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Friday, July 22, 2005

Summer Holidays

Now this is a good example of responsible journalism - not:

Our AMs and MPs insist they will be spending their ridiculously long summer breaks catching up on important constituency work. Most people will treat that with the scepticism it deserves. Our elected representatives set poor examples by putting in such short working periods. It is hardly surprising that so few of us can be bothered to vote for them.

This comment was the follow-up to an article looking at what two of South Wales West's AMs will be doing during the summer recess. Rather strangely the article focusses on myself and Alun Cairns and fails to deal at all with the other two regional AMs or the seven constituency AMs and MPs. I am beginning to feel paranoid.

The article itself is balanced and at least nods to the fact that our nine weeks, and the MPs' eleven weeks recess are far from holidays. The comment piece however, takes the easy, popularist route. In doing so it just adds to the cynicism about politicians and the political process amongst the public. Ironically, this newspaper will also be urging people to go out and vote when the next set of elections come upon us.

The author of this comment paragraph knows full well that the role of a politician encompasses more than just the formal Plenary and Committee meetings. We have both an increasing constituency and regional workload and formal and informal meetings associated with our national role. It is those tasks that will fill up our summer, just as they fill up the constituency days in term time.

Alun Cairns does not help either by playing to the gallery with his comment that "It seems ironical that while we are having a big debate on extending the powers of the Assembly, we are giving people the impression we can afford to shut up shop in Cardiff Bay for nine weeks." Presumably, he is still smarting from failing to get elected to Parliament last May when he would have been entitled to an additional two weeks holiday.

I am quoted as saying that I am combining the opportunity to catch up with constituency casework with a number of visits around my constituency and arranging a number of constituency surgeries. What I actually told the Evening Post was:

"I am combining the opportunity to catch up on constituency casework with a number of visits around my constituency and constituency surgeries. Visits and meetings I have organised so far include Swansea Prison, the Bays Project, a local school development day a briefing meeting on Swansea City Centre and a meeting on child advocacy. As part of my role as Chair of Education I am visiting a number of Assembly Sponsored Public Bodies on scrutiny visits including the GTCW, HEFCW and most probably ELWa. I am taking a week's holiday in Dublin, going to the Reading Festival for a weekend and spending the first few days of the Liberal Democrats Conference in Blackpool before coming back on the Tuesday for Plenary. It is likely that more events will be put in my diary in due course."

For the record during this first week of recess I have spent two days catching up with local casework from home and my constituency office and a day in Cardiff Bay clearing up all the correspondence that has accumulated there. I spent a day at the Royal Welsh Show attending various events, I held two surgeries today and have attended meetings on Swansea Council's Community Plan, with parents in Bridgend to discuss the proposed closure of Moderate Learning Difficulty classes, with an HTV researcher looking at the record of Japanese companies in South Wales and with one of my local constituency parties. I also spent some time in my constituency office today with an Assembly computer engineer who was installing new equipment for the use of my staff.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be presenting certificates to volunteers and carers (just in case anybody thinks I am sneaking off to watch the Swansea vs Fulham game at the new stadium). I fully intend to be at the first proper game of the season against Tranmere Rovers however.
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