Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Hustings: No young hopefuls

IssueMay 2010
News by Kelvin Mason

Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network got the election ball rolling in March, organising a peace and justice hustings in the Morlan Centre.

Prospective parliamentary candidates Mark Williams (Lib Dem), Penri James (Plaid Cymru), Richard Boudier (Labour) and Luke Evetts (Conservative) turned up for a grilling from the audience. Typically, the Labour and Conservative candidates, who stand no chance of winning the seat, were politically-inexperienced young men.

The hustings began with a presentation on testing military drones at Aberporth from Jeremy Clulow (see Testing death drones at Aberport).

For anyone expecting fiery exchanges, it turned out to be a slow grill set to tepid by the panel.

As Patrick O’Brian writing in the Cambrian News observed: “The miraculous thing about these four Ceredigion Election candidates was they all agree with each other. On just about everything.”

Indeed as the audience grew restless, it was clear these representatives of the political class had much more in common with each other than with the electorate. They were also ill-informed on peace and justice issues and lacked a moral compass.

On the issue of St Athan military academy, for instance, although all candidates expressed their backing for the venture on the grounds of economic development, none knew how many jobs would be created locally, what type of jobs they would be, or the investment cost per job.

Then, asked about a peace research institute for Wales, once again all of them expressed support, though only Penri James seemed informed about the proposal currently with the Welsh assembly government.

While all the candidates doubted that funding for the project would be forthcoming “in these tough economic times”, none seemed vexed by the contradiction of supporting a military academy on one hand and a peace institute on the other. Outgoing MP Mark Williams did express concern about training foreign militaries at St Athan.

At the end of the evening, I could not recall the candidates’ positions on testing drones at Aberporth and had to ask Jeremy Clulow to refresh my memory:
“The Lib Dem supports civilian use of UAVs only. So, he should be condemning the whole project but he isn’t.” (Mark Williams has tabled Commons questions about UAVs and links to the Israeli military.)

“For Plaid, Penri James seemed to hold a similar position.” (Plaid Cymru do oppose Trident renewal and are calling for a binding code of conduct on arms exports.)

“The Conservative said he supported defensive use only. As Watchkeeper is both, [he] is nicely poised mid-fence doing nothing.

“Labour said he would ask his parents if he could be allowed to have a position!”

Topics: Drones
See more of: Wales