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Why Luke Nicholas is standing in Cardiff South and Penarth

09/11/2012

by Luke NIcholas

It seems like a long time ago now that I was selected to stand in Cardiff South and Penarth for the by-election on November 15th that is less than a week away.

It was only six months ago that I was stood, with my fellow candidates, in the Star Centre in Splott, watching the last round of votes being counted. We’d been up all night and just for a moment it looked as if we’d recorded a historic win for Grangetown in May’s council elections.

In the end we were only a couple of hundred votes short of winning those Council seats. All of our candidates actually gained more votes than the Councillors who had won the seats in 2008. So we were very close, but the statement was made; Plaid Cymru is becoming a major force in Cardiff and Penarth.

The Council elections had been hard work and it had taken a lot out of everyone. Many of us were looking forward to a period when we wouldn’t be fighting another election so we could get back to the everyday campaigning we do in the community.

But we had to pick ourselves up quickly. So we got organised and by July I was selected as the candidate. And I have to say, I’m glad that I was. I had been encouraged and asked by others to stand in the first place and their support was the deciding factor for me.

To stand in Cardiff South and Penarth for Plaid Cymru is a privilege that few people get to enjoy. The constituency is absolutely integral to the modern history of Wales and continues to be one of the most important and interesting areas of the country. This is a point the historian John Davies, like me a Grangetown resident, made to me very forcefully in May.

The Cardiff Docks and Penarth played a key role in the industrial revolution and the British Empire. The Empire is gladly over but its gift was that it brought new people to Wales who have enriched our culture. Muslims from Yemen who built the first mosque in the UK in Cardiff in the 19th Century, sailors from Somaliland (still an internationally unrecognised state) who worked on the coal ships, Gujaratis from Uganda who were fleeing Idi Amin and people from across the Indian sub-continent who are now proud to call themselves Welsh. And of course, many people from elsewhere in Wales.

Cardiff has always embraced newcomers but it remains a uniquely Welsh experiment. The Welsh have never lived like this before; so many of us together in one place; engaging with each other; socialising with each other; expressing new ideas with each other. There are new frontiers for the language too, which is now flourishing in a modern, urban and Welsh environment that it has never experienced before.

Nonetheless, Cardiff has significant problems. I’ve knocked on literally thousands of doors over the past few months but you only need to knock on a couple to realise that all is not well. The cuts being made to social security are beginning to have a devastating impact on the people of Cardiff and Penarth.

Many people here are close to losing faith in politics. The economic crisis, the Leveson inquiry, the injustice suffered by the families of the Hillsborough victims, and the general out-of-touch attitude of successive governments in Westminster - all have contributed to the breakdown in people's trust and faith in politics.

A layer of society now thinks that there is little point in voting - that there are too few differences between the so-called "major" parties. But what I’m telling people is that there is always a point to vote for Plaid because every vote for us is a statement that Wales does have a voice and we are going to use it to chose our own path. And I have to say, many people are agreeing and will be voting for us for the first time on November the 15th.

People are now discovering that Plaid Cymru has played a major part in reforming the constituency, despite having never held the seat. Our influence has in fact been felt across the whole nation. But a major problem in Wales is that we haven't had enough Plaid Cymru. We may have just achieved our highest ever popular vote in Cardiff, but there still remain parts of the city where we haven’t told people enough about the party. My job is to begin turning this around, a job which I am pleased to say is already very much underway.

What is so unique about Cardiff is its ability to keep reinventing itself and we as a party must do the same. Cardiff has gone from being one of the busiest ports in the world with Tiger Bay - to the home of Welsh democracy with the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay, all in less than a century. This is what inspires me about standing in this constituency, because I know that once again Cardiff South and Penarth will be at the forefront of reinventing Wales and Plaid Cymru will play a major part in this.

In the future we hope that Cardiff will be a modern, European capital; with clean, electrified railways that connect the south Wales region, an airport regularly connected to the city that brings in tourists and business people alike; jobs in green energy production and sustainable industries, a growing cooperative sector; and, of course, a culture that will continue to develop in our two national tongues, with contributions from many others along the way.

It’s building this future that drives me and this is why I’m standing in Cardiff South and Penarth.