Cefin Campbell – Executive Board Member for Communities and Rural Affairs on Carmarthen Council, and Plaid Cymru candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire in the Senedd elections – spoke to Josh Allen about his party’s policies and why Plaid Cymru are the best option for Wales’ future.
JA: Hello there, I’m joined today by Cefin Campbell, the Plaid Cymru candidate for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule Cefin. How is campaigning and what feedback have you had from people in your area?
CC: Well, the campaigning is going extremely well. Thank you for this opportunity to have a chat to you about how things are progressing. We have a really energetic campaign going and we are getting a superb response from all parts of the constituency, because what people are seeing is after 22 years of Labour in the Senedd in Cardiff is that they want to see a change. People have recognised that the Labour party has done a number of good things. Like all parties that have been in power for so long, people believe it is good for the Labour party and it is good for Wales to have a bit of a reset. For them to have a little step back and recharge their batteries and come up with new ideas. Because, I feel that the Labour party look like a tired party and look like a party that has run out of ideas. That is probably natural after leading Wales for 22 years. And getting a negative response from people around Conservatives because of the goings on in London with talks about sleaze, cronyism and corruption and so on, people look at the way they view politicians as well.
JA: So you replaced Dr Rhys Thomas as a candiate for your local area in the upcoming election. For those people who don’t know who you are, how would you pitch yourself to your constituents?
CC: I am the voice of experience. I have been a former university lecturer in both Swansea and Cardiff universities. So i have worked in both the high education sector and public sector. But because I am passionate about West Wales, born and bred, I gave up a permanent job at Cardiff University to return home to Carmarthenshire to raise my kids. I took on a three year contract in the third sector with a pay decrease in order to do that, which shows my commitment to West Wales. [inaudible] So my key selling point is that I am an executive board member on Carmarthenshire county council. In the last four years, I have been involved in making really big decisions around education, social services, and roads and so on. So, I am the only one with experience with dealing directly with government ministers and I think that is really important in terms of being a strong voice for this area.
JA: As you said, since the inception of the Senedd we have always had a Welsh Labour-run government. What makes this election different for Plaid Cymru and is this your best chance yet of obtaining a majority?
CC: As you previously mentioned, Dr Rhys Thomas was meant to be the candidate, but he went to save lives. We have to be grateful to Dr Thomas for choosing to save people’s lives over his ambitions around politics of course. This is a good opportunity for Plaid, yes it is. I think more and more people are interested in independence with growth in support for Yes Cymru, a cross party movement. It is phenomenal. We have in one of the recent opinion polls about 59% of people in Wales support for the idea of independence. [inaudible] It shows that people are very warm to the sparkling policies that Plaid Cymru are putting forward.
JA: So moving on to some of the qualities you mentioned, Adam Price has previously mentioned a UBI policy to aid those struggling in the pandemic. Do you think UBI is a viable option going forward after the pandemic or is it just a temporary measure on the road to recovery?
CC: No, UBI, if Plaid Cymru had its way would be here to stay. We need to get people out of poverty and the stark reality is that 1 in 3 children and households in Wales live in poverty. It is unacceptable. It is the legacy of 100 years of Westminster rule. This is why Plaid Cyrmu believe Westminster does not work for Wales. After 100 years of mainly Tory rule for Westminster, from Labour as well, we are still a poor country. But that does not need to be, because we have strong nationalism and so much talent and so many skills as a people – what we lack is the confidence. Plaid Cymru want to instil that confidence into people that we can make Wales a better country by providing basic income to people to help them out of poverty. Also Plaid Cymru is offering free school meals to all primary age children, free childcare for all children over the age of 2 years old and guaranteed jobs or training for all 16-24 year olds. So those policies that have been costed and verified by numerous economists will help take people out of poverty. It is the blight of our age that so many people live in poverty. And that is why we can’t depend on Westminster to get our people out of poverty. We have to do that ourselves and Plaid Cymru believes that we have the fiscal powers and the economic ability to do that. We can make this country a better place for everyone to live in.
JA: Throughout the pandemic, young people have felt abandoned and isolated from those in both Westminster and the Senedd. What reassurance can Plaid offer to young people, especially students in Wales?
