hon. Friend consider using a single vote rather than two to elect additional Members, as is being considered by the Arbuthnot commission in Scotland?

Of course, currently Labour does very badly on the second vote, partly due to the additional member system acting against parties with large numbers of constituency based AMs but also because people vote for a second party (usually one that's not standing in their area, or has little chance of winning) and this penalises Labour further.

Mr Hain went on to say that he thought it was confusing for constituents to have two ballot papers. What the Welsh Secretary doesn't say is how much better Labour would do under such a tweak to the system. Besides, it is important that this choice is left to the electorate, so that smaller parties are not penalised further, and not taken away as Ms Morden suggests it should be. It is for this reason that we, for the first time, condemn the Member for Newport East.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jessica Morden's maiden speech

Our hon. member made her maiden speech yesterday, name-checking Goldie Lookin Chain in the process.
This will probably be the start of a long and distinguished parliamentary career and suchlike. We look forward to the South Wales Argus speculating on this point next week, or whenever it is they look us up on the internet.

Anyway, this is what the laydee herself said:

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this debate. I represent with great pride the constituency of Newport, East, and I would like to express my thanks to the people of the constituency who have sent me here. I have heard rumours that hon. Members sometimes have difficulty in paying tribute to their predecessors. I am sure that that is not true, but I have no such problem. Despite the fact that my immediate predecessor originally came to the House as a Tory, I know Alan Howarth very well and I know of his diligence and his ability. During the election campaign, the people of Newport, East told me time and again of his determination and effectiveness in tackling their problems. He was also, of course, a splendid Minister in several Departments who left a lasting legacy in the shape of his contribution to widening access to higher education, to the arts, to developing disabled people's rights and to building a national child care strategy.
I mentioned that Alan started out as a Tory—as the Conservative Member for Stratford-on-Avon. Political parties do not always react well to Floor-crossers, but it was a sense of duty and conviction that led Alan to cross the Floor in 1995. He was welcomed very warmly by the Labour party in Newport, East—no mean feat for a Conservative in south Wales. I assure hon. Members and my constituents that, although I aspire to be as good a constituency Member and parliamentarian as he, I can categorically state that I will never cross the Floor. I am so pleased that Parliament will not be losing his talent, and that I will not be losing his sage advice and experience.
I also pay tribute to Alan's predecessor, the late Lord Islwyn, who like me and Alan Howarth, made his maiden speech on Second Reading of the Finance Bill. He represented Newport for more than 30 years and, sadly, passed away in the last Parliament. I note in passing that that makes two Members for Newport, East in a row who have been elevated to the other place.
My constituency of Newport, East stands at the gateway to England and Wales—or the other way around, depending on how one looks at it. It stretches from the eastern banks of the mouth of the River Usk to the communities of Roggiett, Undy, Magor and Caldicot.
Newport has a very proud political history. It was the cradle of the Chartists and later home of the Chartist riots in 1839. The demands made by the Chartists are the principles that we now take for granted and, indeed, formed the basis of modern parliamentary democracy: universal suffrage, secret ballots, the abolition of the property qualification for Members and, of course, wages for MPs so that not only the wealthy could represent the people.
Born—surprisingly enough—as a port, Newport became in the 19th century one of the most important places in the country for coal export. Later, the steel industry made its home in Newport, at Llanwern in the Corus plant. In light of recent experience, Lord Islwyn spoke prophetically when he said in his maiden speech in 1966:
"it would . . . be tempting fate to rely so exclusively on this one form of trade."—[Official Report, 25 May 1966; Vol. 729, c. 503.]
When, in 2001, Corus announced the end of steel making and serious job losses at the Llanwern steelworks, many thought that the town would be devastated. Newport, East has fought back, though, because of the enduring quality of its greatest asset—the people of Newport, East, who have always shown their ability to bounce back from setbacks and difficulties, adapting and responding to changes in industry and society.
Four years is a very long time in politics and so much has changed. My constituency is now enjoying a renaissance. The word "renaissance" is easy to use; nearly every local government strategy document proclaims a local renaissance, and it might seem overly grandiose, suggesting a perfect image of 15th century Italy—a combination of economic and cultural revival—but in Newport's case, it is true. There is certainly an economic renaissance. Despite losing part of its core industries, the city is proving that it can re- establish itself as a centre of modern industry and commerce. New industry in the high-tech and financial services sector is being attracted to the constituency. That includes companies such as EADS Defence and Security Systems, which I visited during the campaign, and which is bidding for the new UK fire and rescue services communications system.
Thanks to the good relations and teamwork between the work force, management and unions, Corus reported record profits this year. Thanks to Labour teamwork in Westminster, the Assembly and on the excellent Newport council, the city is home to Wales's first regeneration company—Newport Unlimited, which is redeveloping the city centre with £30 million for jobs and development.
The renaissance is built on the strong foundation of a better skilled work force. The University of Wales in Newport, in neighbouring Newport, West, has had the largest increase in full-time undergraduate applications of any university in the United Kingdom and is one of the top UK universities for widening access to higher education for students from the state school sector. That is a signpost of bright things to come for Newport, East, but the future development that Newport needs must be as a result of commercial decisions dependent on the Government continuing to create the conditions to ensure a strong and vibrant economy in Wales. The measures in the Finance Bill, however complex and technical, will enable us to do that.
I am very proud that we have the best economic background in Wales for decades, helping a huge cross-section of people to share in the prosperity that a stable economy is providing. There are now more people in Wales in work than ever before, and unemployment in Newport, East has been halved. It is vital that we continue that growth.
Some might say that the renaissance in Newport is due to the popularity of the GLC—not the Greater London council but the Goldie Lookin' Chain, Newport's rap stars whose spiritual leader is my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn). What is certainly true is that Newport's renaissance is intimately associated with its cultural life. Thanks to the legendary club, TJ's, Newport is a cultural Mecca for the alternative music scene. It is a city with its own cultural and sporting heroes—Caldicot male voice choir, Newport Dragons rugby team, Newport County FC, the Welsh national velodrome and the sports village. Although it is just outside my patch, I am sure that my colleague in Newport, West will not mind my mentioning that I look forward to hosting the 2010 Ryder cup at the Celtic Manor. Newport was awarded city status in 2002. Some wag even suggested that with such a renaissance we should start to call Newport "new Newport", but that might be a little bit too new Labour for some.
I want to ensure that all my constituents get to share in Newport's growth. I am proud to represent a party that has done so much over the years to unlock human talent and to deliver social justice, but there is still much to do to improve people's day-to-day lives for the better. Child poverty still blights too many lives; too few people leave school without the skills and qualifications that they need to make their way in the world; there is too much antisocial behaviour, meaning that people cannot live in peace; and too many people rely on income replacement benefits. Working with my colleagues in this place and in Newport, that is what I want to help to change.

