Of course not everyone agreed with my analyses and prescriptions, but everyone was happy to engage in mostly good humoured debates about topical issues concerning our Island. And, most importantly, people didn’t want to just criticise, they also wanted to propose solutions. Readers submitted intelligent and well thought out ideas in their hundreds to improve the Island, and it was these which ended up forming the core of the crowd-sourced ‘People’s Manifesto for Ynys Môn’ -- a labour of love for many of us. I can honestly say that my proudest moment since setting up ‘The Druid’ was not the day it was named as ‘Best Political Blog’ at the Wales Blog Awards, but the day I emailed the People’s Manifesto to Ieuan Wyn Jones, Albert Owen, and our 40 county councillors.
In addition to the People’s Manifesto there have also been a number of other key moments, and here is just a flavour:
- thanks to a reader’s FoI request, the details of Anglesey Council’s Interim MD David Bowles’ salary -- the highest paid civil servant in Wales -- were first revealed on this blog
- the fact-checking of Albert Owen’s repeated claims that Anglesey isn’t the poorest place in the UK, despite the Office of National Statistics clearly showing that it is
- the bringing to light of the shocking experiences of a number of Anglesey residents who tried to inform the council about abuses regarding Town Renovation and Home Improvement Grants.
- the first public publication of the controversial ‘Terms of Engagement’ of the Alliance which took over the executive of Anglesey County Council in June
- a look at how the North Wales Police Authority distorted the results of a poll on the public’s real opinion on elected Police Commissioners in Wales
- the truth behind Albert Owen’s election leaflet claim that he had secured £635 million for RAF Valley -- despite that actually being the total flight training budget spread across 25 years for all of the UK’s air bases.
...and many more.
You might wonder why there are two Albert Owen stories above, but none about Ieuan Wyn Jones? The reason is this: for whatever his faults Albert is at least committed to Anglesey and engages with residents openly and quickly. Indeed when I sent out the People’s Manifesto, the very first reply I received was from Albert. In contrast I never heard anything back from Ieuan Wyn Jones -- and this is also true whenever I have looked to write about him on this blog: there’s literally nothing to write because his engagement with his own constituency is so slight. And that is not just my opinion -- I have now heard the same sentiments repeated to me by many, many Islanders. As we all know, Ieuan Wyn currently has four jobs:
- Deputy First Minister,
- Minister for Economy and Transport
- Leader of Plaid Cymru, and
- AM for Ynys Môn
There is no doubt in my mind that he prioritises his attention and energies on his ministerial and Plaid Cymru responsibilities at the expense of his most important job: being our AM. As officially the poorest place in the UK, I believe that Ynys Môn can no longer afford the luxury of an AM who's first priority is not looking after his own constituency.
Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time will know that my political views are quite clearly conservative - something I have never tried to hide. Accordingly, and after a great deal of thought, I decided that I would put myself forward for selection as the Conservative candidate for next May’s Assembly elections -- not because I particularly want to be a politician, but because I have a passion for my home Island and want to do something to help halt the decline. I’m happy to announce that last night I was selected as the Welsh Conservative candidate for Ynys Môn and will take on Ieuan Wyn Jones in next year’s Welsh Assembly elections.
a.k.a. "The Druid"
As the Welsh Conservative candidate, in addition to being guided by the People's Manifesto, I will be focussing on the following key points:
- championing a private sector led economic recovery on Anglesey. Over a relatively short period of time Ynys Môn has seen the closure of several of its largest firms and the loss of over 2,100 private-sector jobs, according to a study by the University of Wales. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the biggest job-creators in our economy, yet Ieuan Wyn Jones’s Economic Renewal Programme has slashed the amount of support available to these smaller firms. I will champion and support our SMEs to set-up and expand by recognising the value of these embryonic companies and their potential to grow and create employment.
- Support a smarter ‘Energy Island’ concept. I will provide full and unequivocal support for the development of Wylfa B. However for the ‘Energy Island’ concept to fully benefit Anglesey we need to be more than just a ‘site’ for nuclear reactors and water turbines. As such I will champion the creation of an Energy Technology Park on the Island and ensure that the skilled workforce needed for the power station and its construction are sourced locally.
- Support the recovery of Anglesey County Council. The political problems at Anglesey County Council have created an environment of instability and indecision which is not conducive for business investment or development – particularly due to the absence of a clear planning policy framework.
- Champion Agriculture and Tourism on Ynys Môn. Between 1997 and 2007, the economic contribution of agriculture to the North Wales economy fell by 67 percent, compared to an overall UK decline of just 7 percent. Equally, in terms of tourism, Anglesey does not suffer from a dearth of places to visit, it suffers from a lack of imagination in marketing itself. I will champion and support both agriculture and tourism on Ynys Môn.
- Defend Anglesey from disproportionate cuts. I recognise the need for the government to reduce the structural deficit, however I will defend Anglesey from any disproportionate or unfair cuts to policing, health, education and other frontline public services.
- To be a dedicated AM for Ynys Môn. It is clear that the Ieuan Wyn Jones’s Leadership of Plaid Cymru and ministerial duties are compromising his ability to give Anglesey residents a much needed and dedicated voice in Cardiff Bay. I pledge to be an excellent and dedicated AM for Ynys Môn.
As for this blog: it will continue. As far as I am concerned nothing has changed -- I am still the same person I was before becoming a candidate -- and I will continue to write about matters which effect both Ynys Môn and Wales as a whole. Like you I want to see what's best for this Island.
Paul Williams / The Druid
P.S. Some of you may have noticed that someone called Alwyn Rowlands, apparently the Chair of the Anglesey Labour Party, has recently taken to writing angry letters to the Daily Post and Anglesey & Holyhead Mail demanding that "if [the Druid] wants to become involved in politics, then come out and debate it out in the open with the rest of us". Well, Alwyn, here I am.