In her latest blog for Caerphilly Observer, Islwyn AM Rhianon Passmore dissects the general election, gives an insight into her daily life in the Senedd, and discusses the impact of the Grenfell Tower tragedy closer to home.
The recent General Election eviscerated the Tory Government and returned Chris Evans as Islwyn’s MP with a substantially enhanced majority. In contrast, the Tories’ majority was destroyed and Theresa May’s authority smashed. It is difficult ever to remember a campaign before where a Prime Minister sought to actively fight a campaign without meeting the public or answering any questions.
The great positive from the election was the dramatic increase in voter turnout from younger voters. Young people turned out to vote in the 2017 General Election in greater numbers than at any point for 25 years. Some 64% of registered voters aged 18-24 are now thought to have cast their vote on June 8, the highest since 67% voted in 1992. I am a firm proponent of a change in the law to allow votes at 16.
The great negative from the election must be the sight of the minority Tory government having to haggle for over two weeks with the Democratic Unionist Party. They finally cobbled together a deal that will see £1.5 billion thrown at Northern Ireland in return for the votes of DUP MPs in Westminster. As the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM, stated: “The deal…flies in the face of the commitment to build a more united and further weakens the UK.”
A rich tapestry of events
Representing the people of Islwyn in the National Assembly for Wales is a varied role. I was recently invited to be on a panel at a sell-out Institute of Wales and Cardiff University debate discussing the issue of tackling poverty in Wales. This month I was asked to contribute to the journal Welsh Housing Quarterly about why I believe the Welsh Government is right to embark on abolishing the ‘Right To Buy’ in Wales. In the Senedd I sponsored and attended the Young Writer and Photography competitions for Rotary Southern Wales. Whilst in Islwyn I was delighted to address the opening the Fleur-de-Lys Flower Show. My diary is full of a rich tapestry of events where the communities in Islwyn are embracing life with vibrancy.
Looking ahead I am excited to be hosting in the Senedd for the Welsh Arts Council a Welsh Youth Musical showcase with artists and performers who have benefitted from educational youth music services. We know that budgets continue to contract but it is imperative for Wales – that access to music is accessible to all, irrespective of economic background. Eluned Hollyman, former winner of the Caerphilly Young Musician of the Year, will be performing with Catrin Finch on the harp alongside globally acclaimed artist Bryn Terfel. As readers will know I am a passionate advocate for opportunity for all and of the beneficial value of music for our collective society as well as for individuals.
Learning lessons from Grenfell
The horrific scenes of the tragedy at the Grenfell Tower in London shocked us all. In Wales where any new or converted high rise residential blocks are developed, under the changes introduced as part of the Domestic Fire Safety Measure (Wales) 2011, they would be required to introduce sprinklers. The Welsh Government is setting up an expert group, including representations from the social housing and fire sectors. It will examine all of the lessons coming out of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and their application in Wales.
I was fortunate to tour an 11-storey high rise tower in Merthyr Tydfil, the Caedraw Flats, with Dawn Bowden AM and the Chief Executive of Merthyr Valleys Homes, Mike Owen. The Caedraw flats were built in the early 1960s and were totally refurbished at a cost of over £3 million in 2012/13. It was informative to be walked and talked through the complex issues at play to ensure the maximum standards of fire safety are achieved when it comes to high rise blocks.