Monday, 22 February 2010

Anglesey special feature on the BBC Politics Show

With Ynys Môn within reach at the general election for Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives, it was singled out for a special feature on the weekly BBC 'Politics Show' on Sunday with correspondent Max Cotton despatched to explain what makes Anglesey just so different from the rest of the country. You can watch it here on iPlayer (beware BBC programmes expire after just seven days).

Cotton concludes that the defining characteristics of Anglesey residents is that they are "very, very welsh", are not NIMBY-ish, and they like nuclear power and low flying jets. Max also interviewed each of the four main candidates and here are the highlights (interjected with the Druid's comments):


Max Cotton: I think everyone I've spoken to here has said that jobs and regeneration are the two huge issues. We've had a Labour government for 13 years, is it your fault? Is it Tony Blair's fault that Anglesey is suffering?

Albert Owen: No, I came into politics in the 80s when it was a damn sight worse than it is now, we have to be honest about that. There was mass unemployment and mass depopulation in the 80s and 90s. Its certainly a lot better now.

The Druid: A lot better now? Are you serious, Albert? Was it really worse in the 80s? I don't think so - and here's why:

  • Anglesey Aluminium started smelting in 1971 and continued production all the way through the 80s and 90s, only closing with a loss of 400 jobs in September 2009
  • The Wylfa Nuclear Powerstation was also commissioned in 1971, carried on through the 80s and 90s and is now only months away from being decommissioned
  • The Octel chemical plant in Amlwch began production in 1953 and continued through the 80s and 90s (under various different names) until it closed in 2005
  • The Eaton Electric plant in Holyhead opened in 1960 under the name Midland Electric Manufacturing Company, it operated all through the 80s and 90s and only closed in December 2009 with a loss of 250 jobs
  • The Peboc Eastman chemical plant in Llangefni was established in 1970, continued production all through the 80s and 90s, and only closed its doors in 2008 with a loss of 100 jobs
  • Anglesey is an island of farmers, yet the economic contribution of agriculture in North Wales (including Anglesey) has declined by a staggering 67 per cent during the period 1997-2007, compared to an overall UK decline of just 7 per cent. You only need to compare a visit to the Morgan Evans livestock auctions in the 80s or 90s with one now to see how things have declined
  • This decimation of agriculture on Anglesey has directly affected the abattoir and meat-packaging plant in Gaerwen (now called Welsh Country Foods and part of the Vion Group) which began operating back in 1980s and continued throughout that decade and the 1990s; it has only begun downsizing this year with a loss of 200 jobs; the chicken processing plant in Llangefni, commonly known as 'Chuckies' and owned by the same company was established even earlier and also continued production throughout the 80s and 90s, until it lost a whole shift (140 jobs) last year 
  • Throughout the 80s and the 90s, the High Street of Anglesey's main market town, Llangefni, was bustling and enjoyed a vibrant street market on Thursdays. Back then there was hardly a single closed shop, yet now at least half of the storefronts are closed or converted to charity shops and the Thursday market is a shadow of itself (see here). Furthermore, Bangor may not be on the island but Anglesey residents have long travelled over the bridge to shop there - now Bangor High Street, also bustling with activity in the 80s and 90s, is rapidly resembling a ghost town (as the Druid has discussed here)
Please note: I'm not saying that everything was tickety-boo on Anglesey in  the 80s and 90s - but to say things were worse then than they are now, as Albert Owen is trying to do, is demonstrably false. All of the above large-scale businesses weathered the 80s and 90s and are only closing now, with a loss of thousands of jobs.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the interview:

Max Cotton: But you've been losing jobs and employers, haven't you?

Albert Owen: We've been losing a couple of employers in the last year as has everywhere, this global crisis has hit Anglesey hard, no ifs or buts about it, but we've got to take the brave decisions.

A couple of employers??! Albert Owen must either think that Anglesey residents don't watch the Politics Show or thinks we are all idiots.

PETER ROGERS (Independent)

The good news is that Peter Rogers is out of hospital following his heart op and recovering; the bad news is that he looks visibly frail.

Max Cotton: Nobody's rung you to say 'please don't do this, Peter'?
Peter Rogers: They are too ashamed of what they have done to me, too ashamed of the success I've had since I left the Conservatives.
MC: And its not resentment, its not bitterness on your part?
PR: Not at all, I think its wrong of you to challenge me on that...
MC:, no, I'm just trying to find out what your motivations are in the nicest possible way...
PR: ...Yeah, yeah. I'm taking votes from all the Partys; I've got a lot of people who are nationalists who see me as a Sensible Nationalist. We need someone to lead, to change the image of Ynys Mon, and I believe that Peter Rogers can change that image.

So, it looks like health problems notwithstanding, Peter Rogers will be standing again at the general election...

DYLAN REES (Plaid Cymru)

Max Cotton interviewed Dylan Rees standing outside RAF Valley, ostensibly to make the point that Plaid Cymru have links with CND and are against having UK military bases on Welsh soil.

Dylan Rees: We are a broad church party. What really unites us is our passion, our vision. I have excellent links and ties with the personnel of RAF Valley and I think they do a wonderful job.
Max Cotton: Plaid Cymru doesn't like nuclear power though, do they?
Dylan Rees: Plaid Cymru, if it had a choice, would  not want to see nuclear power, but how can I as a representative, or any political representative here on Anglesey, in the dire economic situation we find outselves in turn down the possibility of 5000 construction jobs and 800 to 1000 permanent well paid jobs?

Once you've gotten over the shock that Dylan didn't mention Post Offices once, what he basically said is: "our principles are against nuclear power and military bases, but we will ignore our principles just to get elected".


We didn't see much of Anthony Ridge-Newman, but this is what he had to say:

Ridge-Newman: I come from an entrepreneurial background, my father is an entrepreneur, and I've had experience in business in the City in London and throughout the UK; I travelled around as a corporate presenter and I've done lots of things around the country in terms of business and economics and I want to bring that experience across the bridge into Anglesey; I want to get people working, I want to get people with creative ideas building businesses becoming entrepreneurs themselves and thats what the Conservatives are best at, and I think thats my strength.

The BBC didn't interview the ex-Barman from St Asaph, or maybe they did and just didn't show us that part. Anyway, no great loss.

All interesting stuff and the Druid particularly enjoyed the haunting Celtic music and references to his fellow Druids of yore - although Max Cotton made the common mistake of confusing the Bryn Celli Ddu burial mound with Druidism. Tut tut, one expects better than tired cliches from our National Broadcaster. Which brings me on to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychgwyndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch. Is it really obligatory to have references to it in every single programme about Anglesey?


Anonymous said...

Not much of a choice between this lot then except for Peter Rogers who would walk it if he was in one of the big parties but I don't hold much hope for him as an Independent. As for the others, has Albert Owen been hibernating? He lost the plot a long time ago and the comments from him in this interview about "losing a couple of companies" was mind-boggling. He must be the most bland politician we have ever suffered on the island. As for Plaid, what a lot of old nonsense from Rees. His party is against nuclear power so why is he such a prat in trying to get the electorate to believe his party's outlook about anything. This lot would say anything to get elected. Finally we have had yet another Conservative candidate parachuted from the shires and one with a double-barelled name to boot. Just cannot see that going down well with the folk of Anglesey somehow. The Tories shoot themselves in the foot by doing this every election instead of finding a local man for local issues. They should go cap in hand to Peter Rogers and plead with him to come back to the fold, he would be the man to bring them a win here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such an interesting article Mr Druid. Have you seen this blog

Carl Morris said...

It's possible to download the programme from the BBC, albeit with their iPlayer Desktop and its digital restrictions management.