Go Jessica!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

No News Is Good News For Newport East AM

As you can see below your AM John Griffiths refuses to be outdone by his Westminster counterpart, Ms Morden, in today's Argus despite not actually having done anything new:

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A special prize, a year's subscription to the South Wales Argus, goes to the first person to email highlighting the typo in the above article. Second prize is a lifetime's subscription to the South Wales Argus.

Morden Makes Maiden Speech?

Well Westminster returns after their two weeks holiday (as if our MPs get the chance to take holidays) for Whitsun and today was due to be the day when Jess 'just where has my -ica gone' Morden MP was to make her maiden speech, as today's Argus reports:

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If indeed she has done so, we will be able to confirm this at some point tomorrow and we shall endeavour to upload a full transcript of same.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Griffiths Joins Calls To 'Make Poverty History'

Well, over the bank holiday weekend we received a nice press release that I've quoted verbatim below:

John Griffiths AM, Chair of the Assembly's All-Party Group on International Development, has called for a debate to be held by the Assembly to discuss what Wales can do to support the "Make Poverty History" campaign.

Speaking following the official Wales launch of the Commission for Africa Report, which took place at the Assembly earlier this week, John pressed Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Assembly Business, to devote time in the Assembly Chamber for a full debate on the issue.

"The Commission's Report details some of the progress that has taken place, but also the tremendous job of work that has yet to be done if we are to achieve fair trade, debt relief, adequate aid, peace and stability, and good governance, to deal with the problems of the developing world."

"It is good to see that the UK Government is leading the way in the response to many of these issues."

"With the G8 summit in Scotland this summer, and the UK about to assume the European Union presidency, it would be timely for the Assembly to debate the great "Make Poverty History" campaign, which has such a great groundswell of support in Wales and which is so worthwhile."

The Minister replied that it was key to continually look at Wales' relationship with the rest of the world and she hoped that the Assembly would be able to find the time to move its international development agenda forward.

Other than that it's been a slow news weekend I'm afraid. The only other news of note is that Newport's new Mayor is backing the Samaritans (Critchley is councillor for the Liswerry ward).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Politics: Showbusiness For Ugly People? I Think Not.

There has been much murmuring in certain circles about our MP's, uh-hum, physical appearance and after all, she's no Anne Widdecombe. Though it now seems The Guardian- along with several lobby journalists - agree that gentlemen prefer blondes, as they have included her as their latest political 'hotty'. Previous nominees include Adam Afriyie (Tory MP for Windsor), Jenny Willott (Cardiff's latest newest MP) and Labour candidate for Kensington and Chelsea, Catherine Atkinson.

Full Story Here

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Car Parking Charges To Be Brought To Caldicot

The BBC website are reporting news from right out in the sticks, on the constituency's border with Monmouth.

Ghost town fears over car charges

We all tend to forget that Caldicot is part of the Newport East constituency. It is actually within the boundaries of the Tory run Monmouthshire County Council. Amazingly Caldicot, a place not known for its outspoken Welshness, has two Plaid Cymru councillors*, in addition to two Labour and one Independent. We've been told that whilst it was the Tories' idea to bring car-parking charges to the town, the two Plaid councillors voted for the charges despite speaking out against them at a previous council meeting.

If you wish to register your disapproval to your councillors, we have included a their email addresses below (I am sure they would just love to hear from you).

Cllr Ronald Stewart, Plaid Cymru (Caldicot Castle Ward);

Cllr David Ashwin, Plaid Cymru (Green Lane Ward);

Cllr Jim Higginson, Labour (Severn Ward);

Cllr Bill Edwards, Labour (Dewstow Ward);

Cllr James Harris, Independent (West End Ward).

If you would prefer to phone them then their full phone numbers can be found on here:

A Full List of Monmouthshire Councillors Can Be Found Here

*I always thought of Caldicot as being a very Anglicised part of Wales and a kind of run-down version of Chepstow, if you like, so if anyone would like to shed some light on how Plaid managed to gain two councillors at the last election please email me!

John Griffiths Launches Website

Your constituency Assembly Member, John Griffiths, has launched his very own website. Apparently designed to "let local people know about the latest news from across the constituency and to give them an idea of what goes on in the Assembly in Cardiff Bay", it's not looking too bad at the moment, on the basic side but still not bad at all. It's a start John, now how about a blog?

The website can be found at

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Underwood Leisure Centre

A sub-issue in Newport before the election was the closure of Underwood Leisure Centre. Was Labour's total lack of campaigning within the Llanmartin/Underwood area a convenient coincidence? Anyway, I daresay the Labour run council lost Ms Morden a few votes on May 5 from what used to be described as a rock-solid Labour area.

But what's this? Underwood Leisure Centre To Be Saved?