CC: I am the father of three children, two of whom are still teenagers and in education. I worry as a father about the future of my children, so obviously young people are very much a priority of mine. I have a vested interested because I am the father of three children. So, as I mentioned earlier on, we are guaranteeing a job for all 16-24 year olds or meaningful training or apprenticeships that will lead to jobs. In terms of young people in particular, I am so delighted that 16 and 17 year olds are able to vote for the first time. That was something that Plaid Cymru called for 20 years ago – rejected and still rejected by the Conservatives. But Plaid Cymru has been pretty much solid on that and I am glad that the Labour government in Cardiff agreed because it gives a voice to young people. In terms of students, Plaid Cymru wants to bring down the tuition fees from £9,000 – which I pay for my middle daughter at Cardiff University – to about £7,400. But eventually we want to get rid of all tuition fees. I was lucky because I was the first one of my family to go to university because I come from a mining background. So I was the first of my family to go, my tuition fees were free. We want to go back to those days. We don’t want money to be a barrier to any young people to go on to further or higher education. Now we can do this. What we need is to invest in young people’s education, give them opportunities either through apprenticeships or in job training or give them opportunities to go on to higher education. What we need then is to keep as many of those young people and that talent in Wales. We are losing a lot of that talent. People go away and they don’t come back to Wales. So we will have some kind of tracking system that will allow us to keep in touch with young people and tell them about job opportunities in Wales if they want to return to this part of the world.
JA: For many people, standout Plaid policy is the promise of an independence referendum. Do you think that the Welsh independence referendum would benefit those in both rural and urban areas?
CC: Absolutely, let me just deal with the rural areas first of all. One of my responsibilities on the executive board of Carmarthen Council is rural affairs. I am passionate about rural affairs. My mother’s side of the family are mostly farmers so I understand the challenges of living in rural communities. What we are seeing in rural communities is the out migration of young people because of a lack of jobs and lack of affordable homes. So we need to tackle that as a priority. Very often rural communities, the Western part of Wales, often feel like the forgotten part of Wales because the Labour party have invested most of their money in South-East Wales around the Valleys and around Cardiff, sometimes they come as far as Swansea. But, further West seems to be the forgotten part of Wales. If I am the voice of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, I will be the voice of all of West Wales because I want people to know we have been lacking in investment for too long. I think there will be a strong support for independence because more and more people are realising that Westminster doesn’t work for Wales. If you remember in last November when Wales were entering their first firebreak because of Covid, the First Minister asked the Chancellor is there was money to support those on furlough and he said “No, no. We can’t afford that.” But two weeks later, England entered a firebreak lockdown and somehow the money was found. It just shows how little respect they show towards the people of Wales. We are paying £105 billion, us UK, for HS2, which cuts the travel time from the North of England to London by about 15 minutes. Wales is paying £5.2 billion of that, but not one inch of that track goes through Wales. As a country, we still have a third of the population in poverty. In urban and rural areas, there is a growing support across all parties for independence.
JA: So, along with the pandemic, how has it changed the way you have campaigned this election?
CC: It has been a very difficult time for all parties, because up to two weeks ago we weren’t able to knock on doors and have valuable conversations with people. What I have found in the two weeks I was able to engage with people face to face, when I give them the arguments about independence or Plaid’s policies, people are very perceptive. I’ve managed to get many many people in a short space of time to support me and Plaid Cymru. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to do that. So, what we’ve had to do is use social media, the air wall as they call it. I’ve been pretty active on social media, I hope you’ve come across some of the stuff I’ve put up about agricultural issues, second homes, myth busters around whether you have to speak Welsh to vote Plaid Cymru and whether a vote for Plaid Cymru is a wasted vote. All of these things we have heard over many years. That is a really popular video put up on Facebook. If you have the chance to look at it, so far it has had 5,000 views and has been really engaging. It has been a really difficult campaign because of that. We have put out more leaflets than we normally do. But, the air wall and social media stuff is what we have been really successful with.
JA: As you mentioned, using social media, it’s incredibly clear that Plaid’s community is incredibly broad. Do you think that Plaid is the one-stop-shop for anyone supporting independence or do you feel that as your position as a centre-left party, it may feel exclusionary to those wanting to leave the right-hand side of politics?
CC: Plaid has always parked itself firmly as being left of centre, so people with right-wing views don’t feel at home with Plaid. That is completely fine and they can support the Conservatives, the right-wing Conservative groups or UKIP or any of the others. But what we are finding is that we are getting more Labour supporters coming over to Plaid. What is interesting is that in a recent poll of Labour supporters, 51% of them… [inaudible]. It is quite clear that there is Plaid and the broad left leaning population of Wales, which is the vast majority of Wales as we have never ever voted a Conservative majority in Wales. Because we are left leaning, we are in that centre place where we need to be in the politics of Wales and I think people feel very comfortable with the policies that we offer.
JA: Thank you very much Cefin for your time and good luck in the election. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
CC: It’s been a pleasure talking to you as well. I hope I have given you and your readers some food for thought and can see that I am an enthusiastic, hard-working and really committed person. Trustworthy as well. If you give your support to me, I will not let people down.